Ecology and the economy

January 28, 2016

times of malta

Thursday, 28th January  2016.

Ecology and the economy

Alfred E. Baldacchino

The general convention Idea Ambjent organised by the Nationalist Party was the first ever convention on the environment convened by one of the main parties, a subject which many politicians across the board, and many commercial communities usually shun, avoid, and distance themselves from. It was a courageous positive initial step.

This convention offered an opportunity for all those who wanted to speak their minds, irrespective of their political or religious leaning, or academic level, whilst politicians sat, listened and ruminated.

A substantial number of stakeholders participated. There were young environmentalists in the making, and also seasoned ones; students, and representatives from the various layers of society, including various NGOs. Some seem to have shied away and stayed at home thus not benefiting from the opportunity to publicly declare their environmental aims and worries. Others took a wall-flower stand, though admittedly there was not enough time to enable everyone to make a point.

In-depth, specific, general, critical, academic, popular, educational, social, trade unionist suggestions and comments were aired without any hesitation or embarrassment. All inputs showed conviction, belief, yearning and commitment for a better environmental future in a professional way. The voices were strong, convinced, following an ever increasing public awareness, a yearning for better appreciation and environmental protection, and need for more responsibility and good governance in such an important unique life-dependency matter.

Different approaches, different styles, different aspects all expressed the will, the determination, the concern for our environment – in the widest sense possible. Stakeholders expressed fears of the negative impacts on the well-being of the local population, unless measures to restrain the abuses, the mismanagement, the destruction, the up-for-sale and grab-and-go mentality are not curbed. All were of the same opinion towards the common good… except for one.

“Different approaches, different styles, different aspects all expressed the will, the determination, the concern for our environment”

Speaking with a blinkered pro-business salesman vision, a lonely voice tried to convince participants that environment and development can never see eye to eye. To the extent that this was compared to the disagreement between husbands and wives! I had to pinch myself hard, very hard to convince myself that I was not dreaming, even more so when I heard that the shambles the environment is in, is all the fault of environmentalists, because developers never exploit virgin land! A confounded expression of failure with every spoken word.

Such a burst of a pro-business vision, made me drift, as I am sure many did, to the most recent issues at Zonqor Point and at Munxar area, where two hotels, camouflaged in bay-laurel leaves, are being planned… on public virgin land.

This was the only not pro-environment intervention during the general convention, a very feeble effort not to rock the boat too much as it manoeuvred through Scylla and Charybdis, while trying to convince the audience that a circle is square. It is the same blinded pro-business vision that has had some success in luring a few politicians towards the hand of the golden calf, while throwing overboard any social and environmental considerations.

But fortunately enough, this same blinded pro-business vision is also the catalyst, the driving force behind a fast gathering momentum of public awareness, which is getting stronger, eager, more vociferous, more intent to express in no uncertain terms the need to stop the environmental haemorrhage which is leading to social death.

Pope Francis’ teachings, in his letter Laudato Si’, which I consider as the constitution for humanity (irrespective of any religious belief), refers to economic activity as a noble vocation. Economic activity can contribute to society and to the protection of the indispensable life-bearing environment. When such activity is sustainable, economy and ecology walk hand in hand. It is only when such economic activity is not sustainable that it does not see eye to eye with social and ecological interests.

lever_balance.jpg (423×338)

The dynamic balance between the biological and physical environment of our ecosystem

Unsustainable development leads to the profitable greed of the few at the expense of the many: society and the environment. Thus unsustainable development can never be accepted by the many who unwillingly have to pay through their noses the exorbitant hidden costs. And unsustainable development is not only detrimental to society and the environment, but also to development itself. Scientific data on climate change is just one example which every sceptical entrepreneur cannot deny.

What will be the next steps following such a general convention where, the strong determination and will yearning for a better future, better well-being (not just financial), better assurance for the protection of our environmental home, and more responsibility and good governance were on everyone’s lips?

How will the commercial , the religious, the trade unionistic, the media, the legal, and above all the political entities respond to such a strong call to deliver?  The message addressed to all these social entities, who all have been given the responsibility to achieve such aims, is very loud and clear.

Social and environmental good governance is eagerly awaited, before it is too late. It will then not be at all possible to control and reverse damages done especially in this country which has possibly already surpassed its carrying capacity.

“Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children’s children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance.”  (Theodore Roosevelt).

A way paved with good intentions

January 4, 2010

Monday, 16th November 2009

A way paved with good intentions

Alfred E. Baldacchino

Early next month (December 7-18), the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change meets in Copenhagen.

Climate change was mainly brought about by man’s way of living, where economic importance by far superseded social and environmental considerations. The prevailing global mentality is that there cannot be prosperity without growth, ignoring the relationship between growth and the growing environmental crisis and social poverty.

While global economy doubled during the last 25 years, 60 per cent of the world’s ecosystems have been degraded because of increased resource consumption. The uneven distribution of the benefits of such growth shows that a fifth of the world’s population shares just two per cent of global income.

Sustainable economy can lead to prosperity without growth, if one redefines prosperity and what this contributes to people’s well being. The root of all evil, the denominator to modern life, is money, which has replaced all other principles and concepts for the responsible sharing of the planet that sustains life. The concept of modern economics is the highest financial return in the shortest possible time, a question of numbers and metrics.

Man has now, rather belatedly, realised that he has come to the crossroads of his existence on this planet. The mishandling and depletion of resources and the subsequent natural phenomena will sooner rather than later lead to scarcity of free commodities, which man has always taken for granted, such as air and water. A very high price will have to be paid for their availability. But what about other living species (in the ecosystem) that are dependent on such resources? How will these and the poorest of societies pay?

The Copenhagen meeting is being seen either as an extension to the Kyoto Protocol, which the US and Australia initially refused to ratify, or as a new protocol calling for deep cuts of emissions. The US is still unwilling to stake out a position, while developing nations maintain that talks are pointless. India and China are major developing nations whose national emissions are skyrocketing.

The 192 countries expected to be present for this meeting will all speak from platforms that most suit their agenda. Already, about 50 African countries have boycotted a preparatory meeting in Barcelona in November, claiming that the industrialised countries had set carbon cutting targets too low for reducing global green house gas emission. Africa is already the worst sufferer from drought, agricultural damage, rising sea level threatening coastal areas and the spread of tropical pests and diseases. The increase in extreme weather conditions, the number of epidemic diseases and humanitarian disasters are inevitable. The scarcity of resources will fuel more conflicts. It is becoming obvious that the world’s poorest nations are faced with a Hobson’s choice: No climate deal or a bad climate deal.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports that by 2080 up to 3.2 billion people – one third of the planet’s population – will be short of water, up to 600 million will be short of food and up to seven million will face coastal flooding.

The UN Secretary General admitted that the Copenhagen pact could more likely be an agreement on principles rather than specific targets agreement for cuts. This is mainly due to a lack of political will. Some environment ministers are pessimistic because each country will remain stubborn and various parties will not compromise. Those in advanced countries are not willing to accept the necessary rethinking, restructuring, and changes in lifestyle.

One reason being projected at such international meetings is that measures needed are necessary to save the planet. But since when planet earth depended on one of the species in its ecosystem to save it? Planet earth has seen similar and worse scenarios. The present natural phenomena, which we are being subjected to, are just hiccups for planet earth till it adjusts the ecological web, which man has torn apart through greed and egotism. These are just eye-openers for the selfdeclared most intelligent species, who generally is still very sceptical of the fact that homo sapiens is part of such an ecosystem. The main aim of such international meetings should be to save homo sapiens and not to harness or save planet earth, which without fear or favour will take the necessary corrective measures.

Even the world’s main faith representatives (including Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism) met in Windsor Castle, England, to give their religious input in the fight against climate change. Under the banner of Faith Commitment For A Living Planet, this Alliance of Religions and Conservation aims at unveiling programmes that could motivate the largest civil society movement the world has ever seen. “It’s much more about the moral idea of ‘Nature is God’s Nature, so we have to be kind to it’.” That is, if today’s monetary culture leaves any room for morality.

In Copenhagen, there will be three platforms to choose from: Economical, social and ecological and it is expected that the economical one will be quite overcrowded. Such meeting must focus on opening the door to common good and closing the door to common disaster for man. Indeed, the path to Copenhagen is paved with good intentions. But, as I write, my subconscious keeps reminding me that so is the way to hell.

Article © Allied Newspapers Ltd., printed on Monday, November 16, 2009.