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Social Aspects of the Environment

Expert opinion prepared by Dr. Yaakov Garb, Ben Gurion University

Past developments: Environmental conditions in Israel are determined by a number of factors: salient production processes, economic-political context at the time, governmental regularization systems, and public engagement in environmental issues. The prevailing environmental perspective has been one of “modern ecology” based on the assumption that the environment can be protected through the internalization of environmental considerations by political, economic, and social institutions. This perspective, however, obscures the inherent contradictions and instability of existing systems.

 

Current trends: Today Israel is struggling with some issues that are unique to it, but several issues are similar to those with which developed countries with comparable income levels and consumption patterns are struggling. Internalization of environmental considerations by the governmental authorities and an increase in public awareness have led to greater appreciation of the environmental costs and increased regularization and enforcement. The small size of the country and lack of natural resources, which leave little room for mistakes, have resulted in relatively high degrees of innovation and resilience.

 

“Business as usual” scenario: Continuation of the “modern ecology” perspective alongside improved internalization of environmental considerations within the state’s regularization systems; more involvement by the business sector and civil society activism; strengthening of the links among science, technology, and environmental protection, and increased use of economic tools; cities will take steps to improve the quality of life in order to attract residents and investments; despite environmental policies, environmental resources and open areas are decreasing, which in the long term will result in the creation of concentrated urban centers in the north and center of the country; accumulation of economic wealth and increased consumption will be the driving forces affecting the environment in Israel.

 

Recommendations for the future:

Scenarios characterized by uncertainty:

The “business as usual” scenario is based on an assumption of geopolitical stability in the region and a market economy entailing continued privatization, without taking into account the possibility of an extreme occurrence resulting from climate change or a change in attitude towards Israel in the international arena.

An alternative scenario of uncertainty is based on the assumption that this stability will be undermined (for whatever reason) and lead to social unrest.

Scenarios of equitable intra-generational distribution:

In response to social unrest, procedures would be adopted for more equitable distribution of environmental resources for the sake of the current generation (intra-generational equity), but these would come at the expense of future generations (for example, increased consumption and release of lands for development ).


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