Since moving to Dubai almost 5 years ago (wow gulp) I have become more and more involved with helping the stray cats of Dubai and the UAE. Unbelievably its a big problem here, I can’t comment on what the root causes are but unchecked breeding of the local Arabian Mau cat population coupled with lost and abandoned pet animals has resulted in a neverending supply of cats needing sterilisation, vet care and eventual re-homing (for those that are tame enough). Its frustrating, upsetting, thankless work but happily it is also extremely rewarding, which makes up for the rest. Seeing that once stray animal reclining like a king (or queen) in its new home is one of the best sights in my opinion. As part of this effort Stu and I support the Feline Friends ball every year. Its a fun evening out combined with good food, dancing and some great prizes (the raffle is our firm favourite). All whilst raising money for a very good cause**.
I was devastated when the organic shop that I discovered in April last year closed it’s doors barely 3 months after I found it. I still get upset thinking about it. Yes yes, you still can get organic meat and vegetables here, the Organic Cafe has a good selection of vegetables (as long as you get there on the delivery day) and the supermarkets have some here and there. But mostly they are imported and I hate having to buy an organic onion that has been flown half-way around the world. In my book I would rather buy something produced a little closer even if it isn’t organic. It is an ongoing debate I have with myself – organic vs carbon footprint.
Woe is me.
There are some encouraging signs that things are changing in the Middle East. And no I’m not referring to the Arab Spring movement or anything political. No the thing that is encouraging for me is that environmental issues are slowly becoming mainstream and being talked about in the newspapers; all kinds of people here are taking steps themselves to have less impact on the planet.
Stu and I do our small part; we recycle as much as we can, sadly there is no collection at the house and we have to take the recycling to a depot but that’s ok. The food scraps we turn into compost with our Bokashi, a great way to improve the poor desert sand in the garden. Other than that we turn off air-cons in rooms we aren’t using, turn off the water heaters, use LED globes in the lamps and turn lights and appliances off when not needed. We are also about to switch over to a chemical free cleaning product called Enjo, which cleans with water and fibres only. Apart from having a positive effect on our carbon footprint (which is the biggest in the world here in the UAE apparently) these changes have also had a positive effect on our utility bill each month. As the cost of water and electricity climbs all over the world this may be the thing that gets people motivated – the dollars and cents. Of course it’s great that we all do our bit at home, but in my opinion it’s not enough. The bigger consumers – the shopping malls, office blocks and other industries – must also start being mindful of their consumption. Small signs of this are starting to be seen and it’s very encouraging to me.
There was an interesting article in the National newspaper’s magazine section this weekend, about what various families and people in the UAE, specifically Abu Dhabi I would guess, spend on a week on groceries. It was quite a wake-up call to see that some families spend a lot less than we do on groceries, and there are only 2 of us (plus some rather fussy felines granted). So Stu was of the opinion that we should try and eat less meat in the week, as meat is really quite expensive here, especially if you are a bit fussy like I am and try to buy organic or free-range where you can.
In this month’s Aquarius magazine – hmm or last month’s maybe (its a great mag btw) I read about this Fish Finder initiative by EWS (Emirates Wildlife Society) and the WWF. Essentially what it means is that after a half-an-hours training you become an official ambassador for EWS and are able to identify unsustainable fish on sale in the supermarket, and of course educate others about the “choose wisely” program (which you may have noticed I support whole-heartedly). I quite fancy the idea of getting to be all militant and bossy in Carrefour (haha). Anyway after volunteering for this I ended up as a volunteer in general for EWS – not a problem – and was invited to help at a talk this past saturday at the Sharjah Aquarium.