As my loyal readers know, I have been somewhat attached to the Tunisian symbol for the environment, a desert fox, or fennec, known as Labib. The cartoon Labib was created under the regime of Ben Ali to promote environmental causes and statues of him, and his family, are ubiquitous across Tunisia. Dressed in blue jumpsuits and armed with a purse, these long eared animals were long the target of baseball-bat wielding vandals. According to Business News, the demise of Labib is because, according to the ministry of the environment, “Labib’s system has failed”. Nevertheless, the spokesman for the ministry stated that popular support could bring back Tunisia’s desert fox.
Civic awareness was somewhat of a lost cause in Tunisia under Ben Ali. The regime’s tight control over any kind of organizing – unless it was for Ben Ali and his party, the RCD – was tightly controlled. Charities were hard to come by, unless they were underground, like Ennahdha and other Islamist organizations. Recently howver, there have been signs of life in Tunisians’ willingness and capacity to organize to better their communities and help those in need.
Last month I reported on the widespread efforts by Tunisians to help those affected by extreme weather – this included secular and religious groups, as well as extremist groups linked to international terror organizations. It seems that civic life has gone from one extreme to another.
Environmental groups have also been growing. Groups like Friends of the Belvedere have been actively campaigning for months to help save Tunis’s wonderful central park from illegal construction and general mismanagement.
This week, Tunisia Live reported that the international campaign Let’s Do It Tunisia will hold a national day this weekend to help clean up the country of the ever present problem of litter. Dozens of associated civic and environmental organizations have joined the campaign.
In my neighborhood, local do-gooders recently planted 50 trees in the local park. Using their own funds and their own labor, but with support from the city mayor, this group of arborists made their contribution to making Tunisia more green and more beautiful.