“If You Don’t Protect The Companion of the Environment, There Won’t Be an Environment”: Naqab Bedouin and Sustainability at Wadi Attir

First name: 
Last name: 
Class Year: 
James Scott
Essay Abstract: 
Community development projects and NGOs all over the world are starting to incorporate rhetoric of environmental sustainability into their actions and missions. The Sustainability Lab, a New York-based NGO, is explicitly focused on developing a new global framework of holistic, system-state sustainability; its first project, Wadi Attir, aims to model those ideals among Israel’s Bedouin population of the Naqab Desert. Bedouin society in Israel has faced legal, economic, and social oppression since the founding of the state of Israel, much of which has taken the form of forced urbanization and land appropriation. This case study of Wadi Attir uses ethnographic interviews with participants in the project and others in order to explore to what extent Bedouins are internalizing the Sustainability Lab’s vision and to what extent they are drawing other meanings from the project. In the face of huge economic and social challenges that Wadi Attir fails to adequately address, the Bedouin participants focus more on individual social and economic aspects of the project, losing sight of the broader vision of global sustainability.