The march of the environmentalist

The most important message of the referendum is that history can be made through resilience and broad alliance-building

This Saturday's demonstration by 10 Environmental NGOs (ENGOs) is the first of its kind since the protests against the previous government's so-called 'rationalization' of development zones before the 2008 general election.

The latter protests had eventually given way to sectarian splinters within Malta's environmental movement, especially between moderate and radical wings. One hopes that this Saturday's alliance would be more long-lived and organic, possibly resulting in substantive successes such as that of the victorious Front Against the (Rabat) Golf Course in 2004, which comprised a wide range of radicals, moderates and others. This alliance did not depend on EU institutions for its victory, but was resilient in broad alliance-building and in its discourse for sustainability. Indeed, land development is an area which has more to do with national and local politics, than with EU directives.

It is not surprising that environmentalists are once again resorting to protest. The new Labour government seems to be banking on mega-projects as part of its economic policy. In the past months we have read about bridges, land reclamation and weakened environmental legislation, and we have also witnessed approval of development at Mistra and Portomaso among others.

The ideology towards overdevelopment and the political influence of big developers clearly show us that the environment is a political issue. Decision-making of technocrats is always subject to a condensation of different interests, views, pressures and grieviances, which in the current scenario are structured towards overdevelopment. The other side of this story comprises activism which articulates discourse against the way of things.

Sensitization of the general public is one achievement in this regard. A good example of this is the call for a referendum against Spring hunting, which is heading towards the collection of 35,000-36,000 signatures required for an abrogative referendum, which, depending on a number of factors, can coincide with the European elections.

On hunting, the EU does have clear directives, but the decision of the European Court of Justice on the Maltese case ultimately resulted in plural interpretations, effectively returning the issue back to Maltese politics.

Indeed, the most important message of the referendum is that history can be made through resilience and broad alliance-building. I salute the ENGOs and voices within the media - such as Malta Today - which are active in this regard, but one also must acknowledge that Alternattiva Demokratika was and is an important player in the push for the referendum. I am also inclined to think that the Nationalist Party is consciously not being antagonistic towards the campaign, and I won't be surprised if some big party voices would also emerge as openly supporting the latter, if a referendum is announced.

The overdevelopment and hunting issues indicate that populist politics without adversaries, as articulated by Labour in the run-up to the 2013 general elections, cannot conceal political and social antagonisms. Along similar lines, the environmental movement has much to gain through broader alliances which, however, are not diluted into pragmatic nothingness or into futile attempts to exorcise politics from the environment.

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Come on Franco! Not the sort of weather one goes protesting in! After all this is Malta, and most days are clear and sunny. So what's the hurry? A couple of days time should do the trick.
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And a little rain made them scurry back home. In maltese there is a phrase "Bahrin tal-bnazzi" good weather sailors.
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@ not amused, of course one may do otherwise, if one wants to retain credibility and support amongst the unbiased, uncommitted voter/citizen. One may state that what is good is good, and what is bad is bad. It cannot possible be all bad, unless one is exercising a constantly-in-opposition agenda; and Jesus, we have enough of these false prophets, that have lost their status/money/position/tender/etc/etc/etc, with the fall of GonziPN. I would be the first to support a well run, honestly opinionated, third political. But "tra il dire e il fare....! Notwithstanding, I find that some AD exponents would do far more good within the ranks of the main parties, i.e. working from within to push the moderate electorate's ideas and concerns. Hence my suggestion to disband, regroup as a pressure group, and for some (this might not be to the liking of some others) to worm their way inside the power zone.
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@Guzep. you may be resigned to a fate of concrete & asphalt but others, who are not politically blinkered, expect a holistic approach to the word 'development' and the xs empty housing is a showcase of the problems & not the solution. The article is about controlling the rampage of construction and ensuring a quality of life to you and your children. Political parties in the hand of speculators will only lead to a minority exploiting what is rightly ours. Instead of hanging down your head why not stand up to be counted.
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"approval of development at Mistra and Portomaso among others." You cannot stop progress (that is what we call it nowadays). We might as well get used to the tall buildings all around the island because tall buildings bring in millions and millions of euros. Unfortunately the greens cannot have it both ways. This little island is already over crowded and and more to come. There is very little space in where to build and if we are to save the little empty space we have left, we have to accept the tall buildings. This is a Tourist Island and Malta depends on tourists. We are so overcrowded that it it seems we also need another hospital because Mater Dei Hospital cannot handle the influx of patients. The Maltese and non Maltese population is growing and we need more places to live in. The illegal immigration exodus to this island is not helping any either. So as they say, if we cannot spread out we must go high and we cannot stop progress..
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@better future. One can hardly do otherwise. Name an issue where there aren't any political intrigues involved. A major concern to all of us that anything touched by our politician invariably begins to stink despite being made to look like a bunch of roses. In spite of that our major parties still have a stranglehold on local politics but the twist is, that the sentiments being expressed by the AD are exactly those being felt by a good proportion of the electorate although one hardly dares to admit it.
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AD has lost its way. Exactly because it politicizes every issue negatively, believing they have a God given right to oppose one and all, you know in a Don Quixote manner. It will be far stronger were it to disband, and recreate itself as an NGO/pressure group. It would be more credible and perform a greater service to the country.