Studies in most Western nations, and cities most of all, confirm one trend. Wealthier residential areas often tend to have more trees than poorer ones.
The few trees we have face onslaught and wrath instead of respect and awe
There are many reasons for this, ranging from the historical to the geographical and social. What makes Malta unique though is that almost all our residential areas, whether wealthy or less so, are generally surprisingly devoid of trees.
In most of our towns and villages trees don’t figure much, or not enough to make enough of an impact on our health, general well-being and stress levels. The few trees we have face onslaught and wrath instead of respect and awe. Trees are normally planted in residential areas to provide shade and beauty. We do plant trees in our parks and there have been many successful and laudable tree planting campaigns. We also have some stunningly beautiful public gardens.
Sa Maison, being one tiny gem and one of my favourites, is very often overlooked, perhaps partly because parking nearby is not easy and in Malta, as we know, whether we are traders in Valletta or anywhere else, easy and ideally free parking is the first step to attracting the public.
Local councils too do their best but they are often torn between residents who may find certain kind of trees annoying and others who want to protect any tree at any cost. Perhaps certain trees are damaging buildings or attracting birds that then leave their droppings behind. For a multitude of reasons, trees, or a particular type of tree, can be seen as, and can admittedly be, annoying for some. The solution though should not be decimation.
New projects sideline trees too. Sometimes the reasons are understandable such as when you are facing the winds at Tigné Point. Perhaps few trees could survive on the outside perimeter but a lot could be done with the internal courtyards. Yes they require pruning. Yes, leaves need to be swept. Yes, they attract birds too, but a no-tree Malta in our urban and village cores is less of a Malta that we can all enjoy.
The Malta Environment and Planning Authority has policies to protect trees but we don’t yet have the national will or consensus to help Malta be greener with more trees. We all agree that our air needs to be cleaner. We all agreed with having buses which dirtied the air less wherever they came from. We all agree on having the cleanest possible forms of power stations.
Trees are very important cleansers too. Our world simply would not be our world without trees. Not everyone is convinced about global warming but the fact is (and I am not hinting at any link but it is an interesting coincidence) that the treeless Arctic has warmed up more than any other place on our planet. The Snow and Ice Data Centre tells us that the Arctic is a full and to me very worrying four degrees warmer than it was in the period 1986 to 1996.
Of course many of us do think the planet is heating up, or changing, but we short-sightedly just hope that it won’t affect us, our children and our grandchildren. But our grandchildren will want their grandchildren to be safe too. And whatever is causing the change, that change is happening and it is happening far faster than any recent predictions.
So yes, let’s do everything we can do in our own small and significant way to make Malta greener. First of all let’s think and act positively in this area. Let’s have the greenest possible way to generate energy. Let’s continue to have greener public and private transport. And let’s better protect what we have and plant a lot more trees and foliage across all our towns and villages and in our gardens or on or terraces.
There have been laudable campaigns to save our trees but we all need to keep reminding ourselves that we must not only protect what we have, but also plant more.
Greenery, even if it doesn’t save our planet in our generation, can certainly help to instantly salvage our sanity. Trees are an essential part of our salvation even in our urban cores.
Let’s have Malta buck the trend and be a place where poorer and wealthier neighbourhoods have an equal and ample amount of trees and more greenery.
Let’s try to tree... for our grandchildren’s grandchildren too.