This blog post first appeared on Malta Today
I realise that there are many who cannot understand why the voice of public opinion is becoming louder and louder via social media in its protest against what is happening to the environment we live in. Those who are uncomfortable with the many online and real-life protests and petitions form part of the segment of the population which comes out with the now stock phrase of “where were you….?”
However, what the “where were you” brigade keeps missing is that for the general public, the situation has now reached breaking point precisely because the devastating effects of human greed and negligence are touching our very senses. We can literally see, feel and smell the results of what happens when politicians give in to powerful lobbies and corporate giants from one administration to another. I know this is very difficult for many to accept, but for most of us this has very little to do with the fact that a Labour government happens to be in office (although the fact that the PL has reneged on every one of its environmental promises cannot be overlooked). Look at it this way: if the PN had won in 2013, we would be precisely at the same point in this downward spiral and whether we would have reached this state of affairs later or sooner is really a moot point.
Yes, this breaking point has been a long time in coming, but the arguments put forward that “Sliema is a lost cause” and endlessly debating about who ruined the country first is not only defeatist, but very pathetic. It is like saying that just because a child has been abused for many years we should simply shrug and wash our hands, leaving the child to endure even more suffering, because “the damage has been done and it’s too late”. What kind of reasoning is this? I think it is never too late to stop anything which is rotten and blatantly wrong, and that it is possible to at least prevent further damage, and why not, even try and reverse some of it.
The irony of all this is that Malta is, at least on the face of it, going through an economic boom. Just the other day we learned that we have the least unemployment rate in all of the EU, which is quite an achievement and certainly not to be sneezed at. Everywhere you go, people are spending, the retail sector is doing brisk business and as far as consumer consumption goes, we have never had it so good. But what is really going on beneath the surface of all this prosperity?
Our seas have been infested with sludge from fish farms which have illegally edged closer to our shores. What used to be prestigious Sliema neighborhoods have been infested with rats because the town cannot cope with the amount of garbage generated daily. The noise and dust from constant construction has made certain areas of the island a source of daily, undue stress for those unlucky enough to live nearby new developments. The traffic congestion and pollution caused by too many cars in too little space is wreaking havoc not only with our nerves but with our lungs. Entertainment venues with no consideration for residents and the perennial lack of enforcement means that those who are recklessly partying could care less about the fact that others need to sleep.
All this is very hard to ignore, no matter how badly you may wish to be loyal to the party you voted for. If you cannot swim at your favourite beach, if you see rats outside your home and if you cannot sleep because of the constant noise factor assaulting you from all sides, living on what should be an idyllic island can become a source of frustration and anxiety. What joy is there in having plenty of cash in our pockets, if our actual quality of life is deteriorating daily? Sure, we can travel to other countries to seek the peace and quiet many of us crave, but that is only a slight reprieve: once we are back, the cracks and fissures in the infrastructure hit you even more powerfully because you automatically make the unenviable comparisons between the clean organized, law-abiding country you have just visited…and this island we call home.
We want Malta to be what it has the potential to be, and that is why we will continue to object and protest and refuse to let things slide. At the end of the day, leaders and political parties come and go, but all of us will have to bear the brunt of the results of their decisions or inaction for generations to come.