We need a gilet rouge for the environment

The Muscats of the world say the Gozo tunnel is a commitment in the manifesto. But nowhere did I read that Labour would also weaken planning laws and open the doors of hell to developers

Few people, much like someone like the United States President Donald Trump, believe that climate change is a myth. The global scientific consensus and public opinion is that there is substantial evidence for the man-made warming of the earth and its catastrophic effects for humanity as we know it.

But this is not just some other opinion on the environment. I ask you to read on. Let me turn to the Greens, a miniscule political party that has been around for just under 30 years and which yesterday held a press conference and small demonstration calling for action on climate change.

It was a noble gesture. But to be very frank, maybe a waste of time. The Greens would have been better off cordoning one of the many building sites eating away at our pristine countryside. Anyone in their right senses would have told the Greens to understand that Malta’s contribution to climate change is irrelevant to the wider discourse on how to force governments to clamp down on the industrial and human contributors to global warming.

And secondly, the little fighting spirit kindled in green activists would be better placed trying to lobby against decisions that are leading to Malta’s mutilation.

The Muscats of the world say the Gozo tunnel is a commitment in the manifesto. But nowhere did I read that Labour would also weaken planning laws and open the doors of hell to developers

Calling for radical action to act on climate change – at least on the Maltese stage and on the eve of the 2019 European elections – is a waste of time. If the Greens and others want to really focus on green issues, they should sit down and realise that we have more pressing local issues within our reach – controversies that if properly addressed could lead to change because we can make political decision-makers act.

And if they have not noticed, the most urgent concern is the use of land. Most activists, or else those that still feel the need to raise their voice, know that once you lose the land here, there is no way you can get it back.

And yet, activists have been focusing on peripheral or politically-tainted issues and not realising that their first priority should be on the policies that are eating away at our Island’s footprint. I am not quite sure whether this is what most green groups want. Sometimes I wonder what makes some groups cry wolf over one project but not on another.

Take a look at the outcry on DB’s project compared to the silence on Corinthia’s plans. There are numerous groups in Malta fighting supposedly for Malta’s heritage and environment: Din l-Art Helwa, Flimkien għall-Ambjent Aħjar, Friends of the Earth, Friends of the Earth, Nature Trust, Birdlife Malta and others such as Graffitti. Most are represented by a very small number of members and tend to step on each other’s toes. Their idea of joining forces is dampened by the ego of some of their leaders and their politics, where partisanship actually stops them from joining forces. And then there is always the spectre of the Anglophones that end up being unappealing to a wider audience which must be marshalled if one is to fight the neoliberal politics embraced by the entire political class.

If they were looking at 2019, they know that they should be gearing up to fight on three fronts. The planning policies which have green-lit the wanton decimation of Malta and Gozo, the absence of a skyline policy, and more importantly the plan to build a tunnel to Gozo. The latter in my view is the one which should enrage all those who love this country, for they know that the tunnel will come at a colossal expense, and will be the death knell to more countryside in the north of the Island and the island of Gozo.

But so fickle are our MPs that none of them have dared raise a voice of unease with the tunnel proposal. It is only because they are fearful of losing out on votes.

They argue – the Joseph Muscats of this world – that the tunnel is a commitment in the manifesto. But nowhere in the manifesto did I read that the Labour government would weaken planning laws and open the doors of hell to developers. What we really need is a Gilets Jaunes revolution, not one calling for more money in our pockets or less taxes as the French are calling for, but for an appeal to save this country for future generations, for ourselves.

Gozo has already suffered as a result of bad planning over the last 40 years, with the urban sprawl from the centre of the idyllic villages disfiguring much of Gozo, and the summer resorts of Marsalforn, Qbajjar and Xlendi being irresponsibly designed into concrete boxes stacked on each other. A tunnel will facilitate the movement of people and more pressure to build and build, leading to an excess of construction waste which our policymakers want to use as an excuse for land reclamation.

It will be very difficult and next to impossible to raise awareness among people, because people have sold their soul to the devil of money. They only talk about money and it stops there. They read less, they are more ignorant, they base their ideas on social media gossip, they care little for the quality of their surroundings.

I have this very remorseful feeling of déjà vu of the way I felt back in the 1980s. The arguments have not changed. The politics and the fascination with money remains omnipresent, it blinds people and makes others cynical and undisturbed by the dereliction of our environs.

We are living in a time of decadence, where the concrete blocks and marble lobbies have more value than green valleys, the historical trails and the open spaces. We need to change.

Maybe we should don a Gilet Rouge not the yellow one, to take this fight forward. We may be getting older, but we cannot give up. We still want to go on living in this country, because this is the one we have grown to love.