The Malta Independent 23 May 2019, Thursday

Nature has no vote

Carmel Cacopardo Sunday, 10 March 2019, 10:45 Last update: about 3 months ago

Infrastructure Malta is insensitive to all sorts of ecological issues. It has transformed country lanes in and around valleys into quasi-highways through the indiscriminate use of large amounts of concrete, which will have a considerable negative impact on the rural environment, the rural communities and on the rural landscape.

These former country lanes will inevitably now be used by more traffic, moving traffic-related problems from the urban areas into our countryside.

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Valleys are an integral part of our eco-system: so rich in biodiversity. Wildlife, so abundant in our valleys and countryside, is continuously under threat as a result of this insensitivity. But Infrastructure Malta is not the only culprit.

There is an intricate inter-relationship between the different constituent parts forming our eco-system. Ecology does not just add colour to our landscapes but is the very foundation of life itself. Nature is not just a desirable decoration to be captured on photographs, videos or paintings. Through a multitude of organisms sheltering in our valleys and the countryside, nature provides essential services to our agriculture though the provision of shelter to pollinators.

Unfortunately, we live in a world that tends to ignore non-monetary value. This is the underlying reason for the general failure to appreciate the importance of ecology in our daily lives. In fact, to some it is incomprehensible that we live in an eco-system and not in an economy! In the past, in an effort to try and remedy this myopic approach, there has been an attempt to quantify the economic value of biodiversity. Various studies have been undertaken to quantify this value on both a European level as well as an individual country basis. These studies explore and try to quantify what it would cost to replace the services that nature provides free on a 24/7 basis. This cost is measured in billions of euros.

We need to understand that humankind is dependent on the eco-system services that is freely provided by nature. These include water, fertile soil and clean air – all of which are being meticulously ruined as a result of so-called ‘development’.

Trees are being chopped down to make way for the current building spree, including the large-scale road infrastructure overhaul currently in hand.

Trees are a gift of nature. They give us oxygen, without which we cannot breathe. They produce this oxygen by absorbing atmospheric carbon dioxide, retaining the carbon in the process. By doing this, trees give us two essential services free: oxygen to breathe and a natural deposit for carbon – what we refer to as a ‘carbon sink’. Trees are the natural alternative to carbon capture technology.  Carbon capture technology – used as part of the technological response to climate change – costs millions to produce and operate. Yet we have a natural alternative which we continuously discard. It is a free service and hence it is not appreciated. Climate change is partly the result of large-scale deforestation accumulated over the years.

We are significantly more dependent on nature than on the size of our country’s GDP and yet while we worry when our country is faced with a financial deficit, many ignore the ever-increasing environmental deficit. Addressing this deficit is essential before it is too late. Not everyone is aware that no one will bale-us out.

We have a Cabinet Minister responsible for Sustainable Development who,  unfortunately, has no idea of his brief. As a result, a focused sustainability-driven strategy is very obviously missing right through the Maltese public sector.

The resulting impacts from all this are long-term. There seems to be no hurry to act, because nature has no vote. Yet those of us who do have a vote also have an ethical responsibility to act on its behalf. It is what we do at Alternattiva Demokratika – the Green Party.

 

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