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.

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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).

aebaldachino@gmail.com

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Blinded by a pro-business vision – Alfred Baldacchino

June 21, 2015
 malta-todaySunday, 21 June 2015

Environment policy has been sacrificed in the name of short-sighted greed. Alfred E. Baldacchino, a former assistant director at the Environment Protection Directorate, outlines how this was achieved

interviewed by Raphael Vassallo
 

Evidence for this was provided by none other than the CEO of the Malta Environment and Planning Authority (MEPA) at a parliamentary committee meeting last Monday: when he candidly admitted that the report authorising the selection of Zonqor Point for this project did not include any input from the environment Protection Directorate (EPD).

Alfred E. Baldacchino was present for that meeting, as he has been present for practically every environmental challenge to face Malta in recent years. I meet the former EPD assistant director at his Attard residence, and find him still re-living the arguments of Monday’s animated meeting.

Before turning to his complaints about the site-selection process, let’s talk a little about the site itself. Zonqor Point. Protestors were indignant to hear the place referred to by defenders of the project as a ‘wasteland’ and ‘dumpsite’. What is the significance of this area for people like Baldacchino?

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Alfred E. Baldacchino (Photo: Ray Attard)

“My comments on the use – or rather, abuse – of this area are mainly based on the negative social and environmental aspects of this project. Because you cannot focus only on the social or environmental aspects; they go hand in hand. One might also add commercial aspects… but not on their own. Unfortunately, however, during last Monday’s discussion the project was being looked at just from a commercial point of view. And this is an official view of the project, by the competent authority: MEPA, which is still the authority responsible for the environment. And although the commercial returns, on their own, may be good, one cannot just ignore the social and environmental aspects. Because obviously, such a project will have externalities: hidden costs which eventually society and the environment will have to pay. Both socially, and ecologically…

This “greed”, he adds, has completely eliminated all social and environmental considerations from a decision which was taken almost as an obsession to develop this area.

“I like to base my arguments on the electoral manifesto of ‘the movement’. I won’t call it a ‘party’, because in my opinion, presently, it would be an insult to the Labour Party and to the concept of socialism. This is not a socialist party. It is a movement… in fact, the government never refers to itself as socialist. To use an environmentalist analogy: this is a socialist party genetically modified into a far right, capitalist movement. This is shown by the various decisions being taken, and also by the help it gets from official entities which are supposed to be qualified and responsible for the management of social and environmental matters…”

continued in part 2 on: http://wp.me/pL6Mk-T1

or

Read the full interview in MaltaToday

2015.06.21---zonqor-point

Żonqor Point which spurred civil society to make an environmental and social point in the national interest.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com