It’s not easy even pretending to be Green…

But in any case: already, I suppose, you can see what Kermit might have actually meant, by ‘it’s not easy being Green’

Kermit The Frog sang so wistfully about all the difficulties he faced, as a direct consequence of his own skin-colour
Kermit The Frog sang so wistfully about all the difficulties he faced, as a direct consequence of his own skin-colour

If, like me, you were brought up on Jim Henson’s ‘The Muppet Show’, you will instantly recognise that headline as a reference to its most famous protagonist, Kermit the Frog… who once sang (from purely personal experience) that: ‘It’s not easy being Green.’

But even if the names Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, The Great Gonzo, etc., mean nothing to you, at all: there’s still a good chance you’ll be familiar with that song-title anyway. If nothing else, because it has become a standard way of referring to all the ‘difficulties’ traditionally faced by Green Parties – and environmentalists, in general – in the context of local and international politics. [Note: has used it as a headline at least a dozen times, in the past decade alone.]

Now: I admit that the following thought only just struck me, literally as I was writing the last sentence: but with hindsight, I realise that those same ‘political connotations’ – anachronistic though they may appear, when applied to a 1970s children’s TV show – may have all along been INTENTIONAL.

In other words: when Kermit The Frog sang so wistfully about all the difficulties he faced, as a direct consequence of his own skin-colour… he was not merely confronting the sheer absurdity of ‘racism’ (a connection that is already widely recognised; and certainly WAS intentional, on Jim Henson’s part)…

No: it could also be that Kermit really did mean those words, in the way they are so frequently re-interpreted today: i.e. that ‘it’s not easy being an environmentalist… at a time when (to paraphrase one lesser-known sketch from the Muppet Show itself) the rest of humanity seems hell-bent on destroying the entire planet’…

And the more I think about it, the more plausible the interpretation appears. After all, Henson himself was known to be a committed environmentalist, throughout his career; and especially during the 1970s, when what we can now safely call a ‘global environmentalist consciousness’ – represented, at the time, by nascent organisations such as ‘GREEN-peace’ – was only just beginning to awaken.

So even if the word ‘Green’ itself had yet to assume its present-day environmentalist implications – and there was no such thing as ‘Green Politics’, by that name – a connection clearly existed, even back then.

Not just with the name ‘Greenpeace’, by the way; but also with its flagship, the ‘Rainbow Warrior’ (and what do you know? ‘The Muppet Movie’ actually opens with Kermit The Frog singing another song: this time called… ‘The Rainbow Connection’!)

Honestly, though: this is one of those ‘How-on-earth-could-I-never-have-spotted-something-so-utterly-OBVIOUS-before?’ moments…

But, oh well: I guess I’ll save it for a future PhD in ‘Muppet Studies’, or something. Because for now, it doesn’t really matter whether Kermit the Frog (or Jim Henson, for that matter) actually meant it to be understood like that, or not. What matters more is that: it’s perfectly true, either way.

Being ‘Green’ – in the political sense of the word – really IS kind of ‘difficult’, these days. So very difficult, in fact, that it seems the present government has given up on even pretending to have any ‘Green’ credentials, whatsoever…

Take, for example, the last time the Labour Government actually tried to slap the label ‘Green’ – in the environmental sense - on any of its policies. On January 16 of this year, to be precise: when Environment Minister Miriam Dalli launched ‘Project Green’: an agency aimed – in its own words - at “implementing and coordinating a number of environmental projects in urban areas […] so that abandoned spaces in town centres are turned into gardens,” etc., etc.

Ten days later, the newly established Project Green launched a €10 million ‘Community Greening Grant’: “giving communities in Malta and Gozo an opportunity to create and enrich existing green open spaces in their localities”; and through which “Local Councils, NGOs, schools, and other organisations will receive financial assistance to create greener spaces in their community.”

Meanwhile, the agency’s website informs applicants that: “the types of green spaces projects that Project Green might support include” [my emphasis, in all cases]:

• the creation of new high-quality public green spaces, especially in HIGHLY URBANISED LOCATIONS and where this would help REDUCE HEALTH INEQUALITIES;

• better management of water and REDUCED FLOOD RISK through sustainable drainage and natural flood management measures […];

• restoration and creation of WILDLIFE HABITATS;

• Creation of open spaces which reflect THE DEMOGRAPHIC NEEDS OF THE SURROUNDING COMMUNITY (and many, many more).

On her part, Dalli claimed that: “This is one of the biggest environmental schemes for environmental projects in the community ever launched in our country. We are injecting a €10 million direct investment in our communities to implement the green projects that they have always aspired for.” And Parliamentary secretary Chris Bonett added: “The environment is our priority, and we are determined to utilise the new EU funds programme to invest in projects that improve our environment and create more green spaces for our families.”

All sounds terrific, doesn’t it? Until you fast-forward just a few short weeks, to find that…

OK: to be fair, you can’t exactly complain about the failure of these ‘Green Projects’ to actually materialise, since then… for the simple reason that the closing date for applications was only last Tuesday (which means we won’t realistically see any of these promised ‘new green spaces’, for at least another year).

At the same time, however: I, for one, certainly did not expect the amount of ‘green space’ that is already available, in Maltese towns and villages, to actually DECREASE – and quite drastically, too – in the meantime: with more and more urban public land being rudely ‘snatched away’ from its rightful owners – i.e., the communities which used to enjoy them – to be literally handed over to a motley assortment of selected ‘commercial interests’: all for their own, exclusive exploitation.

Yet this, it seems, is the reality we are now confronted with, on an almost daily basis – and almost literally, everywhere you look – ever since those boastful claims about ‘Greening Local Communities’ were made.

In Mellieha’s Tal-Qortin district, for instance: the Lands Department has only just decided to sell one of the last remaining undeveloped plots (measuring 5,000sq.m) in the entire neighbourhood… despite the fact that:

a) it constitutes the only ‘green open space’ that actually exists, within the confines of what is already a ‘densely-populated urban environment’, and;

b) it turns out that the site is home to at least three endemic plants, and two indigenous plant-species... all of which are supposedly ‘protected’, at law; and described by botanist Jeffrey Sciberras as having “a crucial role to play in pollination, apart from the importance garigue patches in urban areas have in absorbing rainwater, which otherwise ends up” – wait for it – “FLOODING THE ROADS[!!!]”

Got that, folks? Three weeks after we were told that ‘Project Green’ is guided by principles that include, among others, ‘flood-risk management’, ‘protecting biodiversity’, and ‘providing access to green spaces, for residents in densely-populated urban areas’…

… the Lands Department – which is ultimately answerable to the same Labour government - goes ahead, performs an action which spectacularly contradicts all three of those lofty ‘green’ objectives, at once.

Unfortunately, however, the Mellieha example is not the only one; nor even the most calamitous that we’ve seen recently. For while the loss of precious ‘green space’ – to be replaced by more construction; more noise; more dust, etc. – will prove detrimental to the health (including mental health) of those Mellieha residents… it almost pales to insignificance, compared to some of the environmental ‘sacrileges’ currently being performed in other parts of Malta and Gozo.

Like my own, long-suffering neighbourhood of Gzira, for instance: now officially - as per the last National Census - the ‘most densely populated, over-developed’ town in the Maltese islands (which also makes it one of the most-densely populated parts of the entire planet, full-stop); and also, one of the most exposed to ‘health inequalities’, on account of its burgeoning traffic problems (with all the related air-pollution).

Right: I’ll keep this part brief, because I’ve already written about it countless times before: but in Gzira, not only has the government failed to provide any new ‘open green spaces’, to compensate for all the public land we’ve already lost to the nearby Manoel Island project; but – as a result of that same project, please note – it is now in the process of ‘snatching away’ a sizeable chunk of Gzira’s only public garden, within a radius of around five miles: to hand it over to a private commercial operator, for sole purpose of building…

… I kid you not…

… a Petrol Station, of all ‘un-Greenly’ things! Which not just blatantly contradicts ALL the stated aims of Project Green, in the most ‘in-your-face’ way imaginable… but it even defies the same government’s declared aim, to phase out ‘ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) vehicles’, by 2050!

But in any case: already, I suppose, you can see what Kermit might have actually meant, by ‘it’s not easy being Green’. For while it’s simple enough, to ‘CLAIM’ to be Green – by tagging that word onto all your projects and initiatives, for instance - ‘BEING’ Green also implies that you have to actually deliver on all those lofty Green promises, sooner or later.

And if, so soon after having made those promises (and with such fanfare, too!), the government has not only ‘failed to deliver’: but actually delivered the clean opposite -  ‘Project Greed’, instead of ‘Project Green’ - well, it sort of makes it slightly difficult for anyone to actually BELIEVE any of this new-fangled ‘Greenwash’ bullshit… doesn’t it?