The Malta Independent 15 November 2018, Thursday

Not infatuated about the environment

Andrew Azzopardi Wednesday, 12 September 2018, 08:13 Last update: about 3 months ago

I recall with nostalgia the times my uncles, aunts and our family, would meet up in front of my parents' house and a corteo of some four or five cars would head out on an early Sunday morning to either Bidnija, Kennedy Grove, Ta' Qali or some other beautiful location to spend time playing in the countryside. 

In the meantime my parents and relatives chew over what life was throwing at them.

I also remember, slightly melancholically, when I used to go and play in a semi-abandoned field close to home with my friend Mark.  We used to play football till our toes turned blue.  When tired of the 'beautiful game' it was time for the bike rides because as John. F. Kennedy is known to have said: "Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of a bike ride."

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Happiness was so simply defined.

My mother, in particular, was always very keen on us going out.  The lushness of fresh air, the smell of the carob trees, I would dare say that even waste found in the countryside, smelt pleasant.  I still have a vivid memory of each and every scent. I loved the environment and we learnt to respect it whether it was restraint of our over-zealousness to catch frogs from Chadwick Lakes or to dispose responsibly of our litter.  The respect was there - the ecosystem gave us and we gave it back and in fact at the time there was no talk about balancing acts and sustainability because it would just happen habitually.  

Mind you, thankfully I was never brought up infatuated with anything in life, ecological issues comprised. 

My parents were the most normal of them all.  They were and still are sensible and with values that helped me and my brother, at the time, appreciate that there is 'our good' and the 'greater good' and somehow they need to converge. 

So I was never a tree-hugger, a preservationist or a vegetarian and was not involved in activist actions that would see me chained to halt a development or dangle from a chimney like some did (and ironically a number of these campaigners now live in luxurious flats or country homes the size of a football pitch)!   

But we have seen a massive change in a short period of time.  It could be the economy. It could be that the developers have an intimate relationship with the Government.  It could be that all of us just couldn't give a damn - but the end result is that the environment is now on the agenda for all the wrong reasons. 

People are shouting out for the bulldozers to stop razing all that gets in their way whether it's the valleys or the shrubs or the so called deserted countryside.  This compounded with the fact that our population is growing exponentially we need sturdier infrastructure creating more havoc with the ongoing roadwork.  Add to this that everyone wants to have their own new flat and this is turning our country into one big block of concrete - sadly, a favela in the making. 

This is the time to stop this senseless situation! 

What makes our communities sustainable - the developers? 

What is suitable growth - that determined by the economists? 

Who determines the parameters - the magnates? 

Who is responsible for finding the balance - the Government?

This probably reads of cynicism, but I've had it up to my nose listening to people invite us to cloud nine and the end result is netherworld.

I find the current crop of policy makers have been taken over and blinded by their own careers. 

That is why NGOs are so important in our social fabric because they have no personal agenda and they are focused on the truth.  When you start working with the State your allegiances change - nothing wrong with that, but we need to admit it, it just happens. 

You cannot serve God and Satan - it's a choice you need to make.  And understandably so this Government and the one before it have sussed out the champions of the sector and consequently left the NGOs skinny and starving.  To augment this, they do get the occasional EU or national funded project to keep them shushed and muzzled. 

In fact, at this point the environment can now only bank on a couple of individuals here and there sparsely organised and weak.  They have been mesmerised by opportunities to commit their expertise to Government and this leaves the NGO sector barren of the best people.  The NGOs have gone stealth except for the odd yelp.

Because as I had noted in a press release I had issued in my role as Dean of the Faculty for Social Wellbeing: "Social wellbeing is about ensuring that people have an adequate quality of life at all levels and not only when it comes to economic wealth.  It is indeed not solely economic success that makes us triumph.  Our success is measured by our ability to live together and to avoid that current and future generations struggle with pollution, toxic waste, uncontrollable litter and contamination of our seas, to name just a few." 

So what needs to happen?

We need politicians that can champion the cause.  Can MPs realise that being elected by the people means loyalty to the constituents?  Do they realise that there is a price that social justice brings with it, and yes it might mean falling in the pecking order?

We need to curtail and clip the wings of the construction industry and the debauched developers.  They need to stop eating away at our land exasperated by the Lorry Sant times and reminiscent of the devastating effect of the infamous 2006 rationalisation. 

We need to stop the onslaught on and the removal of mature trees to make room for traffic.  We are turning Malta in one big road network with nothing in-between.  Planting new trees is not compensated by removing ones that have been around for years.  The chopping down of these trees is robbing the citizens of their collective memories whilst changing landscapes beyond recognition.

We need to stop certifying an increase in traffic. 

We need level-headed policy makers that are watchful of the 'the environment' and are able to be vigilant on the collateral impact of the decisions that are made and taken. 

We need the State to assume responsibility when common sense does not prevail. 

We need citizens to stand up against the impending obliteration of our communities. 

I would like to conclude by referring to Prof. Ray Mangion's exceptional speech he gave on Victory Day. As per tvm.com.mt reporting; 'Prof Mangion also referred to the building industry. He said that we are not protecting our old houses enough, and in fact the typical Maltese village is vanishing. He said that it seems that blocks of apartments have more prestige than archaeological sites, aesthetics and symmetry.  He added that we have descended into the catacombs, but the catacombs of ignorance and lack of appreciation.' (https://www.tvm.com.mt/en/news/celebrations-for-victory-day-begin/)

Nothing more needs to be said.

Prof Azzopardi is the Dean of Faculty for Social Wellbeing at the University of Malta and a broadcaster at  Ghandi xi Nghid 

W: www.andrewazzopardi.org

T: @Azzopardi70


 

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