The Malta Independent 26 June 2019, Wednesday

Time to remove the blindfolds

Camilla Appelgren Tuesday, 21 May 2019, 07:38 Last update: about 2 months ago

I was reading through my old columns the other day and stumbled across my first one, where I had spoken about the sea and its importance for me throughout my life.

The following paragraph caught my attention: “My daughter once asked me during a discussion about the lack of green spaces, 'Mum, how will kids be able to respect something they have never experienced?’. I told her we have to make sure everyone does experience it and thus grow to respect it. No child should grow up with dreams blurred by plastic. They all deserve the clear visions my generation had, without plastic pollution and concrete wherever they look with their curious eyes.”

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A year down the line, I have booked one-way tickets for my children to leave the Malta they grew up in behind them. One year of green spaces ruined, more construction and no enforcement to be seen. I moved here to give my children a healthy childhood and they have indeed enjoyed it. Long summers, evening swims in the Mediterranean, no need for double layer clothing and so much more. I have no regrets in giving this kind of childhood to them both.

Times changed though, and fast. I saw more and more families packing up and leaving the island, Maltese ones and foreign. They were complaining about frequent illnesses such as blocked sinuses and colds, which they didn’t experience abroad and I remember thinking to myself that they were right. My love for Malta is the greatest love of my life, this is the country I chose to settle down in and where I saw myself growing old. I guess this love blinded me for a while and I falsely convinced myself as a coping mechanism that all was fine.

When my daughter was nine years old, she started to suffer badly from asthma and very soon she needed steroids to treat it. It was the first time my blindfolds started to fade slowly. More so when I realised that her asthma was connected only to Malta and that she was perfectly healthy when we went abroad.

Suddenly the dream to give her a childhood on a Mediterranean island, which for me was the perfect place, wasn’t so perfect anymore. The things which weren’t perfect had such a great impact on my daughter’s health and quality of life that they couldn’t be ignored anymore.  

The environmental fight I had fought for years, the cleanup movement I built up and my life plan was about to break. The worst thing about it was that I felt that it was forced. I didn’t want to leave it behind but somehow I found the motivation to keep on fighting. I didn’t want to leave any room for thoughts like “what if”.

So here I am a year down the line, at a crossroad. My fight for Malta’s environment is lifelong, until my last breath. Unfortunately we are at the moment focusing on the wrong things. We need more focus on social strategies how to solve this. No amount of science will solve the environmental issues if the people aren’t working together. That is the only force of nature that can help us at this point.

We know that much of the damage we’ve caused can’t be undone. Now it’s more a matter of who will suffer from a hotter planet which is less biodiverse? Who will benefit from that and who will be the one paying for it? The question is also, why haven’t we acted in time to avoid this disaster when it has been known for decades?

The apathy was what killed the hope for my children to grow up in the country they call home. I see no real will from the government’s side to solve any environmental issues whatsoever, all I see is greenwashing. They do more harm than good and the supporters cheering for them based only on the good things, without seeing through the false hope, are enabling this behaviour of our decision makers to keep on going. So to be blunt, I see no future for my children in Malta as it is today. Still I will keep up the fight to get back the Malta I remember, a Malta with better air quality and a better quality of life. I will remain as a candidate for the MEP elections, don’t even dare for one moment think that I am giving up, it’s not in my gene pool.

On the contrary, I will fight harder and be more dedicated than ever. This is a new stronger me.

No child should grow up with dreams blurred by plastic. They all deserve the clear visions my generation had, without plastic pollution and concrete wherever they look with their curious eyes.

 

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