On the question of who or what should be blamed for endangering the environment (multiple answers possible), the largest number (72.1 percent) thought that “people in general” were at fault. Another sizable minority (35.7 percent) blamed factories, while 15.1 percent blamed “cars and transportation,” and 9.4 percent (mostly in the village of Abkhas) blamed the misuse of fertilizers. Only a minority blamed the government, but this minority was largest in Dar al-Salam (13.5 percent) followed by Kafr al-‘Ilw (8.7 percent). Smaller numbers blamed “smoking,” nuclear experiments and wars. Those who thought that “people in general” were to blame were a substantial majority everywhere but Kafr al-‘Ilw, where people overwhelmingly blamed the nearby public-sector factories.

A majority of our sample (57.8 percent) thought that the government had done nothing to protect and clean up the environment. This figure was higher in Kafr al-‘Ilw (64.9 percent) and Abkhas (72.8 percent) than in the other two sites. The Abkhas figure, which may reflect a general feeling of neglect rather than specific evaluation of environmental issues, raises the overall figure. The people of Abkhas were also most likely to see their fellow citizens (“those around me”) as unconcerned about the environment (36.8 percent, compared with an overall average of 28.4 percent). Women were more likely to see that the government has done nothing (60.7 percent of women as compared to 55 percent of the male respondents).

Inter-generational responsibility is accepted by almost everyone, but is seen in terms of the responsibility of the present generation to educate and orient the younger generation. Many also mentioned the need to keep oneself and one’s surroundings (house and street) clean. The notion of stewardship is absent. In the focus groups, on the contrary, some advanced the idea that the young men should take on the responsibility for community welfare that the unclean environment required. Questionnaire respondents who thought that there was no inter-generational responsibility generally were pessimistic, and argued that people were helpless in the absence of official interest.

How to cite this article:

Sohair Mehanna, Nicholas Hopkins "Who’s to Blame?," Middle East Report 202 (Spring 1997).

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