The Malta Independent 23 February 2019, Saturday

Escaping the frontline

Camilla Appelgren Tuesday, 7 August 2018, 09:43 Last update: about 8 months ago

I was choking. Looking around me, the ever increasing amount of buildings crept closer, the dust filling my lungs and no shade wherever I went looking for it. The scorching sun, warmer than ever before, made me want to go near the sea. However, the chaotic traffic to get there and the litter that surrounded the sea made me flee back to safety, behind the walls of my apartment.

This was two weeks ago. I had a hard time understanding this feeling of choking, something I hadn't experienced before. I felt out of breath and my energy levels went down. I later on realised that it was anxiety.


Normally, when you are anxious about something you can process it alone or with the help of a professional. In my case, the biggest part of these feelings of anxiety is not caused by things I can process and feel better afterwards. You see, the issue is that the things that caused my anxiety are still very present due to people in charge of our country not doing what they should do - prioritize the environment.

I needed a break, a change of environment, literally. Feeling like a wreck, sunk into the depth of a sea full of emotions, I saw Malta vanish in the horizon while the airplane reached for the clouds. On the first day in Sweden I made a promise to myself to experience nature a bit more than I usually do.

I kayaked along the clean streams, ran along paths with such greenery next to them that my eyes started to ache and I walked in forests where I could lay down on the ground, look up and see the birds of prey pass by. I took so many deep breaths of fresh air that I felt dizzy. Yes, it might seem trivial when you read it. I can however guarantee you that when you lay there and see nature as nature was intended to be, untouched and not taken for granted, it is a feeling of empowerment.

You become one with nature.

After two weeks in Sweden I feel like a new person. I'm recharged and ready to take up the fight again. I will go back to the place where I know that the buildings will continue to increase, the sea will continue to get littered and where I will find less and less places of escape. For now.

I am not alone. Anxiety is eating up children of our society and the ones in charge of it are still blindfolded when it comes to the importance of green spaces. I refuse to stay quiet, I will continue this fight alongside the other environmentalists until we can breathe the fresh air we should have a right to.  

It is by now well-known to scientists that green spaces can decrease the levels of anxiety and increase the level of wellbeing in a whole society. It also, as an additional amazing effect, lower the amount of crime in certain areas. So what are the ones in charge waiting for?

Let me quote our Prime Minister's speech from 2014 at Exo-Forum Global Annual Conference in Guiyang: “Malta’s commitment to the shift to a green economy is expressed in my Government's programme of work, through the implementation of a strategy based on best practices that put the environment at the core of decisions made while aiming to achieve economic growth that gives due consideration to sustainable development”.

This was four years ago, dear Prime Minister. 2018 is the year most of my close friends left Malta. Not because of lack of good jobs or bad salary. The economy is doing great I've heard. They left because of the severe lack of green spaces and most of all, lack of willingness to add it from government’s side.

For now I can escape my feelings of choking with a week or two abroad. I consider myself lucky to have the possibility to do so. I left Sweden because I think one shouldn't need a vacation from one's everyday life. Everyday life should be the one life to live and enjoy. Malta was just that for me for over two decades, the one life I saw myself living, with no need to escape it. Yet here I am again, some years down the line, having to escape my everyday life.

This time it is not caused by dark evenings or cold winters, which is natural where I am from, but by ignorance from the people that should work for us. The ones supposed to ‘safeguard the future of our children’, they have instead chosen to safeguard their own interests and forgotten who their loyalty belongs to, us commons.

Last deep breaths of fresh air, memories of greenery safely stored in my memory. Back to the frontline.

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