Yet another toothless dog

August 26, 2016

times of malta

Yet another toothless dog

Friday. August 26, 2016

Alfred E. Baldacchino

The way in which the new Planning Authority handled the applications for high rise buildings is a harbinger of things to come with regard to the complete destruction of these islands socially, environmentally and economically. Without any policy on the matter, without any public consultations, without any respect for anything or anyone but with urgency to please the selected few while the sun shines, the PA decided to approve the applications with absolutely no sign of professionality at all.

The fact that the new Environment and Resources Authority was absent from such an important decision is also very worrying.

A new era seems to be dawning on the environment, which, we have been told, ” … will be given the priority it deserves…”

The ERA chairman was indisposed and sent an explanatory letter. If I were the ERA chairman and I were sick, I would have crawled to the meeting, if only to make my presence felt. It would have been important to vote and make ERA’s position known. If medical reasons did not allow me to crawl, I would have sent a letter to the PA chairman stressing the need for it to be read before the vote was taken and highlighting ERA’s vote.

I would also have entrusted one of the ERA board members with the task to substantiate ERA’s official position. I would certainly not have sent the letter to a PA board member to use as he deems fit.

Such unprofessional behaviour simply shows that the government’s intentions to split Mepa into two authorities was just a sham. It wanted to make things easier for the selected few, weakening national and EU environmental obligations and responsibilities, giving a blank cheque to development applications having a hidden political blessing.

This was evident when the environment protection directorate was kept in limbo by Mepa when they were supposed to be in the same bed. Unconcerned, Mepa presented the Parliamentary standing committee on the environment with an impact assessment on Żonqor Point, confirming that the directorate was not consulted and drafters of the assessment had to remain anonymous.

The Environment and
Resources Authority, still so
young, has signed its own
death warrant


The new ERA, the promised champion of the environment, failed at its first hurdle. ERA, still so young, has signed its own death warrant through its impotency. The subsequent news that the ERA chairman described the EIA of the Sliema skyscraper as a “sham” confirms that ERA is another toothless authority.

I am indeed sorry for the ERA chairman. I had high hopes and honestly believed he would go far towards the protection of our environment – the basis of life as professionally he fully well knows.

The Sliema parish priests and the Church Environment Commission were constrained to voice their concerns. One cannot run with the hares and hunt with the hounds. The leadership of the Church is emerging to be a solid promoter of the social and environmental responsibilities in the country, in line with Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si’. Yet, it is already being hounded by the square-circled political mentality.

Considering the local conditions, the high rises approved and others being proposed are anti-social, anti-environmental and anti-economical. Unfortunately, the powers that be, despite claiming they hail from the socialist camp, are dead set to accommodate the selected few at the expense of the exploited many, who sooner rather than later will have to pay through their noses, financially, socially and environmentally.

Such an official blinded vision is an extreme capitalist mentality rather than a moderate socialist commitment. But this is of no concern to those involved in these decisions. Greed, materialism and the exploitation of everything, at everyone’s expense, seem to be the order of the day.

As a past chairman of the Church Environment Commission once wrote: ” … Mepa, which should be our national watchdog on environmental protection and good management, has been turned into an old toothless dog often receiving merciless battering from all directions, including from the authorities, the public at large, NGOs and also from environmental speculators. And, let us all be aware, this state of affairs mostly satisfies the hidden agenda of the latter!”

He had also said: “What we need is a national watchdog called MEA: the Malta Environment Autlority. This should be able to act as a strong regulatory body in environmental matters, with all the required resources, including a well-trained and motivated staff. And, as a national watchdog, it should be able to act independently of all other govemment entities and authorities. Our MEA should play second fiddle to none” (Times of Malta, January 1, 2010).

Bold and noble words indeed when said with conviction.

cartoonThe old toothless dog is still running the show. And it is not only the old toothless dog that is still receiving such criticism. It has now been joined by a seemingly toothlless ERA.

One has to be aware that scientific decisions are arrived at in a very, very different way from political decisions. “And let us all be aware, this state of affairs mostly satisfies the hidden agenda of the latter”.

Who has let down whom?

Alfled Baldacchino served as assistant director of the Malta Environment and Planning Authority’s environment directorate.



Climate change and the Pope

December 7, 2015

times of malta

Monday, 7th December 2015


Alfred E. Baldacchino

Following the terrorism against humanity, Paris is now hosting the 21st Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The main objective is to get a legally binding universal agreement for all nations, on climate: a measure in the name of humanity.

logo-cop21-webAfter past failures and procrastinations, world leaders will be trying to agree on a new model of growth that is safe, durable and beneficial to all. This is not only possible, but now necessary and urgent. The French Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development and president-designate of COP21, Mr Laurent Fabius, said that the whole planet is expecting such a global agreement; the citizens of the world know that later will be too late.

Climate change is so devastating that even Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato Si’ dwelt on this matter. Prof Schellnhuber expanded on climate change during the launch of Laudato Si’. Prof Schellnhuber is the founding director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, a German government-funded research institute addressing crucial scientific question in the field of global change, climate impacts and sustainable development.

Prof. Schellnhuber spoke on the urgency of taking immediate actions on the solid scientific evidence of global warming driven by greenhouse-gas emissions resulting from the burning of fossil fuels. Failure to strongly reduce such emissions will expose the present world populations and their future generations to intolerable risks. He added that the Encyclical Laudato Si’ mirrors these scientific findings, endorsed by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.


Laudato Si’ looks at the large scale production of fossil fuel energy towards human development, but benefitting a minority. Such a resource is privately owned by large corporations or controlled by governments. Access largely depends on the financial resources of the individuals, generating extreme wealth as compared to the poor and the poorest of the poor. This is seen to be a violence of development which predetermines the lives of the latter thus leading to disparities  and to wasteful over-usage of resources, to the extent of exploitation of the carbon history of humankind.

This development by the few affects everyone, with the greatest consequences borne by the poor, as compared to the consumption by the rich who are contributing to the deeply wounding of the planet. And the devastation of this is borne by the weakest in society.  This is why Laudato Si’ emphasises that it is indispensable to confront climate change and poverty simultaneously. Not only so, but climate impacts will disproportionately affect many of the developing countries.

Development as it is being carried out is like walking the plank. Not only will it not bring prosperity for all, but it will bring disaster for most of humanity. Science teaches us that climate is a fragile and delicate web of interwoven components. It embraces the atmosphere, the oceans, the frozen water part of the Earth system, the soils and the ecosystems. These interact through complex physical, chemical, geological and biological processes. Just the pull or breaking of one single thread of this web can possibly lead to permanent damage of the whole web.

   Development as it is being carried out

is like walking the plank.

Such a delicate natural web started to be tampered with at the start of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century, by a small ‘privileged group’.  This has led to the present crisis of climate change.

A pro-business vision, bereft of any social and ecological considerations, has already led to expansion of sea water as it warms, and also through the melting glaciers and ice caps, leading to sea-level rise. These can lead to about 1.2 meters of sea-level rise, all due to human interference through short-sited egoistic development.

Excess of carbon dioxide emissions, which is contributing to climate change can cause sudden, irreversible and large-scale disruption in the natural web interwoven by physical and ecological systems. Business as usual will lead greenhouse gas emission to an increase in temperature by 4°C.

Prof. Schellnhuber  while addressing the congregation on the launching of the encyclical Laudato Si’ compared climate change to a human being having a body temperature of 37°C. A 2°C rise in temperature will lead to fever. A 5°C rise will result in a dead body through heat and the collapse of vital organs of the body. Our planet is the body which embraces humanity.


What will be the outcome of the Paris Summit? Will the pro-business vision rule the day? Will there be dragging of feet by those who put unlimited development before the survival of humanity? Will business acumen look at such a global problem through a Volkswagen approach? Will the past sceptics and opponents of such measures join the chorus for a binding agreement? Will man endorse the fact that he is his worst enemy?

Pope Francis emphasises that “the climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all”. Prof. Schellnhuber adds that now is the time to form alliances, find common ground and act together as humankind – but also to take on individual responsibility and change what is in our power to change.” Our planet does not need anybody to save it. It can take care of itself. It is humanity which needs to save itself.

Sir David Attenborough sums it all up when he said that “Anyone who believes in indefinite growth on a physically finite planet is either mad, or an economist.”

See also:

Il-Knisja Ortodossa u l-Enċiklika Laudato Si’.


Il-Knisja Ortodossa u l-Enċiklika Laudato Si’.

August 10, 2015


It-Tnejn, 11 ta’ Awwissu, 2015

Il-Knisja Ortodossa u l-Enċiklika Laudato Si’.

 Alfred E. Baldacchino


Kardinal Peter K.A. Turkson

L-enċiklika Laudato Si’ tal-Papa Franġisku ġiet imnedija f’konferenza stampa nhar il-Ħamis 18 ta’ Ġunju 2015, u matul din il-konferneza tkellmu numru ta’ awtoritajiet. Rajna fl-ewwel artiklu il-kliem tal-ftuh tal-Kardinal Peter K.A. Turkson.

Warajh tkellem ir-rapreżentant tal-Patriarka Bartholomew ta’ Konstantinopoli li huwa l-kap tal-Knisja Kristjana Ortodossa. Din kienet l-ewwel darba li l-Knisja Ortodossa ħadet parti f’diskusjsoni ta’ dan it-tip ta’ dokument uffiċjali tal-Vatikan.

Ir-rappreżentat tal-Patriarka Bartholomew, il-Metropolita John Zizioulas, jmexxi l-Akademja ta’ Ateni u huwa wieħed mit-teologi l-aktar influwenti illum fil-Knisja Kristjana Ortodossa.

Il-Metropolita Zizioulas fetaħ id-diskors tiegħu billi qal li din hija ġrajja storika fejn il-ħtieġa tal-ħarsien tal-ambjent ġiet mogħtija daqshekk għarfien u miġjuba għall-attenzjoni ta’ daqshekk nies bil-għajnuna ta’ din l-enċiklika.

Enċiklika li wriet il-problema kbira tal-ambjent, kif ukoll id-dover tal-knisja li titkellem fuq hekk u biex tipprova tgħin bil-mezzi spiritwali kollha tagħha ħalli l-ambjent naturali jiġi mħares. Imma mhux biss biex tqajjem kuxjenza ekoloġika akbar, l-aktar qalb il-Kristjani, imma f’wesgħa ferm akbar u hekk turi kemm hi kbira l-problema ekoloġika fil-firxa wesgħa teknoloġika u spiritwali.

Il-Knisja Ortodossa ilha titkellem fuq din il-problema ambjentali, u għalhekk riedet turi l-ħajr u l-ġieh tagħha lill-Papa Franġisku talli tkellem bil-vuċi tal-awtorità tiegħu biex jiġbed il-ħsieb tad-dinja għall-ħtieġa urġenti biex il-ħolqien ta’ Alla jiġi mħarsa. Għalhekk l-enċiklika Laudato Si’ hija mument ta’ ferħ u sodisfazzjoni kbir għall-Knisja Ortodossa.

Il-Metropolita Zizioulas qal li din l-enċiklika ġiet f’mument kritiku tal-istorja tal-umanità u li mingħajr dubju sejra tħalli l-marka wiesgħa tagħha fuq il-kuxjenza tal-bnedmin. Mingħajr dubju din sejra toffri l-opportunità biex kemm ix-xjenzati, l-ekonomisti, is-soċjoloġisti u mingħajr dubju l-fidili tal-Knejje Kattoliċi, ikunu jistgħu jixtarru dan il-messaġġ li ġie imfisser b’daqshekk reqqa u studju.



Il-Metropolita Zizioulas staqsa x’għandha x’taqsam l-ekoloġija mat-teoloġija. Fisser kif il-ħajja tal-bniedem hija magħġuna bi tliet rabtiet ewlenin li huma minsuġa ma’ Alla, mal-ġar tagħna u mad-dinja nnifisa. Kapitlu 2 tal-enċiklika kollu jitkellem fuq ir-rabta tat-tagħlim Kristjan mal-ekoloġija.

Jitfa’ dawl fuq kif din ir-rabta spiss kienet imwarrba mit-tagħlim Kristjan, tant li l-istoriku Amerikan Lyn White fl’1967 jakkuża t-teoloġija Kristjana: dawk Insara, Ortodossi u Protestanti, li għandhom parti kbira tar-responsabbiltà għall-kriżi ekoloġika tal-lum.

Il-bniedem tant huwa minfuh bih innifsu fuq il-ħolqien, li wasal biex jużah għas-sodisfazzjon, il-ħtiega u x-xewqat tiegħu biss. Il-bniedem inqata’ minn man-natura bil-mod kif qiegħed jifhem il-kmand bibbliku li jgħid: oktru u mmultiplilkaw u aħkmu d-dinja (Ġenesis 1:28). B’hekk l-umanità ġiet imħeġġa biex tabbuża l-kreazzjoni mingħajr limitu jew rażan, u mingħajr rispett għall-integrità u l-qdusija tagħha.

Fil-kultura li qed ngħixu llum, l-individwu jingħata importanza u dan wassal biex f’dan iż-żmien il-ġirja għall-ferħ saret l-ideal. Il-kilba tal-bniedem qed tagħmih tant li qed twassal biex il-bniedem iwarrab u ma jridx jaf bil-verità li l-ferħ tal-individwu jiddependi mir-rabta’ tiegħu mal-bnedmin l-oħra.

Fl-1989 il-Knisja Ortodossa bdiet taħdem fuq il-ħtieġa tal-ħarsien tal-ambjent, u qablet li l-ewwel ta’ Settembru ta’ kull sena tkun ġurnata fejn isir talb għall-ambjent u tal-ħolqien. Data li tista’ tmexxina pass ieħor ’l quddiem biex iġġib lill-bnedmin aktar qrib xulxin.

Jenħtieġ talb lill-Alla biex ifejjaq lill-ħajjitna sabiex inkunu nistgħu nħarsu lid-dinja u mhux nużawha bħala priża, biex niżirgħu s-sabiħ u mhux it-tniġġis, biex Alla jmiss il-qlub ta’ dawk li l-għan tagħhom huwa biss il-kilba għall-qligħ u l-poter għas-spejjeż tal-foqra tad-dinja. Talb biex Alla jgħallimna biex nifhmu l-kobor ta’ kull ħaġa u hekk nistgħu nistgħaġbu u nagħrfu li aħna marbutin ma’ kull ħlejqa oħra matul dan il-vjaġġ tagħna lejn l-għan infinit ta’ Alla.

Bil-kilba li l-bniedem għandu biex jikseb il-ferħ bil-materjaliżmu biss, qiegħed jeqred lid-dinja u sejjer iħalli pjaneta mkissra u mingħajr ħjiel ta’ fejqan lill-generazzjonijiet futuri u lill-ħajjithom. Din hija azzjoni kontra t-tfal tagħna u kontra dawk li ġejjin warajhom f’din id-dinja. Dan huwa dnub kontra l-ambjent, dnub ekoloġiku, kemm bħala individwi kif ukoll bħala socjetà. U dan id-dnub mhux biss kontra l-Ħallieq imma anki kontra l-ġar tagħna, kontra l-umanità tal-lum, u anki kontra l-ġenerazzjonijiet ta’ għada.

Il-Metropolita Zizioulas saħaq li ma nisgħux nibqgħu ngħixu ħajja li tkejjel il-ferħ tal-bniedem biż-żieda fil-progress u l-konsum biss. Il-kriżi ekoloġika timxi id f’id maż-żieda tal-inġustizzji soċjali. Hemm bżonn ta’ ħajja b’rabta fil-paċi u fil-ħbiberija bejn id-dinja naturali u l-bniedem li twassalna biex naqsmu għan wieħed.

U hawn ir-rapreżentant tal-Ortodossi jgħid li Laudato Si’ hija sejħa għall-għaqda, b’talba fid-dawl tal-vanġelu tal-ħolqien, biex inbiddlu qlubna u l-istil tal-ħajja tagħna u nirrispetaw u nħobbu lil xulxin u dak kollu li ġie mogħti lilna minn Alla. U  għal din is-sejħa, l-Ortodossi jirrispondu bil-qalb kollha: Ammen.


Laudato Si’ – Tifhir lilek Mulej

June 29, 2015


L-Erbgħa, 1 ta’ Lulju 2015

Laudato Si’ – Tifhir lilek Mulej

Alfred E. Baldacchino

L-ittra Enċiklika  tal-Papa Franġisku Laudato Si’ bid-data tal-24 ta’ Mejju, 2015, fiha sitt kapitli u tispiċċa b’żewġ talbiet: waħda għal din l-art tagħna, u l-oħra għall-ħolqien.

Din ġiet imnedija nhar il-Ħamis, 18 ta’ Ġunju 2015 u titkellem dwar il-ħarsien tad-dar tagħna lkoll – id-dinja tagħna.

L-Enċiklika  tiftaħ bil-kliem mill-għanja ta’ San Franġisk t’Assisi lill-ħolqien: Tifhir lilek Mulej, (Laudato Si’) liema kliem ifakkarna li d-dar tagħna lkoll hija bħal oħtna li magħha naqsmu din il-ħajja. Jfakkarna wkoll fl-omm ħelwa tagħna li tiftaħ idejha biex tħaddanna magħha, li titmagħna bi frott, bi fjuri mlewna u bi ħwawar.

L-Enċiklika  ġiet imħabbra u mfissra mill-Kardinal Peter K.A. Turkson – Kardinal mill-Ghana. Dan mill-ewwel fiehem li din l-Enċiklika  tal-Papa Franġisku hija mdawwla mit-tagħlim ta’ San Franġisk t’Assisi, dwar il-tħassib tiegħu għan-natura, għall-ġustizzja tal-foqra, impenn fis-soċjetà, u paċi magħna nfusna. Kull persuna li tgħix fuq din l-art hija fiċ-ċentru tal-Enċiklika.


Il-Papa jgħid li l-problema tal-ambjent mhix waħda maqtugħa għaliha waħeda, għaliex ma nistgħux inħarsu lejn din il-problema biċċa biċċa.

Irridu nħarsu lejn l-għixien u l-valuri tal-ħajja soċjali tagħna. U nistaqsu lilna nfusna għal liema raġuni qegħdin hawn fuq din il-pjaneta u għal xiex qed ngħixu f’din il-ħajja. Għalfejn qed naħdmu u niġġieldu mal-ħajja? Għal xiex għandna bżonn din il-pjaneta?

Il-Kardinal Turkson jgħid li l-Enċiklika  tispjega kif il-bniedem sa issa għadu kapaċi li jħares din id-dar tagħna, dar ta’ kulħadd.

L-Enċiklika ta’ Papa Franġisku tgħallem kemm l-ekoloġija hija importanti u meħtieġa. Hija importanti bħala nisġa li għandha tkun il-mera tagħna f’kollox, l-aktar biex turina r-relazzjoni tal-persuna tagħna ma’ Alla, mas-sistema ekoloġika, magħna nfusna, ma’ persuni oħrajn, u mal-ħolqien.

Din in-nisġa li aħna parti minnha, għandha twassel għall-relazzjoni mill-qrib ma’ dawk fqar u mal-pjaneta li tant hija fraġli.

Irridu naċċettaw li kull ħajja fid-dinja għandha rabta mill-qrib ma’ kollox. Irridu nsibu mogħdijiet oħra kif inħaddmu l-ekonomija u nħarsu lejn il-progress. Il-Papa jistieden ’l-bniedem biex iħares lejn il-bżonn biex isib mogħdijiet oħra kif iħaddem it-teknoloġija, li lkoll huma tajbin fihom infushom. Fuq kollox irridu ngħatu valur mistħoq lill-ħajja ta’ kull kreatura.

Jinħass ħafna l-bżonn ta’ djalogu sinċier u onest, b’risponsabbiltà politika internazzjonli u nazzjonali. Irridu nibnu kultura kif inħarsu lejn l-iskart.

Hemm bżonn ħsieb ta’ stil ġdid ta’ ħajja. L-ambjent huwa l-ġid ta’ patrimonju kollettiv ta’ kulhadd. L-umanità hija kollha responsabbli għall-ħarsien tiegħu: fuq livell individwali, dak lokali, dak reġjonali, dak nazzjonali u dak internazzjonali.

Nhar l-Erbgħa, 23 ta’ Ġunju 2015, l-E.T. Mons. Archisqof Charles Scicluna fisser l-Enċiklika tal-Papa Franġisku lil numru sabiħ ta’ semmiegħa li nġabru fis-seminarju f’tal-Virtu fir-Rabat. Fost is-semmiegħa kien hemm ukoll il-Ministru tal-Ambjent, Leo Brincat, li dak inhar stess f’ġazzetta ewlenija kiteb, fost oħrajn, u qal li din l-Enċiklika  tmur aktar ’l bogħod minn turija sempliċi ta’ fidi. Hija, qal, sejħa għall-raġuni u sens komun.

Mons. Archisqof wiegħed li sejjer jagħmel ħiltu kollha u jgħati l-għajnuna tiegħu lil dawk ta’ rieda tajba biex naħdmu flimkien ħalli  jintlaħqu l-għanijiet tal-Papa Franġisku kif imfissra fl-Enċiklika  Laudato Si’. U dan għall-ġid komuni tal-umanità, tal-ambjent, u tad-dar tagħna lkoll, id-dinja tagħna.

L-Enċiklika  tal-Papa Franġisku qajmet Tzunami madwar din id-dar tagħna. Tzunami li wera li l-bniedem madwar id-dinja qiegħed ifittex ragħaj, mexxej li jmexxih biex jilħaq l-għan ewlieni tal-eżistena tiegħu f’dan il-ġnien riġal ta’ Alla.

U mhux ta’ b’xejn li hemm minn iddarras jisma’ dan il-kliem minn għand ragħaj ta’ merħla hekk kbira. Mexxej li huwa ta’ theddida għall-kilba ta’ dawk li jridu jistagħnaw minn fuq il-ġid tal-umanità b’mod li mhux biss ifaqqru d-dar tagħna, imma jfaqqru anki l-biċċa l-kbira tal-umanità.

Il-Papa li ma għandu l-ebda interess kummerċajli jew materjali. Ma għandu bżonn l-ebda vot biex iżomm il-poter biex jaħtaf dak li huwa ta’ kulħadd. Għandu l-għan mhux biss għal dawk li jemmnu fil-Ħallieq, imma għal kull kreatura li tgħix f’din il-pjaneta. Għan li huwa ta’ ġid għal kulħadd. Għan li jwassal għall-ferh individwali u kollettiv. Għan soċjali li jwassal biex kulħadd igawdi minn rigal li tana Alla. Għan biex dan ir-riġal jintuża b’mod sostenibbli u mhux b’mod egoist fejn wieħed jaħtfu u jagħmlu tiegħu. Għan li jwassl biex kulħadd jgħati sehmu biex din il-pjaneta  li tweżinna, ma nkomplux inkissruha kif sfortunatament qed nagħmlu. Għan biex iwassal mhux biss biex nifhmu li aħna parti minn din l-ekosistema naturali, imma biex aħna wkoll nagħtu sehemna biex ma neqirdux lilna nfusna.

Id-dinja – id-dar tagħna lkoll – bina u mingħajrna tibqa għaddejja. Huwa aħna li għandna bżonnha. U din l-Enċiklika  tal-Papa Franġisku turi t-triq kif dan nistgħu nagħmluh, ma għandniex xi ngħidu, jekk aħna rridu.