Parting Thoughts on Sustainability from Doha
My time in Doha has been so intensely busy I have not been able to post anything since the evening of my arrival. My last day will be spent traipsing across the desert with a lovely expat I met a couple days ago. From morning to evening I’ve abused my favorite blue suit and ties, and have met a bevy of Qataris and expats from all walks of life. And I have been inspired. What a compelling place to live, work and make your mark. Qatar has its challenges. The world’s wealthiest country has the highest per capita carbon footprint. Its environment is degrading at a rapid pace. Multinationals are not doing their part to turn Qatar into a more sustainable direction, but it only takes one Qatari to complain or voice an objection--so fault for terrible traffic, excessive trash and wasted resources can be found in every direction. Free and subsidized energy and water are a huge barrier. But as the saying goes, a crisis means opportunity. For sustainability professionals, forget the low-hanging fruit: that fruit is on the ground rotting. And for those who want to make a difference here, there are plenty of ways to make a difference for those who want to engage and for those who know how to communicate. Remember that Qatar is a rapidly developing country, and those of us in the West have had decades and centuries to get to a point of environmental awareness while Qataris have only had a generation. A country where 80% of the people are visitors, many of whom are here to make a quick buck, must also have an effect on a nation’s psyche. Those who criticize the country but have made little, or ill-conceived efforts, to work with locals here miss the bigger picture. Qatar has a huge opportunity to become a sustainability and innovation laboratory, and so I stand by my insistence that this country is an emerging laboratory for clean green thinking. But much work needs to be done. With the 2022 World Cup sneaking up on this country, Qatar needs to prove to the world that they will do its part to confront climate volatility and diminishing resources--and never mind the fact they want a 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games or 1994 World Cup--not a 1996 Atlanta fiasco that will turn the city into a dismissed and sneering joke. Highly motivated and inspirational people are a start. I met with Issa Al Mohannadi, chair of the Qatar Green Building Council, who is more than doing his part to make the built environment a healthier one. Chris Silva at the Qatar Foundation is working hard to create an education culture that will resonate with students and has embedded himself with local Qataris. And entrepreneurs like Amr Belal are building a future Qatar that may very well have no more natural gas or petroleum. The tasks and challenges in this corner of the Middle East are mounting, but after a week as a guest, I could see myself here as a sustainability driver and advocate. The next visit, or long term stint in Qatar, cannot come soon enough.