Rianne ten Veen
Rianne, born in the Netherlands and raised in US, UK, Argentina and the Netherlands, has studied, lived, worked and/or travelled in over thirty countries in four continents. She has a Master’s degree in Law (Leiden University), a Master’s degree in International Politics (CERIS, Belgium/ Paris XI University, France) and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Environmental Policy (Open University, UK). Disillusioned by the corporate world after being employed as a consultant with PriceWaterhouseCoopers, she is now working for Islamic Relief.
She has particular experience of working with complex emergencies. In the aftermath of the floods in Pakistan last year she spent six weeks in Pakistan as funding coordinator, ensuring that needs on the grounds were covered as much as possible and that donors received proposals in areas of their preference (e.g. some prefer to sponsor food, others health).
She has been appointed as Associate Lecturer to a new and exciting Open University post-graduate module ‘Business, human rights law and corporate social responsibility‘.
This course considers how businesses are now expected to conduct their operations nationally and internationally with responsibility and accountability to their stakeholders and wider society.
The writer first met Rianne when she gave the 2008 UNA Environmental lecture in Birmingham. Invited because of her long-standing interest in the environment, she described worldwide damage to the environment, presenting facts and figures from official reports and concluding: “As an individual I cannot change the world but I do what I can; we can all only do what is possible in our situation”.
Unlike many writers, she does not offer a daunting ‘to do’ list but leaves it to the individual to make his or her own list. Another piece of advice was: “If you can’t achieve the full vision, compromise and take a step forward”.
In her flat in Small Heath, a micro-turbine was not an option, so she has changed to Ecotricity’s Green Energy option for which she pays the same price as she did to her previous supplier. Another compromise was on food: she rented the nearest allotment in order to grow vegetables, but it was too far away from her home and – after working all day – travelling to and fro took too much time and energy. She decided to give it up, instead growing plants in a window box and ordering a Flights veg box.
After seeing post-sanctions/invasion water shortages in Iraq during the course of her work, she bought a ‘hippo’, a device to place in the lavatory cistern which saves a litre of water each time the flush is used. Other steps taken can be read here.
Creating a ripple effect
One change each month, selected from a list she compiled, is her way forward; her computer calendar reminds her to look at the list and decide what to do next. There has been a ‘ripple effect’ as people, encouraged by her relaxed approach, have been inspired to make changes.
Rianne is a keen researcher on the relation between poverty and the environment and the Islamic duty to do something about it. Her book on Islam & environment ‘199 ways to please God’ aims to increase awareness about the current state of our environment and Islamic injunctions to play a part in protecting it as guardians of Creation.
Rianne has hosted a regular radio show on community radio, is a voluntary member of the management team of the Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences (IFEES) and is on the steering group of the Faith and Climate Change project in Birmingham.
In July last year she was invited to speak on Islam & Environment in London (London Central Mosque & Radical Middle Way), and to speak at the MOSAIC Summer School (HRH Prince Charles charity for future Muslim leaders).