You may or may not know – I’m guessing you don’t – that the government has prepared a draft sustainable development strategy for 2050. It’s all a bit hush hush for now. There’s a ‘vision’ document if you google. Last week, there was an invitation-only consultation meeting where the people present got first sight of the current draft and were invited to give their reactions ahead of the final version.

After that, the government is promising to draw up for consultation an action plan that will spell out what must be done so that within 27 years this dusty, noisy, congested, over-crowded mess of eyesores, this metal forest of tall cranes, this unjust society of ever wider wealth gaps where only the poor and the brown taste the cool steel of handcuffs, becomes a “blue and green” utopia. “Blue and green” are the adjectives of choice in the government’s draft strategy document.

I realise I am souring your milk with my cynicism. And I’m sorry. So many children as yet unborn deserve to live in a country where they can have a full, rich, safe and healthy life.

And they’ll only get to inherit that country if today’s leaders commit to ambitious transformation, a radical programme of changes to the way we make money and the way we spend it to ensure that our relationship with our environment is “sustainable”, which, in simple terms, means that, in 2100, people would still be able to live here.

In a way, a 27-year programme must be ambitious and reach heights most would not dare think possible. But if all our government does is imagine the impossible, they are no better than smart schoolchildren giving a presentation to the geography class. If strategies drawn up

by the government are not backed up by some measure of scientific basis, if the assumptions they make are not made known so they can be challenged, then their vision is no better than a hallucination.

Consider that the government’s draft strategy does not reveal how many people they expect will be living here in 2050 and in the decades bet­ween now and then. That’s important. Never before just 10 years ago has Malta’s population growth exceeded two per cent in a year. In the last 10 years, Malta’s population growth exceeded two per cent every year.

What’s the government policy on population growth for next year and for the next seven years?- Manuel Delia

Never mind 2050. Think 2030. What’s the government policy on population growth for next year and for the next seven years? Don’t for a minute think I’m arguing for a cap on immigration. I’m not arguing anything. I’m asking what the government’s intentions are.

Because, surely, whatever policies we implement, 900,000 people living in Malta have a greater impact on the environment than 400,000. Some of that impact can be posi­tive in terms of productive generation of wealth. The rest is negative: housing demands, water consumption and waste, food consumption, transport pressures.

And, considering current trends, expect also more homelessness, poverty and depravation, tighter competition for hospital beds and school benches, street crime and so on.

A strategy document can, and this draft certainly does, express the desire to eliminate poverty, neutralise the impact on the environment and to just live in a blue and green paradise. But how are we to get there?

Not with the policies the government lists in the strategy document. They say they want to make tourism more sustainable, yet, they commit to attract more, not less, tourists. How can larger masses of tourists leave a smaller environmental footprint? Where will they sleep? More tourists mean more hotels, more construction, more consumption, more wheels on the road ferrying them around, more waste. Hardly the key to sustainability.

The strategy document says we will have cleaner air and a “net zero” economy, which means our carbon footprint will be nothing or less. Yet, the document says the government will be looking to increase flights in and out of Malta.

And the document does not say the government will be licensing speculators to extract fossil fuels from our territory and, still, five days after the docu­ment was published, new speculation licences were announced. If we increase planes and dig for oil, we will not be ‘carbon neutral’ even if we reversed our lifestyles to the Stone Age.

They did not go quite so far but the document says that, in 2030, the share of people moving around the country while driving their cars will be brought down to 1990 levels. Consider that, in 1989, 41 per cent of all trips on the island were made by car drivers. By 2021 that number grew to over 84 per cent.

If, in seven years, we are to reverse a 33-year trend, surely we would already be seeing change now. Hands up anyone who has noticed there is now less traffic congestion and that it has become easier to cross the road or cycle over it and, if you are one of the last stubborn motorists, you’re finding it dead easy to park when you reach your destination. Any hands?

Why have a sustainable development strategy at all if the government clearly has no intention of leading us to any meaningful change? Because it would have looked bad if we didn’t sign to the UN paper on sustainable development and it would look bad now if we don’t tick the box about the colourful paperwork of visions, strategies and action plans to fool the world that we care.

If, in 2050, this place is an uninhabitable Boschian pit, none of today’s politicians would be seeking re-election anyway. Knee-deep in brown mud, inhaling grey pollutants, we can all delight in dreaming of the second coming of our once blue and green country.

Dreaming costs no votes.

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