News Column

More Environmentalists Using Social Media for Activism

Dec 21, 2012

Hana Namrouqa


Social media in Jordan has become one of the main tools activist rely on to raise awareness about the protection of nature and rally public support for environmental causes, according to activists and experts.

The use of social media networks in Jordan has evolved from an entertainment and communication tool over the past few years to an instant channel that provides information to a wide spectrum of people, they said.

The majority of environment protection societies and NGOs now have accounts on various social media networks, through which they reach out to the public, deliver their messages and advocate for environmental causes.

"Social media networks in Jordan are now the easiest and best way to send messages to as many people as possible and from all ages and walks of life," said Omar Shoshan, head of the environmental policies and advocacy department at the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN).

Environment protection societies and NGOs deem social media networks a "great and exceptional opportunity" to make a positive behavioural change in environment protection and the consumption of water and energy, Shoshan told The Jordan Times.

"There has been a notable boost in environmental awareness in Jordan over the past few years, and the fact that more people are connecting to Facebook, Twitter and other networks is playing a major role," the conservationist noted.

The RSCN, Jordan's leading environment organisation, has set up an independent department dedicated to promoting environment protection and the Kingdom's nature sites through social media networks.

"All of our members have accounts on different social media networks, through which we deliver our messages immediately," Shoshan said.

As a technology, he noted, social media networks are also environment-friendly and a free marketing tool.

"We are printing fewer posters and brochures, while reaching a larger number of people in Jordan and abroad," Shoshan said.

The RSCN's page on Facebook has drawn over 2,869 fans, the Jordan Environment Society has some 4,011 fans, Greenpeace Jordan has 3,695 fans and the Royal Marine Conservation Society has 1,098 fans.

One of the major environmental campaigns made successful via social networks was the Halt Ajloun Deforestation Campaign, whose organisers started a Facebook page in September last year.

The campaign attracted more than 5,000 supporters and succeeded in stopping the construction of a military academy in Ajloun's Bergesh Forest.

Sahar Raheb, one of the supporters, said that she learned about the plans to cut down thousands of old trees to construct an academy in Bergesh from her friends on Facebook.

"One of my friends shared a photo of Bergesh showing a very beautiful green forest, and commented that those centennial trees will be uprooted," Raheb told The Jordan Times.

I followed the link and joined every sit-in and clean-up initiative the campaign organised, all of which I heard about from the campaign's page on Facebook.

Shoshan underscored that social media networks have "created an environmentalist audience over a very short time and with minimal effort".

Hibah Sofian, a third-year college student majoring in business administration said that her account on Facebook introduced her to the country's natural locations.

"I'm seeing photos of amazing nature in Jordan and almost can't believe they are real. I later joined a group on Facebook which organises weekly trips to nature reserves and so I get the chance to see magnificent scenery," Sofian said.

In Jordan, where Internet penetration reached 63 per cent by the end of September, there are some 2.517 million Facebook users, 400,000 of whom are schoolchildren, and more than 50,000 Twitter users.

Jawad Abbasi, founder and general manager of Arab Advisers Group, a research firm which regularly releases studies and statistics on trends in the ICT sector, underscored the importance of social media in supporting water and environment issues in Jordan.

"Social media facilitates spreading information; sharing an infographic or a photo can explain to people about an issue and provide them with useful facts and figures," Abbasi told The Jordan Times.

The ICT expert noted that social media in Jordan now is not used as a means of communications but a major source of news and information.

"Re-tweeting or sharing a photo can now make more change in environment and water issues than an article published in a major newspaper," Abbasi noted.

Source: (c)2012 the Jordan Times (Amman, Jordan). Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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