By far the most fundamental division within humanity is between people who give a damn and people who do not. In Malta, for example, the few give a damn and the many do not.
We are following the Pied Piper’s tune of unrestrained economic growth, wild consumerism, high-rise buildings, anything goes, unlimited population growth with an open invitation to everybody from everywhere to come to our islands – all wrapped up in this cosmopolitan society mantra-hogwash. What Malta needs is population and economic de-growth and a substantial decrease in tourist numbers.
The foreigners on our islands must be marvelling at how we are so gleefully wrecking our own country. Of course they are here to make hay (money) while the sun shines. When they have made enough money most of them will very sensibly go back to their family and their community in their country. This is a sensible plan – I cannot argue with that. What is far less sensible for us is that we will be left here to pick up the pieces.
Once the Pied Piper’s tune is no more, two things will happen. One, the Pied Piper will be nowhere to be seen. Two, we will come to our senses and see reality – crisis does that to people: a dirty, polluted and polluting country, nose deep in trash, precious little biodiversity, a broken country made up of dysfunctional families and communities riddled with crime. You know this is coming to pass, it is happening as we speak.
The choice we have made for quantity rather than quality was not a conscious one – it was an insidious process, many choices over many years by many people driven by greed and the lust for power. We are now, perhaps, slowly coming to our senses. We have a golden, and very possibly last, opportunity to change direction.
At this crucial time in the history of the planet when the earth finds itself in the throes of the sixth mass extinction of species and climate change caused entirely by humans, we need representatives who care about what is important in life.
I have identified seven fundamental obstacles that stand between humanity and our collective future well-being.
The first problem is a public governance that is controlled by business lobbies, greed and political ambitions and that does not believe in science or deliver well-being.
The second problem is the petrochemical industry that has caused global warming by extracting and burning fossil fuels for energy, industry and transport and has trashed the planet with plastic and the atmosphere and oceans with carbon emissions.
When walking on the pavement alongside roads we can smell and taste the toxic gases entering our lungs. We would all be wearing gas masks if we wished to live longer
The third problem is deforestation caused by farming for agricultural produce to be consumed as food by humans and livestock.
The fourth problem is waste mismanagement; we are fed the lie that all this waste can somehow be recycled. We are in fact either burning it or sending it to developing countries, causing severe degradation of our and their environment.
The fifth problem is the killing of land and marine wildlife and overfishing.
The sixth is wars and the armaments industry.
And the seventh problem is that we are possibly the only species on this planet that has not understood its place in the whole earth system made up of the combined planetary ecosystems.
A handful of extraordinary persons appeared among us in the last millennia. They displayed exceptional wisdom and compassion and explained to us the relatively simple way forward that would maximise our happiness and diminish our suffering. Within a generation or two of their passing mankind turned their message into religions, thereby killing the message. This is what happens when people just follow without understanding and do not really know what is going on.
All religious and public governance systems are ultimately doomed to failure if we insist on following blindly. Having your eyes open does not mean simply believing the doctrine or the political spin. It means taking the time to challenge the information coming from the top.
The information coming down to us portrays the economy and the truth about life as either a given or too complex for us to understand. Neither is true. We are all more than capable of understanding these matters. We need public servants with limited powers, not politicians. We do not need religious dogma and a priesthood that sets itself apart. We need to have a direct understanding of life and of who and what we are. A good place to start is for each one of us to take full responsibility for our situation, attitudes and actions.
The single biggest contributor to ocean acidification, global warming and land and marine pollution is the petrochemical industry with its carbon emissions and plastic pollution. The air in Malta is among the most polluted in Europe. We now know that more than 500 people die in Malta every year from illness caused by air pollution.
The main direct contributors are toxic emissions from the nearly 400,000 motor vehicles, the power station, the hundreds of cruise liners in our harbour and the thousands of ships that pass through our territorial waters. Last but not least, the 43,000 aircraft landings and take-offs annually. When walking on the pavement alongside roads we can smell and taste the toxic gases entering our lungs. We would all be wearing gas masks if we wished to live longer.
Plastic waste in our land and marine environment is pervasive – it is in fact an epidemic. The plastics industry is even now investing billions and expanding production in Europe. Fifty per cent of plastic produced is single use and most of it ending up in the oceans. Our Mediterranean Sea has the highest concentration of micro-plastics worldwide.
Malta is not meeting the EU emissions reduction target and we are buying pollution credits from Bulgaria running into many hundreds of thousands of euros to make up for this. Pollution, acidification and overfishing have caused a collapse of marine life in our sea.
Malta should take unilateral action to stop the importation of single use plastic and regulate strictly emissions of ships while in our harbours and that navigate around Malta. We need to protect all the fish species in our territorial waters – if truth be known we should have a five-year fishing moratorium in order to allow fish populations to become viable and we should do this before they become extinct – we are catching them smaller and smaller and not even allowing them to reproduce.
Deforestation, pesticide and fertiliser pollution are decimating biodiversity worldwide. In Malta trees and ODZ land have become a public enemy standing in the way of progress. Fertilisers have been contaminating our freshwater aquifers for decades. We are also told that a little bit of poison coming from pesticides on our vegetables and fruit may not be good for us but it is acceptable and we should not complain.
Nature does not give a damn about humans. We, however, should give a damn about nature as our well-being and our very existence depend on it.
This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece
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