Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi,
The American journalist smiled as he pointed to a large buffet organized by the firm hosting the media delegation. “Finally, we have found a good reason to come to your country again,” he said.
Dipping a piece of bread in the houmus, he added: “I wish there was a plan to distribute surplus food after every party.”
I did not reply, but asked myself what would have been his reaction if he had attended some of our weddings and other ceremonies where the number of sheep slaughtered is actually greater than the number of guests.
What would have been his impression if he had witnessed some people boast of the kind of food they order, be they at home or in restaurants or at open buffets, which they in fact eat very little of.
I recalled something Prince Muhammad Al-Faisal once told me about how the people of Taif used to live. They invited people to their home and slaughtered only the animals they really needed, then distributed the surplus among their neighbors.
Waste and extravagance are not part of our ceremonies alone. They have become part of our everyday life.
Take electricity. While there is a shortage of supply in many new districts or remote areas as a result of the lack of resources, our cities are illuminated by floodlights.
I compared this situation with the American cities where I have lived for many years. Streetlights there are strong enough only to help drivers see their way clearly. Economic use of electricity is evident in houses and commercial complexes, where lights are kept on only in rooms which are being used.
The case of water is even worse. We waste this valuable resource at swimming pools, public gardens and car wash centers. Even those who live near rivers and lakes and have plenty of rainfall use water cautiously, as if they were in the desert itself.
It amazed me when Dr. Ghazi Al-Gosaibi, the minister of water and electricity, stated that half of our water problem could have been solved by preventing wastage.
Instead of conserving underground water as a strategic storage to use in emergency, we waste this natural resource for agricultural purposes as we produce subsidized wheat more than what we require and export the surplus at less than cost price.
Consumption is another area of extravagance. You purchase a mobile phone today and replace it tomorrow when you find a new model. It is the case of almost all other products.
We have to remember that nations in the past were destroyed because of their extravagance of God-given resources. So, let us fear God and use the natural resources in an economic and judicious manner.
Arab News Features 1 June 2003