Three weeks ago, I underwent a major abdominal surgery. In the month leading up to the operation, I was in constant, unbearable pain – but the experience was more than just painful. Psychologically, it stripped me away from my usual self, rendering me unable to do the things I usually do. It was a feeling of profound debilitation, beyond simple pain.

And, yet, somehow, the experience has endowed me with a new sense of gratitude and a new appreciation for health, which is something so many of us take for granted. Despite having been helpless, I emerged filled with a new wave of energy.

For me, it was a fundamental lesson. I learned the true value of life and health, the true value of being able to get up in the morning and do whatever my heart desires. I learned how precious it is to simply have the strength to act. The darkness by which this experience engulfed me made me realise that I never actually had any real worries before then.

And this experience is what has made me act now. After years of seeing our environment being destroyed, this affair struck me with that same helplessness I had lived through during my operation. It was not at all dissimilar to the powerlessness that we all feel in the face of this adversity.

I wanted a voice, for me and for all those who are sick and tired of seeing what is happening to our country, to its environment and our quality of life. We want this to change. We all need to wake up and realise what is going on and take a stand.

I’m not alone in believing that Malta has been stuck in a rut, and a dangerous one at that.

It seems that the country has sold its soul in exchange for so-called “progress”. Only a fool would deny Malta the economic benefits that improve the quality of life of all its citizens, but for all the fanfare about our economic growth, this very thing is what we aren’t seeing: an improvement to the quality of our lives.

It isn’t a deluded hippy’s dream to want more trees in urban and rural areas alike

In 1987, the Brundtland report was published with a working definition of sustainable development. Over 30 years ago, world leaders understood that progress and development could be loosely classified into three aspects: the economic, the social and the environmental. Ideally, each should be balanced and used to complement one other. In practice, some of their respective principles often find themselves at odds and would require compromises to be reached.

What we are seeing now, however, goes considerably beyond minute, if not mundane, compromises. The wholesale massacre of our trees bends the delicate balance of sustainable development way beyond its definition.

There are good reasons why the environment is one of the essential pillars of sustainable development.

It isn’t a deluded hippy’s dream to want more trees in urban and rural areas alike.

Wise and temperate leaders are careful to integrate greenery into urban spaces. This confers a plethora of benefits, from aesthetic to more tangible results like mental and physical health.

Healthier, happier citizens directly improve the social aspect of sustainable development, and it isn’t far-fetched to see the economy do better due to a healthier, happier workforce. The Maltese idiom thus rings true: fuq tlieta toqgħod il-borma.

It is inexplicable to me why someone would think that chopping down trees in a frenzy is a good idea. On a local level, this is the opposite of sustainable development and boasts a backward mentality of generations past.

Internationally, we know we are running against the clock to save our planet. Nations are calling climate emergencies, shifting to renewable energy sources and taking steps to reverse climate change. Honestly, even these efforts aren’t enough. The direction Malta is taking is the complete opposite.

The hurdles our country faces are huge, but not insurmountable. What is certain is that we cannot keep sacrificing our environment and our health at the altar of unbridled environmental destruction.

What is the value of a tree to Ian Borg? A visit to Santa Luċija is chilling. We know that widening roads is a short-term policy that only serves to shift traffic problems from one bottleneck to another.

Yet, when will Borg listen?

For Santa Luċija, it is with regret that the necessary permits have been granted and the legal tenders issued. Taxpayer money has been vested into the culling of mature trees for projects that are limited at best, ineffectual at worst.

What has happened in Santa Luċija is a painful fait accompli.

If we cannot hope for a victory, then the best we can do is learn a lesson. What happened there must not be repeated, and we must do our utmost to prevent it from happening again. We have managed to create a movement against all odds – together. We would do well to continue what we started, fighting the battles that we can win.

The Central Link project is still within our reach. Our fight is far from over. What happened in Santa Luċija is devastating and a merciless warning to all of us who have the country at heart.

We can come back from this.

Together, we can stand to send a message of hope, and it starts by saving the trees in Attard. By standing up to be counted for this, we stand up for our environment, for our health and for our country.

Sasha Vella is one of the organisers of the Attard and Santa Luċija protests against the chopping down of trees for road projects.
Facebook: For Our Trees


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