The Malta Independent 16 June 2019, Sunday

Dig at the roots, don't just hack the leaves

Camilla Appelgren Tuesday, 11 December 2018, 10:51 Last update: about 7 months ago

The Maltese people are generous when it comes to charity, that was my very first impression of them when I landed on this island some 20 years ago and I still have the same impression today.

Time and time again, I am impressed by the large amounts collected for good causes in Malta.

But let's see this from a different angle.

A couple of months ago, I met an American man and his daughter while they were here for the "Our Ocean 2018" conference. His children had created an NGO in the United States to decrease the amount of plastic straws used by establishments. They were seven and twelve years old when they launched the NGO, and during that time there was an oil spillage in the ocean along the coast where they lived.


They started collecting items from their neighbourhood, which the rehabilitation centres for turtles and seabirds required. They worked relentlessly for weeks, after which their father took them to the centre where the manager gave them a tour as a thank you for their large donation.

This is where the story takes an unexpected turn, the manager told the father "So, when are your children going to work for some real change?".The father became very upset at first, due to having seen his kids working day and night to get their donation together. The manager of the centre then explained further by asking: "When we conclude the rehabilitation of these turtles and seabirds, where do we release them? In the ocean. And in what state is the ocean? Whose responsible for the state it is in?".

So the point here is that yes, of course charity is good, but we also need to realise that we can't keep on putting out fires. We have to solve the core issues, or our work and donations won't have an efficient long-term effect.

Take children with asthma in Malta for example, what effect will new medicines have? Yes, it will improve their quality of life for sure. I myself have a daughter suffering from severe asthma so I know the struggle. But how about solving the real reason as to why so many kids suffer from asthma in Malta?

What about working alongside the discovery of new medication, and reduce the dust in the air coming from construction sites that aren't following regulations which decrease the risk of dust escaping said sites?

Why aren't our leaders closing the single use plastic tap, at the same time as we are cleaning up? Why aren't we reducing the demand for oil, in order to decrease the chance of oil spills? Prevention is the key here, however in many cases it would mean a loss of money for the few in the short-term.

Actually, that is not necessarily true if we look at it from a different angle. If we stop single use plastic worldwide, and instead work with another material, we would actually not force the companies to shut down, and employees would not lose their job. What we would do is force them to evolve, to use alternative materials and follow the demand. We all adapt to change, and if made to do so by rules and regulations, do so very quickly.

Greta Thunberg, a Swedish 15 year old, addressed the world leaders at COP24 in Katowice: "We have come here to let them know that change is coming whether they like it or not. The people will rise to the challenge. And since our leaders are behaving like children, we will have to take the responsibility they should have taken long ago." We in the grassroots may be able to take out the fires, but we need the leaders to take the responsibility to help us by making the laws stricter and enforce them.

So, are we really that generous after all? As I see it, the real generosity comes when we do everything we can in the present, so that future generations can benefit.

My question to the politicians in Malta is this. Are you really doing everything you can?

Why are we, time and again, failing the European Union environment goals and why are the politicians accepting it? Where is the environment minister's statement about this failure? Malta could have reached its goals if we showed generosity towards the future generation.

So now ask yourselves what generosity really is. Isn't it time to start digging at the roots? Or shall we keep on hacking the leaves?


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