Co-Editors of Jadaliyya’s Environment Page, Carly A. Krakow and Huma Gupta, recently spoke with Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh about his work as the founder and director of the Palestine Institute for Biodiversity and Sustainability (PIBS), and the Palestine Museum of Natural History (PMNH). These institutions, founded in 2014 and based in Bethlehem in the Occupied West Bank, play an important role in documenting the history of Palestinians’ relationship with the environment and disseminating information about the environmental challenges Palestinians are confronted with under occupation, blockade, and settlement expansion.
In this interview, Dr. Qumsiyeh discusses the mission of the institute and the museum—centered on the concept of respect for all humans and living creatures inhabiting the shared planet, and the struggles Palestinians are coping with in the face of the climate crisis. As Palestinians contend with ongoing land dispossession, diversion of their water resources, and exposure to toxic pollutants, Dr. Qumsiyeh explains how education about sustainability and the environment is an essential form of empowerment and resistance to injustice.
Images of the institute and the museum featured in this video courtesy of the PIBS.
Dr. Qumsiyeh teaches and conducts research at Bethlehem University and Birzeit University. He is the founder and director of the Palestine Institute for Biodiversity and Sustainability (PIBS), and the Palestine Museum of Natural History (PMNH) at Bethlehem University. He has published over 140 scientific papers and numerous books on a wide range of topics, including cultural heritage, biodiversity, and cancer. His many published books include Bats of Egypt, Mammals of the Holy Land, Sharing the Land of Canaan: Human Rights and the Israeli/Palestinian Struggle, and Popular Resistance in Palestine: A History of Hope and Empowerment. He serves on the board of a number of Palestinian youth and service organizations.
Carly A. Krakow
Carly A. Krakow is a writer, researcher, and activist, and currently a PhD Candidate in International Law at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Her writing has appeared in publications including Al Jazeera, openDemocracy, Truthout, and the academic journal Water. Carly’s research focuses on environmental injustice and human rights in contexts of statelessness and displacement. Over several periods of fieldwork in the West Bank, she has investigated the law and politics of water access and exposure to environmental toxins. Her research has also included fieldwork in South Africa, analyzing the impacts of Cape Town’s water crisis on the city’s most marginalized communities, and in Greece, examining living conditions and access to healthcare for refugees and displaced people. She earned her MPhil in International Relations and Politics from the University of Cambridge and her BA in Human Rights Law, Environmental Policy, and Comparative Literature from NYU.
Huma Gupta is a scholar of environmental planning and the political economy of development. She is currently a Humanities Research Fellow at New York University - Abu Dhabi. Her book project “The Architecture of Dispossession: Migrant Sarifa Settlements and State-Building in Iraq” examines state-building through the architectural production of rural migrants in cities. She did her doctoral training at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where she was a fellow in the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture and the Social Science Research Council. Her work has appeared in a number of scholarly venues including the International Journal of Islamic Architecture, Thresholds, Aggregate Architectural History Collective (forthcoming), Jadaliyya.com, and The Ottoman History Podcast. As a practitioner, she has worked on post-war reconstruction in Afghanistan, municipal administration in Syria, grassroots political mobilization in the U.S., and humanitarian response and housing policies for refugees and internally displaced persons around the world.