More than one million people worldwide participated in this year’s ‘Earth Day,’ to voice their appreciation for the planet and demand its protection. A key participant in Qatar’s festivities was Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development (QF), host of the first ever ‘Qatar Environmental Education Fair.’ Held in the Hamad bin Khalifa University Student Center, the event gathered close to 30 organisations, all striving to raise environmental awareness nationwide. With the global ‘COP18’ climate change conference due to take place in Doha later this year, this issue seems sure to dominate the agenda in the months ahead.
"Participants of the fair not only have the chance to network with one another, but they are able to showcase their sustainability practices. And since we are hosting companies and organisations from both the private and research sector, we are helping to build human capacity nationwide,” said Christopher Silva, QF’s Sustainability Education Coordinator. "We hope that next year even more schools participate in the fair, especially since Qatar is hosting the next climate change meeting in November."
Alongside many organisations present at the event was QF’s Health, Safety, Security & Environment (HSSE) Directorate, a main supporter of sustainable development campus-wide. The Directorate helps to organise environmental campaigns and even conducts tests on QF’s drinking water.
"In celebration of this year’s Earth Day, we are trying to get the message out to everyone how important the environment is to us and to get people to ‘go green’,” said Aisha Ghani, Environment Specialist in the HSSE Directorate. "We really try to focus on kids and the future generation of Qatar by teaching them how important the environment is and by giving them sustainable tips, like carpooling, and switching lights and computers off.”
Another participant in the fair was the Environment Club from Qatar University (QU), who promoted their campaign to make its campus green. Their department of Environmental Science was also present to provide interested students with details of their degree. This academic programme addresses escalating issues and problems associated with Qatar’s environment, such as the country’s decreasing supply of natural resources.
"We are students who are working together voluntarily to spread awareness about the environment at Qatar University. And what’s special about the club is that it’s very active, and we are working together to make the university more green by reusing materials," said Ebrahim Abdul Salam, the club’s President. "QF’s Earth Day Fair is good for us, too, because we are learning about other organisations’ and companies’ activities that push sustainability in Qatar.”
As part of Earth Day’s mission to encourage young students to adopt sustainable habits, Qatar Foundation International, in partnership with Qatar Shell, Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF) and Conservation International also launched the ‘Youth Ambassadors for Science & Environment Program’ during the fair. Designed to train youth from Qatar, the United States, and Brazil, the programme will help them to better understand global environmental issues and to effectively raise awareness in their own communities.
Dr. Abdul Sattar Al-Taie, Executive Director of QNRF, Dr. Sabeur Mansar, Vice President of Commercial and New Business Development at Qatar Shell, Dr. Leah Karrer, Head of Marine Science at Conservation International and Maggie Mitchell Salem, Executive Director of Qatar Foundation International, officially announced the programme. Four Qatari high school students selected to enrol in the programme were also present at the fair, and will travel to Brazil for the ‘Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development’ in June.
"This year, we are challenging young people in Qatar and the Americas to explore climate change-related issues,” said Maggie. "They will have intensive workshops with researchers and environmentalists, which will prepare them to participate in Rio+20 youth and civil society events in June, and again when Qatar hosts COP18 in November."
As Qatar works to educate the community on reducing their environmental impact, it is envisaged that this year’s fair will become an annual event at QF. And, as more students from across Qatar attend the fair, it is hoped that the level of awareness surrounding green energy solutions and sustainable development will also mature.