Shifting Power in Jordan

Omar Qubain at the Global Power Shift march in Istanbul to support anti-coal activists.

Omar Qubain marching with fellow activists in Istanbul on the last day of the Global Power Shift kick-off summit which brought together 500 activists from 134 countries between June 24-30, 2013

Omar Qubain is a Greenpeace volunteer and activist from Jordan. Working with fellow climate activist and researcher Hiba Abu Rob, Omar is getting ready to roll out exciting Phase 2 Global Power Shift (GPS) plans to scale-up action in his country on climate-related issues. Read on for some interesting insights from Omar on why he chose to tackle climate change, and what he hopes to accomplish.

1) What made you interested in climate change and being part of Global Power Shift?

I became interested in environmental issues at a very young age. The moment when I first learned that my generation will be the first generation to witness the inherit serious outcomes of climate change I immediately wanted to know more. As I began to learn more on climate change I quickly realized if we are the sole cause of this tragedy then surely we must be able to inhibit its effects or even stop it entirely.

2) How is climate change affecting Jordan?

Jordan is a country that seriously suffers from desertification. Desertification drains arid and semiarid lands of their life-supporting capabilities, literally turning them into lifeless desserts. Less than 1% of Jordan’s surface area is green and with climate change added to the mix these conditions are practically “killing” us. Jordanians are experiencing less rainy days, more dry ones. Increased deforestation and environmental mismanagement mean less food, poorer people, and less security. All of this exacerbates the effects of climate change; it’s a vicious cycle what we’re going through here.

3) What would you like your peer organizers from other countries to know about your GPS team?
We at GPS Jordan, are trying our best to fulfill our environmental mandate, as we are sure is the case with other teams. We are channeling our efforts to alter the status quo by challenging skepticism and ignorance. To our fellow GPS colleagues: we’re all in this together; your fight is our fight, never forget!

4) What is your plan for Phase 2? Why did you decide to make it this way? How does it fit into the big picture of building a climate movement?
Our primary focus for Phase 2 is to:
A) Raise the general level of awareness on climate change and potential greenhouse gas mitigation opportunities.
B) Promote sustainable and alternative modes of transportation.
Transportation is a key economic sector in Jordan, as well as a large and growing Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emitter; imposing significant environmental impacts on air, water and land resources. The sector is also characterized by growing traffic congestion and increased pollution levels. This is directly attributed to subsidized fuel prices, high dependence on private vehicles and lack of adequate public transport.

Sustainable transport solutions are well known and tested. They include avoiding automobile travel through denser, mixed-use urban development, shifting transport to more cost effective, low-carbon modes like bicycling and rapid bus transit, and improving the energy efficiency of vehicles.

5) What excites you and what makes you worry about Phase 2 and beyond?

Building a movement is both exciting and terrifying at the same time. The notion of initiating an unprecedented campaign to address the single biggest threat facing humanity is truly gratifying. Yet in the back of my mind I cant help but consider failure as an option. I guess it all come with the package of changing the course of history.

6) What kind of support can you offer to other organizers and what support would you like to get from them?
We believe the experiences we have are our most powerful assets. GPS participants have a lot to learn from each other, and we in Jordan are willing to share our stories with anyone who seeks out our support. We are positive the same goes for us; after all we are one global community.

7) What is your general message that you’re sending to the GPS organizers, the climate movement and the world with your Phase 2 and with your work as climate leaders?

Man-made climate change is real, it’s happening now and it threatens to disrupt our way of life in Jordan and around the world. It’s time for us grassroots organizers and community leaders to step in and lead the fight on climate change. Effective change almost always comes from the bottom up, our time is now!