One of the elements that faces the greatest threat of obliteration in Malta and Gozo is our landscape.
It is obvious that the god of money has taken precedence over the physical and mental wellbeing of each one of us. The beauty of our countryside, with its garrigues, plant life and wondrous birds is being sold by the very politicians who should be at the frontline to protect it, and whose unscrupulousness bears no thought for our collective sacrosanct right to enjoy the natural habitat that God has endowed us with.
The soil that our farmers have tilled for centuries is being stolen from them in the name of moneyed progress that resorts to ugly cement constructions in place of fertile land to which they, and all of us Maltese citizens, have a right.
What are the Maltese being offered in return?
Green walls and rooftops, which will, one hopes, attract the bees that are currently being eradicated due to this overdevelopment. Yet no green wall will replace the beauty of a tree in the natural or urban environment and its importance for our health.
Nobody has bothered to inform us that a green wall that is now being boasted of as an ecological solution, costs, according to a quick search on the Internet, between €300 and €1,000 per square metre, while a tree in its natural habitat comes free.
No shiny super-modern hotel will ever replace our vernacular architecture and the way it was cleverly and tastefully integrated into the social landscape. On the contrary, the growing plethora of these soulless buildings is bound, in the long run, to lessen jobs as the influx of tourists diminishes due to the fact that we have less and less beauty to show them.
They do not need to come to Malta to see ugly, anonymous tall glass buildings; they probably have enough of those back home. They come to appreciate what they do not have: the sun, sea, and natural beauty that remains untainted in other places around the Mediterranean and that is being rapidly destroyed for us and for future generations of Maltese.
Repubblika has issued a position paper on national unity in view of the conference that President George Vella will be conducting this week.
Various subjects are tackled in this paper; the natural and built environment are obviously included, because they form an important factor of divisiveness among the Maltese. Concern for, or indifference to, the environment has created a chasm between those pursuing the god of money and those wanting to hold on to the little beauty that still survives in this country.
Every day, we see tracts of beautiful land that have remained intact for centuries, or urban landscapes boasting vernacular features being wantonly destroyed by bulldozers.
As is noted in our paper: “People walking or pushing prams and wheelchairs have been elbowed from the pavements by wider roads and commercial encroachment. Trees have been replaced by cars. Vernacular architecture has been replaced by unsightly monuments to avarice and mediocrity.”
As a result, “people have lost visibility of the sky and the sea; they have had open space in the countryside or in towns taken away from them.” Unfortunately, it is not only vision and space that we are being deprived of, some of us are being robbed of their land, their homes, and unpardonably, their loved ones, who end up sacrificed under the rubble to this voracious god of money.
The ordinary Maltese citizen is unhappily faced by this urban and rural cannibalism, which is being carried out for quick monetisation and which, yet again, underlines the inequality in our society.
As our document points out: “the most suffering victims are the weaker members of society and those not yet born”. Unless we put a stop to this butchery, our children will not be able to experience the natural, historical and architectural heritage that we, as the present generation, are supposed to be duty-bound to guard and curate for them.
Vicki Ann Cremona, professor, University of Malta.
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