Though she might bashfully deny it, Karin Kloosterman is, in her own small way, saving the world.
Kloosterman is a long-time environmental blogger, who’s logged time writing for The Huffington Post and TreeHugger. But as the founder and editor of Green Prophet, the 36-year-old expatriate from Canada brings environmental news from the Middle East to the world — and the world is listening.
Growing up Catholic outside Toronto, Kloosterman’s interest in the environment started early. At 25, after years of working around the globe, she landed in Israel and “didn’t want to continue the path I was on,” she said.
“I felt it was home for me — the people, the temperament, the food and climate. But after being here for several years, I understood what I loved about this country was the family values of the Jewish people.”
Kloosterman began writing for the Jerusalem Post, but her pushes for environmental coverage went unheard.
“There was a huge black hole in environmental reporting in Israel,” she said.
Kloosterman soon started her conversion to Judaism, attracted to “the serious Jewish ideas, thinking and philosophy” of the religion. She moved to a kibbutz and studied to become an Orthodox Jew, eventually involved in the Haredi community. As Kloosterman’s Hebrew improved (“I never heard my grandmother whispering Yiddish to my grandfather, but you just absorb it,” she said), she felt empowered to fill that environmental reporting hole — and in 2007 Green Prophet was born.
Now living in Yaffa with her husband as, in her own words, a “traditional Jew, in a Sephardic sense,” Kloosterman’s Green Prophet serves as a hub of environmental awareness news for the entire Middle East, with “Christian writers, Jewish and Muslim writers, religious and not,” she said. “Each person is a universe.”
Through that broad base of writers, Green Prophet represents the wide swath of green happenings, or lacks thereof, going on all through the Middle East region. Most of the site’s readers however, are not from the area: Green Prophet racks about 100,000 unique visitors a month, most of which are tuned in from America and Europe.
Kloosterman isn’t surprised at this figure. The West’s green movements are large compared to the nascent Middle Eastern campaigns. To raise more interest, Kloosterman chose to include Israeli environmental news along with the entire region to give the site’s readers more perspective.
“Including the Middle East puts Israel in its rightful place. Israel isn’t Europe; it isn’t America. Maybe I’m a bit naïve, but I’m trying to create a new reality,” she said. “When in Israel, we share not only borders, but problems, too. Air quality, water issues — when something spills into the Mediterranean, it affects us all.”
Green Prophet’s blog format allows for a steady flow of environmental news from the whole region. This week, it reported on eco-tourism and biking in Israel, Syria’s plans for renewable energy and a hospital in Abu Dhabi operating with green practices.
In Israel, Kloosterman said, the notion exists that being involved with the environmental movement necessitates a person’s left wing politics. But she disagrees.
“I don’t think the two are necessarily intertwined. You can be environmentally conscious without being a politician,” she said.
Kloosterman said that the Muslim world may have the largest room for the growth of a green movement. “It’s clear as day that Israel is by far a leader in industry and activism. Christian and Jewish eco-ideas are a very common theme right now. In Islam, it’s just starting.”
In some ways, though, the Arab world’s eco-friendliness is greater than that of its neighbors.
“[Arabs] are much less dependent on resources. They live simpler, do their own home cooking,” said Kloosterman. “They don’t travel the same way that Westerners do.”
But as a scan through Green Prophet’s homepage will tell you, everyone has much to learn.
“We need to make sure that if you say something is an eco-solution, that it is,” said Kloosterman. “People buy these ridiculous things — an eco-belt made from recycled rubber, for example, but to be a true environmentalist is to just not buy stuff, to be less of a consumer, to live modestly.”
(Justin Jacobs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)