Having the citizenship of a country does not only mean owning a passport from that country and having the right to live, work and vote there. It means much more than that, it simply entails strong involvement in matters, concerns and aspirations of such community.
Citizenship in any community means actively participating in the life of that community, especially in protecting the environment and resource-base on which the wealth of that country and its citizens depends.
This is the idea of Environmental Citizenship that each of us is an integral part of a larger ecosystem and that our future depends on each one of us embracing the challenge and acting responsibly and positively towards our environment. It’s about making changes in our daily lives to be environmental citizens all day, every day at every place.
In short, Environmental Citizenship is the idea that we all should take responsibility for how we interact with the environment. There are many ways of doing this such as green consumerism, recycling and corporate social responsibility. However, clean-up campaigns are a great way of demonstrating environmental citizenships.
While the World Clean-Up campaigns and/or “day” is usually celebrated in September each year. The UAE Clean-Up campaign — organised by Emirates Environmental Group (EEG), under the auspices of the Ministry of Economy — is carried out over almost two weeks every December since 2002. The timing for the campaign is brilliant given the pleasant weather in the country, when families enjoy outdoor life — resulting in an increase in littering.
Cleaning-up is not just about collecting litters and trash, but about raising awareness and implementing lasting changes to end the problem of wastes. It encourages individuals and companies to reduce wastes (rethinking greatly to reduce generation of waste), but most importantly, it helps to instill in the minds of the new generation the need for environmental protection and care for precious natural resources
In almost every country of Middle East and North Africa (Mena), we witness many clean-up campaigns for land and marine life.
However, the UAE Clean-Up campaign is one of the largest volunteer campaigns in the entire Mena region, with thousands of volunteers participating each year, reflecting its success and the interest of institutions and individuals in the importance of participation by leaving a positive environmental footprint.
There is no doubt that cleanliness is highly appreciated in Islamic faith, whether in clothes, housing or public places. Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) said: “Islam was built on cleanliness,” and he added, “Purification is half of the faith.”
In modern terminology, one can say such clean-up campaigns also help support many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) such as Goal No 15, for improving ‘life on land’; Goal No 14, ‘Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development’; as well as Goal No 11, Sustainable Cities and Communities.
In fact, the act of dropping litter and waste is a social behaviour that can only be remedied through social actions such as clean-up campaigns. Positive actions that can encourage people to dispose of their wastes in a responsible way.
So, cleaning-up is not just about collecting litters and trash, but about raising awareness and implementing lasting changes to end the problem of wastes. It encourages individuals and companies to reduce wastes (rethinking greatly to reduce generation of waste), but most importantly, it helps to instill in the minds of the new generation the need for environmental protection and care for precious natural resources.
This campaign has been encouraging UAE residents to protect their environment, live in a sustainable manner and inspire them in taking positive action in their cities. More importantly, this event would unify different segments of society and create a healthy lifestyle.
The Clean-Up UAE event this year has covered around 20sqkm of land, collected around 16.8 tonnes of waste and 280kg of recovered material was sent recycling — thanks to all the 20,350 participants from different emirates and all the sponsors who made a significant difference by cleaning their cities and bringing about such a positive and healthy change to their environment.
Clean-up UAE has proved to be a pioneering environmental activity through successful rallying of thousands of participants each year.
Since its inception in 2002, the campaign has achieved continuous growth, with strong support from relevant government bodies, civil society, private sector, schools and even families. EEG further expanded the campaign by organising several clean-up campaigns throughout the year.
There is no doubt that environmental citizenship is about adopting values and actions that are consistent with sustainability and that all of us have a role to play. Clean-up campaigns are a true translation of this positive social role.
Dr Mohammad Abdel Raouf is an independent environmental researcher.