Alon Tal (Hebrew: אלון טל, born 12 July 1960) is a leading Israeli environmental activist, co-founder of the Israel Union for Environmental Defense, the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies and the Green Zionist Alliance, and co-chair of the Green Movement political party.
Tal was born on July 12, 1960, and grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina, as Albert Rosenthal. He was active in the Young Judaea youth movement, served on its national executive board, and participated in its Israel program in 1977. After graduating from the University of North Carolina in 1980, he moved to Israel and enlisted in the Israeli army. He changed his name to Alon Tal after making aliyah to Israel and becoming an Israeli citizen. He served in the Nahal paratrooper division and saw action in the 1982 First Lebanon War. After his discharge, Tal attended Hebrew University Law School in Jerusalem. During his time in law school, he worked as a legal intern in Israel’s Environmental Protection Service (part of the Ministry of Interior) and subsequently clerked in the office of Israel’s Attorney General, Yitzhak Zamir. In 1986, Tal returned to the U.S. and enrolled in the Harvard School of Public Health, where he studied Environmental Science and Public Policy. His doctoral dissertation, which was funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, analyzed state strategies to control agricultural nonpoint source pollution.
Tal returned to Israel in 1989 and settled at kibbutz Ketura with his wife Robyn. In 1990, he founded the Israel Union for Environmental Defense, one of Israel’s leading advocacy groups. In this capacity, he initiated successful legal action to address a range of environmental hazards (for example, illegal sewage discharges and air and water pollution), repeatedly sued the government for inadequate implementation of environmental law, and provided free legal representation to numerous local environmental organizations. In 1995, the organization filed a highly publicized – but ultimately unsuccessful – petition to the Supreme Court to prevent the building of Highway 6.
In 1996, Tal founded the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies at kibbutz Ketura, an advanced academic program that brings together Israelis, Palestinians, Jordanians and international students. In 1999, he was elected chairman of Life and Environment, the umbrella organization for Israel’s environmental groups, which grew from 24 to 80 member groups during his five-year tenure.
In 1998, Tal was a visiting scholar at the University of Otago in New Zealand, where he wrote Pollution in a Promised Land, a comprehensive history of Israel’s environment. Tal joined the faculty of Ben Gurion University in 2005 as an associate professor in the Department of Desert Ecology at the university’s Sde Boker campus. His research has focused on monitoring transboundary stream water quality, assessing the Israeli government’s environmental enforcement program, evaluating national environmental education programs, surveying Israel’s environmental movement, and assessing a range of environmental history and policy issues.
In 2001, Tal co-founded the Green Zionist Alliance: The Grassroots Campaign for a Sustainable Israel, a New York-based nonprofit that works to protect the environment of Israel and the Middle East. Since then, Tal has served on the Green Zionist Alliance's Israeli advisory board.
In 2002, Tal joined the international board of the Jewish National Fund (JNF), Israel’s forestry and land reclamation agency, as an elected representative of the Green Zionist Alliance, in partnership with the Conservative Movement. He was appointed chair of the JNF’s subcommittee for sustainability, which in 2005 drafted new policies for the organization’s forestry, reservoirs and stream restoration program. Since 2006, he has served as chair of the Land Development Committee, which oversees the JNF’s forestry and land restoration work. The committee’s efforts have helped expand funding for sustainable afforestation, bike trails and research.
In 2007, Tal and Mohammad Said Al-Hmaida, former director of the Palestinian Ministry of Environment, were commissioned by Friends of the Earth Middle East to write a “shadow treaty” for a final settlement between Israel and the Palestinians, which offered an ambitious vision of cooperation and coordinated management. Tal also helped bring together 15 Israeli and 15 Palestinian water experts to consider specific areas of agreement and disagreements in regional water management, which was published in the 2010 book Water Wisdom.
Tal won the Charles Bronfman Prize for young humanitarian leadership in 2006 and used the prize money to establish the Tal Fund, which supports grassroots Israeli environmental activism. Tal received Israel’s Environment Ministry’s lifetime achievement award as a 48 year old, in honor of Israel’s 60th anniversary in 2008.
In 2011, Tal was a visiting professor at Stanford University’s Center for Conservation Biology where he wrote All the Trees of the Forest: Israel’s Woodlands from the Bible to the Present which was published in November 2013. In 2012 he chaired the 4th International Conference on Drylands, Deserts and Desertification at Ben Gurion University.
Tal presently lives in Macabim with his wife and three daughters, is active in his local Masorti synagogue as community gabai, and intermittently plays fiddle and mandolin in the Arava Riders, an Israeli bluegrass band.
In 2008, Tal was among the founders of the Green Movement, which ran in the 2009 Knesset elections on a joint ticket with Meimad. Tal was the third candidate on the slate. The party received 1% of the popular vote, which fell short of the required 2% threshold.
In 2010, Tal was elected chair of the party and began promoting a broad social and environmental agenda. Shortly thereafter, the Green Movement took legal action to prevent the appointment of Yoav Galant as chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, due to his seizure of public land next to his home and the filing of a false affidavit to the Supreme Court. The Attorney General eventually accepted the Green Movement's position and Galant's appointment was cancelled. During Tal's tenure, the party also initiated campaigns to save the Samar sand dunes, to prevent the privatization of national parks, to stop the development of highway overpasses in the Jerusalem Forest and to create a “Green New Deal” for Israel’s economy. Tal also successfully sponsored an initiative to ensure gender equality in the party, ensuring parallel female and male party co-chairs.
Tal is one of the only advocates for a national policy to reduce population growth in Israel. In 2011, a national convention of the Green Party supported a position that in general recognized the importance of the population issue, but chose not to prioritize it immediately.
Tal called attention to population growth as early as 2002, in Pollution in the Promised Land, his survey of environmental history in Israel:
- “The most critical single factor in understanding the downside of Israel’s environmental history is population pressure: with an average increase of one million people a decade, the land soon became very crowded. Israel’s population density is now roughly 270 people per square kilometer. Eventually economics, water resources, noise and the general dysfunction caused by the unbearable density will push Israel into a confrontation with advocates of large families and mass immigration. Environmentalists should not be afraid to speak on behalf of the many natural treasures that will otherwise be decimated by the crowds; flora and fauna are the first to pay for human encroachment on shrinking habitat. Future generations will certainly have reason to resent the deafening silence.”
2013 legislative elections
In 2012, Tal ran for the Knesset under the Hatnuah party for the January 22, 2013 elections, as number 13 on the party list. Six months after the elections, he stepped down as party chairman to complete his sabbatical at Stanford where he wrote his most recent book: "The Earth is Full: Addressing Overpopulation in Israel."
- The Land Is Full: Addressing Overpopulation in Israel, (in preparation).
- All the Trees of the Forest: Israel’s Woodlands from the Antiquity to the Present, New Haven, Yale University Press, 2013.
- From Ruin to Restoration, Israel’s Environmental History, (edited with Daniel Orenstein and Char Miller) Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2012
- Water Wisdom, (edited, with Alfred Abed Rabbo). New Brunswick, NJ, Rutgers University Press, 2010.
- Building Green: Policy Mechanisms for Promoting Energy Efficiency in Buildings in Israel, (with Yael Bar-Ilan and David Pearlmutter) The Technion, Center for Urban and Regional Studies Press, 2010.
- The Environment in Israel: Natural Resources, Crises, Campaigns and Policy from the Advent of Zionism until Twenty-first Century, (in Hebrew) B'nei Brak, HaKibbutz HaMeuhad Press, 2006.
- Speaking of Earth: Environmental Visions and Speeches, New Brunswick, NJ, Rutgers University Press, 2006.
- Pollution in a Promised Land – An Environmental History of Israel, Berkeley, California, University of California Press, 2002.
- Environmental and Policy, 2002, (Edited, with Amir Adleman). Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, Jerusalem, 2002.
- "Volunteers for Israel's Environment — Green Zionist Alliance: The Grassroots Campaign for a Sustainable Israel". Greenzionism.org. 2012-08-06. Retrieved 2012-08-26.
- "Alon Tal Paints a Picture of Israel’s Environment Wrongs and Rights (INTERVIEW)". Green Prophet. 2011-12-02. Retrieved 2012-08-10.
- "Jewish National Fund: Alon Tal". Jnf.org. Retrieved 2012-08-10.
- "Israel's Leading Environmentalist". Aabgu.org. Retrieved 2012-08-10.
- Alon Tal CURRICULUM VITAE AND LIST OF PUBLICATIONS
- Alon Tal, Pollution in a Promised Land --An Environmental History of Israel, Berkeley, California, University of California Press, 2002, 150-152.
- "Prophet of the Week: Alon Tal". Green Prophet. Retrieved 2012-08-10.
- "חיים וסביבה - היסטוריה". Sviva.net. Retrieved 2012-08-10.
- "University Units - Academic Staff Members - Tal Alon". Cmsprod.bgu.ac.il. Retrieved 2012-08-10.
- "Volunteers for Israel's Environment — Green Zionist Alliance: The Grassroots Campaign for a Sustainable Israel". Greenzionism.org. 2012-08-06. Retrieved 2012-08-10.
- "The Marker : The Call to Green - Professor Alon Tal | Masorti Olami". Masortiworld.org. 2010-09-16. Retrieved 2012-08-24.
- "Prof. Alon Tal to Receive Lifetime Achievement Award for Environmental Protection". Green Prophet. Retrieved 2012-08-10.
- "Alon Tal". The Charles Bronfman Prize. Retrieved 2012-08-10.
- "Alon Tal". The Charles Bronfman Prize. Retrieved 2012-08-10.
- Udasin, Sharon (2012-04-20). "Greens to split as members join r... JPost - Diplomacy & Politics". Jpost.com. Retrieved 2012-08-10.
- Service, Haaretz (2009-02-10). "With 99% of votes counted, Kadima leads Likud 28 to 27 seats - Israel News | Haaretz Daily Newspaper". Haaretz.com. Retrieved 2012-08-10.
- Zion, Ehud. "Green Movement ‘pretty proud’ his... JPost - Diplomacy & Politics". Jpost.com. Retrieved 2012-08-10.
- "Environment and Climate in the Middle East - Green Movement champions ‘Green New Deal’ program – Jerusalem Post". Mideastenvironment.apps01.yorku.ca. 2011-08-28. Retrieved 2012-08-10.
- "Green Movement – the Next Generation | An Unofficial Blog of the Israel Green Movement". Greenerisrael.wordpress.com. 2011-02-18. Retrieved 2012-08-10.
- Rinat, Zafrir (2011-02-14). "Green Movement: Israel's high birth rate not sustainable - Israel News | Haaretz Daily Newspaper". Haaretz.com. Retrieved 2012-08-10.
- Tal 419-424.
- Hoffman, Gil (December 17, 2012). "Candidate Alon Tal vows Knesset egalitarian minyan". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved January 29, 2013.