It-Tibdil fil-Klima: wara t-twissja ta’ Covid-19

 

Il-virus Covid-19 beżbiżna waħda sew u ħarbat il-ħidma ta’ kulħadd. Imma ħdejn l-impatti antiċipati tat-tibdil tal-klima dan hu kollu logħob tat-tfal li dwaru Covid-19 jista’ jitqies bħala prova parzjali. Twissija li forsi tiftħilna ftit għajnejna.

F’Pariġi fis-7.25pm ta’ nhar it-12 ta’ Diċembru 2015, 5,000 delegat li kienu qed jirrappreżentaw 195 pajjiż, unanimament aċċettaw l-evidenza dwar l-impatti tal-klima. Huma għażlu t-triq għall-futur.

Nhar il-25 ta’ Frar 2020 Christiana Figueres u Tom Rivette-Carnac ippreżentawna b’publikazzjoni li għandha tkun ta’ interess kbir. Hi intitolata “The Future We Choose. Surviving the Climate Crisis.” Christiana Figueres, li magħha hu assoċjat il-ftehim ta’ Pariġi, kienet tmexxi l-Aġenzija tal-Ġnus Magħquda inkarigata mit-Tibdil fil-Klima (UNFCC) bħala Segretarju Eżekuttiv. Tom Rivette-Carnac kien l-istrateġista ewlieni tagħha inkarigat biex jaħdem dwar l-appoġġ minn utenti (mhux Gvernijiet) li kienu nteressati f’dan il-ftehim li kien ilu jinħema s-snin.

Wara l-qbil dwar it-triq li setgħet twassal għal bidla, biex il-kliem miktub ikun trasformat f’azzjoni konkreta hu dejjem sfida. L-għażliet quddiemna huma ċari.

L-attitudni li qiesu mhu jiġri xejn (business as usual) twassal biex it-temperatura medja globali, li diġa qabżet bi grad wieħed Celsius it-temperatura medja ta’ qabel żmien ir-rivoluzzjoni industrijali, tista’ tiżdied b’madwar 4 sa 5 gradi Celsius. L-impatti ta’ żieda bħal din ikunu katastrofiċi. Riżultat ta’ żieda fit-temperatura globali f’xi reġjuni jkun impossibli li persuna toqgħod barra fl-apert għal ħin twil. Ħtija ta’ hekk partijiet mid-dinja isiru mhux abitabbli. Iż-żieda fit-temperatura tkompli taċċellera id-dewbien tas-silġ fil-poli u ħtija t’hekk il-livell tal-ibħra jibqa’ jiżdied. Il-komunitajiet mal-kosta jkunu taħt theddida kontinwa. L-impatti fuq l-infrastruttura kostali kifukoll fuq kull attività mal-kosta jkunu sostanzjali.

It-tibdil fil-kundizzjonijiet atmosferiċi jżidu x-xita intensiva f’żoni u nixfa tqarqaċ f’żoni oħra. Il-maltemp iżid kemm fil-frekwenza kif ukoll fl-intensità u l-ħerba assoċjata miegħu tikber bil-bosta kif naraw spiss diġa f’diversi partijiet tad-dinja.

Il-konklużjonijiet ta’ Pariġi jfissru li l-komunità internazzjonali għarfet u àccettat l-evidenza xjentifika akkumulata dwar it-tibdil fil-klima. F’Pariġi kien hemm qbil li kull pajjiż kellu jidentifika sensiela ta’ wegħdiet li kellu jwettaq fl-isforz globali biex tkun indirizzata l-kawża tat-tibdil fil-klima. Wegħdiet li għandhom ikunu aġġornati kull ħames snin. Il-wegħdiet reġistrati s’issa, anke kieku kellhom jitwettqu kollha, m’humiex biżżejjed biex iż-żieda fit-temperatura globali ma taqbiżx iż-żewġ gradi Celsius, u preferibilment mhux iktar minn grad u nofs Celsius, kif insistew il-komunitajiet ta’ mal-kosta kif ukoll il-gżejjer li mhumiex wisq il-fuq mil-livell tal-baħar. Bejn il-kliem u l-fatti, hemm baħar jikkumbatti.

Sal-2030 l-emissjonijiet globali jeħtieġ li jonqsu b’mhux inqas min-nofs biex jintlaħqu l-miri stabiliti f’Pariġi. Sal-2050, min-naħa l-oħra jrid jintlaħaq l-istatus ta’ karbonju żero. Biex jintlaħqu dawn il-miri essenzjali Christiana Figueres u Tom Rivett-Carnac jagħmlu użu minn diversi proposti li saru tul is-snin. Il-bidla meħtieġa hi waħda enormi: hi bidla li tant hi kbira li taqleb ta’ taħt fuq kważi kull ħaġa li jmmissu jdejna.

Tirrikjedi bidliet radikali dwar kif ngħixu, kif naħdmu u kif niċċaqalqu minn post għall-ieħor. Tibdil f’dak li nikkunsmaw kif ukoll kemm dwar dak li nipproduċu kif ukoll dwar il-mod kif nipproduċuħ.

Il-wasla fuqna għall-għarrieda tal-kriżi Covid-19 tatna togħma żgħira ta’ xi tibdil essenzjali. Ix-xogħol b’mod virtwali għandu, bla dubju, jkun element permanenti dwar il-mod kif naħdmu. M’għandux ikun eċċezzjoni ta’ natura temporanja. L-edukazzjoni ukoll għandha tingrana iktar fid-direzzjoni tat-tagħlim virtwali b’mod permanenti.

L-ivvjaġġar mhux essenzjali għandu jkun skoraġġit fuq bażi permanenti. Fejn meħtieġ l-ivvjaġġar għandu jsir b’mezzi sostenibbli. Dan m’għandux ikun limitat għall-elettrifikazzjoni tal-karozzi, wara li jkunu tnaqqsu drastikament fin-numru, imma għandu jinkludi tnaqqis sostanzjali tal-ajruplani. Għax l-azzjoni dwar it-tibdil fil-klima jfisser li l-ivvjaġġar bl-ajru (inkluż it-turiżmu) kif nafuh sal-lum m’għandux futur. L-ivvjaġġar bl-ajru jiġi jiswa’ ferm iktar mil-lum kemm-il darba l-impatti ambjentali sostanzjali tiegħu ikunu riflessi fl-ispejjes reali.

Jekk inħarsu fit-tul l-iżvilupp intensiv tal-infrastruttura tat-toroq mhi ser isservi l-ebda skop. Inqas karozzi fit-toroq ikun ifisser ukoll impatti konsiderevoli fuq l-ippjanar għall-użu tal-art. Inqas karozzi jfisser inqas ħtieġa għal parkeġġ u garaxxijiet u iktar spazju għan-nies. Ikun wasal iż-żmien li fl-ibliet u l-irħula tagħna r-reżidenti jiġu mill-ġdid qabel il-karozzi. Dejjem, mhux kultant.

Jeħtieġ li napprezzaw u nagħmlu użu iktar minn prodotti agrikoli lokali. Imma anke l-prezz tal-prodotti agrikoli għandhom jirriflettu l-impatti ambjentali sostanzjali li jinħolqu biex il-biedja tagħti r-riżultati. L-ispiża tal-produzzjoni tal-laħam u tal-prodotti derivati mill-ħalib, per eżempju, ma tkunx waħda żgħira jekk din tinkludi l-impatti ambjentali tal-produzzjoni. Fil-fatt, Christiana u Tom, jistqarru li l-ikel fl-2050 hu għali minħabba li jeħtieġ riżorsi ta’ valur biex il-produzzjoni tiegħu tkun possibli. “L-ilma. Il-ħamrija. L-għaraq. Il-ħin.” Hu ċar li jekk irridu nimplimentaw bis-serjetà l-ftehim ta’ Pariġi l-Politika Komuni kurrenti dwar l-Agrikultura m’għandhiex futur.

L-impatti tal-Covid-19 huma logħob tat-tfal meta wieħed jara sewwa x’hemm lest għalina bħala riżultat tat-tibdil fil-klima. Fid-dawl tat-tibdil fil-klima hemm soluzzjoni prattika waħda: bidla radikali fil-mod kif ngħixu, naħdmu u nqattgħu l-ħin liberu. Permezz tal-Covid-19 in-natura tatna twissija ċara. Jekk dan ninjorawh m’hemm ħadd f’min nistgħu nwaħħlu.

Pubblikat fuq Illum: il-Ħadd 10 ta’ Mejju 2020

Climate Change: after the Covid-19 rehearsal

Covid-19 virus has rattled each one of us, throwing all into unprecedented turmoil. This is however child’s play when contrasted with the anticipated impacts of climate change in respect of which Covid-19 may be considered as a rehearsal or a minor drill!

In Paris, at 7.25pm on 12 December 2015, five thousand delegates representing 195 nations unanimously accepted irrefutable evidence on the impacts of climate change and selected a pathway for the future.

On 25 February 2020 Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivette-Carnac presented us with a riveting publication entitled “The Future We Choose. Surviving the Climate Crisis.” Christiana Figueres, public face of the Paris agreement, was the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework for Climate Change (UNFCC). Tom Rivette-Carnac was her Chief Political Strategist. He joined the effort to advance the Paris Agreement negotiations, mobilising support from a wide range of stakeholders outside national governments.

After selecting the pathway which could lead to change, transforming words into action can be quite a challenge. The options we face are unequivocal.

Business as usual would signify that the current mean global temperature, which is already around 1 degree Celsius above average temperatures before the industrial revolution, can warm up by 4 to 5 degrees Celsius. The impacts of such an increase in global temperature would be catastrophic.

Increasingly, in some regions, as a result of an increase in global temperature it would be impossible to stay outdoors for a length of time. Parts of the earth will, as a result, become uninhabitable. The increased temperatures at the poles will accelerate the melting of the polar ice-caps, as a result further increasing the rise in sea-level. Coastal communities will be under threat and all coastal activity and infrastructure will be severely impacted.

The change in atmospheric conditions will increase precipitation in areas and drought in others. The frequency and intensity of storms and the resulting havoc will multiply as is already evident in the various parts of the globe.

The Paris summit conclusions signified that the international community has recognised and accepted the accumulated scientific evidence on climate change. In Paris it was agreed that each individual country will identify and communicate its pledges through which they will participate in the global effort to address the causes of the change in climate. These pledges have to be updated every five years. The pledges registered so far, even if adhered to, are however insufficient to limit warming to well below two degrees Celsius, and preferably to not more than one and a half degrees Celsius, in line with the expectation of communities spread along coastal areas and low-lying islands. Much more is required to walk the talk.

To achieve the Paris targets global emissions must be reduced by not less than half not later than 2030. We must attain a carbon neutral status by not later than the year 2050.
In order to reach these essential targets Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac draw on the various proposals which have been made to date. They emphasise that the change required is significant: a change of this magnitude, they emphasise, would require major transformations in all that we do. It would require radical changes as to how we live, work and travel, along with changes to what we consume as well as to how and what to produce.

The sudden advent of the Covid-19 crisis has given a minor hint of some of the changes.
Telework must be a permanent component of our method of operation and not a temporary exception. Education can and should contain a more permanent online component.

Non-essential travel should be curtailed on a permanent basis. Where necessary, travelling should use sustainable means. This does not only include electrification of our cars, after drastically reducing their numbers, but also a substantial reduction of aeroplanes from our skies permanently. Acting on climate change means that tourism as currently practised has no future. Air travel will become quite costly if its considerable environmental impacts are internalised.

On a long-term basis the current intensive development of our road infrastructure also serves no purpose. Fewer cars on our roads will also signify extensive land use planning impacts. Local communities can then reclaim back our roads. With fewer cars there will be less need of parking space and/or garages. Our towns and villages may then be planned for residents, not for cars.

We need to appreciate and make full use of local agricultural products. However, agriculture must internalise its substantial environmental costs. The cost of production of meat and dairy products, for example, would be substantial if their environmental impacts are internalised. Christiana and Tom, comment that in 2050 food is expensive because it requires valuable resources to produce. “Water. Soil. Sweat. Time.” Clearly the current Common Agricultural Policy of the European Union has no future once we seriously start implementing the conclusions of the Paris agreement.

The impacts of Covid-19 are child’s play when considering the long-term impacts of climate change. Faced with climate change we have one practical option: a radical change in how we live, work and play. The Covid-19 rehearsal is nature’s clear warning. We ignore it at our peril.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 10 May 2020

Eco-schools programme: seeding the future

The environmental education of our younger generation is the most rewarding investment and the eco-schools programme run by local environmental NGO Nature Trust, is one such fruitful investment.

In Malta, the eco-schools programme has been in existence for some 17 years. As a result, 76 Maltese schools are flying a Green Flag – a symbol of environmental awareness and commitment. This is an investment in our country’s future that will yield so much in the years to come.

Introducing this year’s ceremony, during which a number of schools were awarded a Green Flag for their environmental achievements, Nature Executive President Vincent Attard emphasised the fact that “The Eco-Schools programme is instrumental at providing students with tools to think about environmental issues and come to conclusions and solutions. This can be witnessed that, today, it is the younger generations that are questioning the actions of the country’s leaders and putting pressure on them. This awareness is growing each year and the sooner leaders take heed of these calls, the faster we will start mitigating not only environmentally but also socially and economically. Quoting the children themselves in the last EkoSkola parliament – We want to be heard not just liked.”

Eco-School is a global programme currently engaging 19.5 million young people across 67 countries. For nearly 25 years Eco-Schools have been empowering young people to improve their environmental awareness and, in so doing, receive the international Eco-Schools Green Flag award.

The Eco-School programme develops the skills of our younger generation, raises environmental awareness, improves the school environment and creates a whole host of other benefits not just for our educational institutions but, moreover, for our community at large.

The eco-school seven steps educational process targets a change of lifestyle and the guidelines available on implementing these seven steps is very informative.

The first basic step is to set up a participative democracy in our schools through which all stakeholders are actively involved, with the students taking a democratic lead. Assisted by educators, students interact with the different stakeholders and, in so doing, identify the environmental issues that need to be addressed in their own little world and beyond. They are then trained to think, discuss and ultimately arrive at conclusions and results.

Reading through the list of initiatives taken in our schools as a result of the Eco-School Programme is quite impressive. The programme has identified issues relating to water, waste, recycling, energy efficiency and climate change, heritage appreciation, and many more. The lessons learnt first-hand by our students are then taken from the school to their homes, their families and society in general.

Environmental education is about much more than a respect for nature. Nature is not something separate, isolated and compartmentalised during excursions: it also features in our way of life.

As a result of the environmental education which the eco-schools programme provides for our students, our younger generation is being equipped with the knowledge and awareness that environmental damage can be reversed. They are learning that they can be active agents of the change we so desperately require in halting – and eventually reversing – the accumulated environmental damage.

These are indeed the seeds of a bright future.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 3rd November 2019

12-il minuta pjaċir

F’waħda mill-ħrejjef minsuġa mill-konsulenti tal-Gvern, ġejna nfurmati li l-infieq massiċċ fl-infrastruttura tat-toroq ser iwassal biex ikollna 12-il minuta iktar fil-ġimgħa miżjuda mal-ħin liberu tagħna, ħin li illum hu mitluf.

Din iż-żieda fil-ħin liberu tagħna, qalulna, ser tkun possibli għax ser neħlu inqas fit-traffiku. Sa fejn naf jien, dak li ntqal eżatt f’din il-ħrafa għad mhuwiex ippubblikat. Nafu bl-eżistenza tagħha permezz ta’ waħda mill-attivitajiet pubbliċi tal-Onorevoli Ministru tat-Trasport Ian Borg!

Xi snin ilu, kien ippubblikat studju serju, intitolat The External Costs of Passenger and Commercial Vehicles use in Malta. Dan kien ippubblikat mill-Istitut dwar il-Bidla fil-Klima u l-Iżvilupp Sostenibbli fl-Università ta’ Malta. F’dan l-istudju, iffinanzjat mill-Unjoni Ewropeja, kien ġie stmat li l-ħin li jintilef fil-konġestjoni tat-traffiku f’Malta minn kull persuna li ssuq jammonta għal madwar 52 siegħa fis-sena, u ċjoe madwar 60 minuta fil-ġimgħa. Billi dan l-istudju kien ippubblikat erba’ snin ilu, fl-2015, probabbilment li s-sitwazzjoni illum hi xi ftit agħar minn hekk ukoll. Imma anke minn din iċ-ċifra ta’ 60 minuta fil-ġimgħa, diġa jidher li l-konsulenti tal-Gvern għadhom ftit lura: għax għad baqa’ 80% tal-ħin mitluf fil-konġestjoni tat-traffiku li għadhom l-anqas biss xammewh.

Il-problema bażika li għandu l-Gvern bil-politika tat-trasport tiegħu hi li l-miżuri u l-inizjattivi li qed jieħu biex jindirizza l-konġestjoni tat-traffiku huma indirizzati lejn l-effetti li jirriżultaw mill-użu tat-toroq. Mhux qed ikun indirizzat b’mod adegwat dak li qed jikkawża din il-konġestjoni. Jekk inħarsu fit-tul, li jitwessgħu t-toroq, inkella li tkun żviluppata l-infrastruttura tat-toroq biex dawn jifilħu iktar karozzi qatt ma ser jagħti riżultati sodisfaċenti. Is-sitwazzjoni inevitabilment taqleb għall-agħar, għax nispiċċaw nipposponu l-problemi għal iktar tard, meta ibagħad ikunu ferm agħar.

Miżuri li jimmiraw għal riżultati immedjati biex tiżdied l-effiċjenza tat-toroq jistgħu jagħtu riżultati kemm-il darba jintrabtu ma miżuri bl-iskop li jnaqqsu l-karozzi mit-toroq tagħna.

Ikun floku li nħarsu mill-ġdid lejn l-Istrateġija Nazzjonali tat-Trasport li twassal sal-2025: din identifikat li madwar ħamsin fil-mija tal-vjaġġi b’karozzi privati jieħdu inqas minn kwarta. Dan ifisser li l-inizjattivi tal-politika tat-trasport għandhom ikunu iffukati lejn il-movimenti tat-traffiku lokali u reġjonali. Ħidma iffukata f’din id-direzzjoni, bla dubju, tagħti riżultati fi żmien raġjonevoli.

Il-konġestjoni tat-traffiku hi riżultat tad-dipendenza akuta tagħna lkoll fuq il-karozzi. Hija din id-dipendenza li għandha tkun indirizzata bla iktar dewmien. Sfortunatament hu propju dan li l-Gvern u l-agenziji tiegħu qed jagħmlu ħilithom kollha biex jevitaw illi jindirizzaw.

Biex inkun ġust fil-kritika tiegħi għandi ngħid ukoll li ġew introdotti diversi miżuri biex iħeġġu lil min jagħmel użu minn mezzi alternattivi ta’ transport. Dawn jinkludu aċċess bla ħlas għat-trasport pubbliku għal diversi kategoriji kif ukoll miżuri biex ikun inkuraġġit l-użu tar-rota. L-enfasi fuq l-użu tat-trasport bil-baħar fil-portijiet huwa ukoll ta’ benefiċċju u dan billi mhux biss hu mezz effiċjenti ta’ mobilità imma għandu l-kosegwenza diretta li jnaqqas il-karozzi mit-toroq tagħna. Miżuri biex ikun indirizzat it-trasport tal-iskejjel kienu ukoll inizjattiva oħra importanti. Fil-ħidma tal-gvern hemm nuqqas wieħed importanti li jagħmel id-differenza kollha: il-gvern għażel inċentivi biex iħajjar lil min jibdel l-iġieba tiegħu. Jonqos li jieħu miżuri fil-konfront ta’ dawk li jibqgħu jużaw il-karozzi privati meta hu għaqli li dan m’għandux isir. Dan qed isir għal raġuni ovvja: biex ikunu evitati konsegwenzi politiċi tal-miżuri iebsa li huma meħtiega.

Għandhom ikunu użati b’mod estensiv miżuri fiskali biex jonqsu l-karozzi mit-toroq kemm b’mod permanenti kif ukoll f’ħinijiet speċifiċi.

Fost il-miżuri li jistgħu jkunu użati hemm il-congestion charge li hi użata f’bosta pajjizi. Din tinvolvi ħlas skont kemm iddum f’zoni li jkun fihom ħafna traffiku, intenzjonata biex ħadd ma jdum iktar milli għandu bżonn f’dawn iż-żoni, kif ukoll biex min jista’ jevithom jagħmel hekk ukoll.

Sfortunatament, din il-congestion charge li xi snin ilu kienet applikata l-Belt Valletta ġiet limitata fil-mod kif kienet qed tiġi applikata b’mod li naqqset l-effettività tagħha. Jekk l-applikabilità ta’ din il-congestion charge tkun imsaħħa hu estiża lil hinn mill-Belt Valletta l-impatt tagħha biex tkun indirizzata l-konġestjoni tat-traffiku fiz-zoni urbani ewlenin f’kull ħin tal-ġurnata tista’ tkun waħda sostanzjali. Gradwalment miżura bħal din twassal għal tnaqqis permanenti ta’ karozzi mit-toroq tagħna flimkien ma żieda sostanzjali kemm fl-użu tat-trasport pubbliku kif ukoll fl-użu ta’ mezzi alternattivi ta’ mobilità sostenibbli.

Politika tat-trasport iffukata biex tindirizza bis-serjetà dak li qed jikkawża l-konġestjoni tat-traffiku, bla ebda dubju, tagħtina ferm iktar minn 12-il minuta żieda fil-ħin liberu tagħna. Dejjem, imma, jekk tindirizza l-kawża reali: id-dipendenza tagħna fuq il-karozzi. Sakemm dan iseħħ ser nibqgħu nisimgħu iktar ħrejjef minsuġa mill-konsulenti tal-Ministru Ian Borg.

ippubblikat fuq Illum : 21 t’April 2019

12 minutes of fun

In one of the many fairy tales spun by government advisors, we have been informed that the heavy infrastructural investment in roads will result in all of us having the possibility of an additional 12 minutes of fun every week. This additional quality time, we are told, will result from spending less time in traffic congestion. As far as I am aware, the text of this fairy tale has not yet been published. So far, we have only been informed of its existence in one of the many media appearances of Transport Minister Ian Borg!

Some years back, a more serious study entitled The External Costs of Passenger and Commercial Vehicles use in Malta, published by the Institute for Climate Change and Sustainable Development of the University of Malta and funded by the EU, had estimated that the time lost in traffic congestion per commuter in Malta was 52 hours per annum. This works out at approximately 60 minutes per week. Matters are today much worse, as this study was published four years ago in 2015 and the situation has deteriorated further. Apparently, advisors to Infrastructure Malta have not yet accounted for at least 80% of the time estimated to be lost in traffic congestion.

The basic problem with government’s current transport policy is that its measures and initiatives to address traffic congestion are focused on the effects of road usage. The causes of traffic congestion are generally addressed in an inadequate manner. In the long term, increasing road capacity will not give satisfactory results. It will only make matters worse, as a result postponing the problem until a later date when it will be substantially much worse.

Short term measures which increase the efficiency of our roads will only yield results if they are coupled with robust measures intended to reduce cars from our roads.

It is pertinent to point out once more that the National Transport Master Plan 2025 has identified that around 50% of private vehicle trips on Maltese roads involve journeys of a duration of less than 15 minutes. This signifies that local and/or regional traffic movements should be the real focus of transport policy initiatives. This is the low-lying fruit which could give results in a reasonable time, if tackled adequately.

Traffic congestion is the symptom of our malaise: car dependency. It is car dependency which should be addressed head on. This is the real issue which government and its agencies are doing their utmost to avoid.

To be fair various measures have been introduced which seek to encourage the use of alternative means of transport. These include free access to public transport to various categories and various measures to encourage bicycle use. Emphasis on the use of sea transport in the port areas is also beneficial as in addition to being an efficient means of mobility it also reduces cars from our roads. Addressing school transport was also an important initiative. Government has however opted to use mostly carrots and not sticks in implementing transport policy and initiatives. The reasons for this are obvious: to avoid political backlash as much as possible.

Fiscal measures should be used extensively to reduce cars from roads both permanently as well as during particular and specific times of the day.

Among the measures that can be utilised, congestion charges are the most used in other countries. This involves the payment of a charge depending on the duration of your stay in those zones subject to heavy traffic. Its aim is to reduce traffic in such zones.

Unfortunately, the congestion charge applied some years ago in Valletta was curtailed such that nowadays it is not very effective. If the congestion charge is strengthened and gradually extended beyond Valletta its impact could be substantial in addressing traffic congestion at all times of the day around the major urban areas. Gradually such a measure would lead to a permanent reduction of cars from our roads and a substantial increase in use of public transport as well as alternative means of sustainable mobility.

A focused transport policy which seriously tackles the causes of traffic congestion would yield much more than an additional 12 minutes of fun. It has however to deal with the real issue: car dependency. Until such time we will keep listening to the fairy tales spun by Minister Ian Borg’s consultants.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 21 April 2019

“Tradituri” f’nofshom

Waqt li n-Nazzjonalisti huma ppreokkupati bit-“tradituri” f’nofshom, it-tmexxija tal-partit tidher li hi inkwetata li l-partit hu maqtugħ mir-realtá, kif fil-fatt hu!

Il-Partit Nazzjonalista mhux ser ikun iktar partit ta’ elitisti – dawk b’imneħirhom imxammar – iddikjara Dottor Adrian Delia. Wieħed dejjem jista’ jipprova jagħmel dan: ir-riżultati jkun jista’ jarahom kulħadd.

Il-Partit Nazzjonalista, qal Dottor Adrian Delia, għandu joffri leħen għan-nies f’kull qasam tal-ħajja. Inkluż forsi, vuċi għat-“tradituri” ukoll!

It-taqlib li għaddej minnu l-PN hu kbir. Qed ngħid taqlib, mhux tibdil. Prinċipalment passi lura. Huwa ċar li l-ftit passi żgħar ‘il-quddiem li saru taħt it-tmexxija ta’ Simon Busuttil ftit li xejn kellhom aċċettazzjoni mill-membri tal-PN fil-livelli kollha. Bosta jidher li qisuhom bħala imposizzjoni: il-politika tal-inklussivitá għadha mhix parti mil-lingwaġġ aċċettat mill-PN u wisq inqas mill-politika mħaddna. Diversi fil-PN, sfortunatament, għadhom imxennqin għall-għeruq fundamentalisti.

Kultant nisimgħu xi leħen maħnuq ifakkarna fl-għajta tal-bieraħ “religio et patria”. Għajta li tistona f’kuntrast mal-pluraliżmu etiku u l-identitá Ewropea mħaddna minn sezzjonijiet dejjem jikbru tas-soċjetá Maltija illum. Jidher li l-PN ma tgħallem xejn mill-esperjenzi riċenti tiegħu b’mod partikolari mid-diskors u l-atteġġjamenti fundamentalisti tat-tmexxija ta’ Lawrence Gonzi.

L-ebda partit politku ma jista’ jingħalaq fih innifsu u ma jagħtix kaz ta’ dak li qed jiġri madwaru. Il-valuri tas-soċjetá li qed naħdmu fiha qegħdin fi stat ta’ trasformazzjoni kontinwa, kultant mgħaġġla ħafna, u dan għandu jkun rifless ukoll fil-mod li bih nagħmlu l-poltika. Il-PN illum qed iħallas il-prezz politiku għax fil-passat riċenti dan ma għarfux. Jidher li anke fil-preżent hu deċiż li jibqa’ għaddej fl-istess triq żbaljata.

Instigat minn persuni bħal Edwin Vassallo, il-Membru Parlamentari mill-Mosta li bħal Don Quixote kontinwament ikollu viżjonijiet ta’ mtieħen ineżistenti, il-PN tilef opportunitá oħra meta l-Parlament kellu quddiemu l-abbozz ta’ liġi dwar il-vjolenza domestika. Kif spjegali wieħed mill-Membri Parlamentari tal-PN, il-grupp parlamentari tal-PN kien diġa ivvota favur l-abbozz ta’ liġi dwar id-Vjolenza Domestika kemm fl-istadju ta’ l-ewwel qari kif ukoll fl-istadju tat-tieni qari. Kien biss meta Edwin Vassallo tfixkel minħabba l-viżjoni tal-imtieħen tiegħu li nbidel il-ħsieb u kulħadd fil-grupp parlamentari telaq għal rieħu.

Issa l-PN għamel pass ieħor. Ittimbra “tradituri” lil dawk li kellhom il-kuraġġ li jsemmgħu leħinhom u li ma jibqgħux imxekkla mill-irbit tal-fundamentaliżmu.

L-attitudnijiet tal-lum imorru lura għall-posizzjoni ta’ prinċipju li ħadet Therese Commodini Cachia li irrifjutat li ssegwi l-posizzjoni tal-Opposizzjoni kontra l-Ordni għal Standard Nazzjonali dwar il-leave għall-prokreazzjoni medika assistita f’Ottubru 2017.

Tmien membri parlamentari tal-PN u ċioe Claudette Buttigieg, Chris Said, Simon Busuttil, Karol Aquilina, Mario De Marco, Karl Gouder, Jason Azzopardi u Therese Commodini Cachia bħala riżultat tal-vot ħieles tal-Opposizzjoni appoġġaw l-abbozz ta’ liġi dwar il-Vjolenza Domestika bil-bqija tal-grupp parlamentari jivvota kontra.

Biex ikompli jgħaxxaqqa, il-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni, wara li spiċċat din il-kummiedja ddikjara li l-abbozz ta’ liġi approvat, li jimplimenta l-Konvenzjoni ta’ Istanbul, ikun wieħed minn ta’ l-ewwel li meta l-PN ikun fil-Gvern jitħassar. Mid-dehra Dottor Delia mhux jirrealizza li bi kliemu qiegħed jimbotta dak il-jum (li l-PN ikun fil-Gvern) ħafna iktar il-bogħod. Possibilment li l-Kabinett Nazzjonalista li jmiss għadu l-anqas biss twieled!

Ippubblikat fuq Illum : il-Ħadd 13 ta’ Mejju 2018

“Traitors” in their midst

While the PN rank and file are preoccupied with the “traitors” in their midst, the PN leadership is apparently worried that the party is out of touch with reality, as indeed it is.

The PN will no longer be a party of the elite, declared Dr Adrian Delia. Well, one can always try to achieve that: the results so far are there for all to see.

The party, said Dr Delia, would offer a voice to people at all levels of society –  presumably a voice for “traitors” too!

To say that the Nationalist Party is in a state of turmoil would be a gross understatement. It is now clear to everyone that the very few steps forward made by the PN under Simon Busuttil’s leadership were never accepted by either the PN MPs or by its rank and file. Most considered them an imposition: the politics of inclusivity has not yet made it to the PN political lexicon. Most of the PN, unfortunately, still yearns for its anachronistic fundamentalist roots.

The PN’s perennial motto religio et patria is in stark contrast to the ethical pluralism and Europeanisation embraced by ever-increasing sections of Maltese society. The PN has apparently learned nothing from its recent experiences, most notably when Lawrence Gonzi’s fundamentalist discourse ruled the day. No political party can ignore the rapid changes in our society. The values of our society are in a state of constant transformation, at times at a very fast pace, and this should be reflected in the way in which we do politics. The PN today is paying the political price for failing to recognise this fact and acting accordingly.

Prodded by the likes of Edwin Vassallo, the Mosta MP who constantly has Don Quixotic visions of non-existent windmills, the PN missed another opportunity when the Domestic Violence Bill came up before Parliament. As one PN MP explained to me, the PN Parliamentary Group voted in favour of the Domestic Violence Bill at both first and second reading stage, until Edwin Vassallo panicked due to his vision of windmills, as a result torpedoing his own parliamentary group.

The PN has now gone one step further. They are labelling as “traitors” those who have the courage to stand up and be counted, free from the shackles of fundamentalism.

The current attitudes can be traced to the uncompromising stance taken by Therese Commodini Cachia, who did not support the Opposition’s stand against the National Standard Order in relation to Leave for Medically Assisted Procreation way back in October 2017.

As a result of the Opposition free vote, eight PN MPs – namely Claudette Buttigieg, Chris Said, Simon Busuttil, Karol Aquilina, Mario De Marco, Karl Gouder, Jason Azzopardi and Therese Commodini Cachia – supported the Domestic Violence Bill with the remaining members of the PN Parliamentary Group voting against.

To crown this comedy of errors, the Leader of the Opposition further declared that the approved Domestic Violence Bill implementing the Istanbul Convention, would be one of the first that he would repeal on taking office. Apparently Dr Delia is not aware that his utterances have pushed that day (when he assumes office) further into the future.  It is possible that the members of the next PN-led cabinet have not even been born yet!

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 13 May 2018

Education: a hostage of the market

 

The discourse on the subject of education is centred on forcing students into following the diktats of the market: the skills gap needs to be addressed. The assumption is that the market is some kind of given – independent of everything else – that invisible hand that is directing our lives.

What should we expect from vocational education and training?

The major institution in this sector in Malta is MCAST (The Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology). Originally set up in the 1960s through funding and support from UNESCO, it had developed into an institution offering degree courses in business and engineering, amongst other new areas of study. Instead of encouraging it to develop and flourish with its own particular ethos and identity it was abruptly absorbed into the University of Malta as a result of the reforms in the late 1970s – the student-worker scheme!

Arguments for and against this absorption are plenty. What is sure, however, is, that a particular style and mode of education was lost for over 20 years and technically inclined students who followed courses at technical institutes instead of in sixth forms -with their rigid and uninspiring desk based teaching – found themselves practically shunned by places of higher education.

A lost generation.

In 2001, MCAST was re-established and existing technical institutes were brought together under one umbrella organisation. Over time, degree courses were developed and educational paths were offered at different levels – from foundation level courses, to technician level courses, up to degree level – all with different entry requirements according to the areas of study. These were backed up by different support systems catering to the differing needs of students, who can choose where to start their post-compulsory educational trajectory, depending on their progress to date. Cooperation with Dutch and Finnish technical universities and other universities of applied science are a positive development which must be further nurtured.

MCAST has developed over time, but the out-of-date mentality, still present as a colonial inheritance, which falsely splits education into ‘vocational’ and ‘academic’ streams continues to haunt the mind-set of policy makers’. Way back in the early 1900s, the progressive American educationalist John Dewey had already riled against a system that separates the practical from the so called ‘academic’. He had warned against a narrow education that pigeon-holed students, generally on the basis of their socioeconomic backgrounds.

MCAST should retain its identity; it should strengthen its cross-disciplinary and contextualised pedagogical methods. Science and technology do not exist in a vacuum and MCAST students should be given the opportunity to study languages, the relationship between science, technology and society and how policy-making depends on the power structures inherent in society.

To achieve this, the policy makers and the politically appointed board who are resisting improvement in the conditions of academic staff at MCAST are transmitting the wrong message: ie that MCAST is there to impart simple, pre-packaged ‘skills’, to train and not to educate, and that academic staff – with a wide range of qualifications and experience – are just there to transmit information.

Lecturers and technical staff should be given the opportunity to develop and apply knowledge and pedagogies which really enable students to flourish. The managerialist culture, copied from Britain, is destroying initiative and restricting innovation. Academic and technical programmes should be designed, implemented and managed by proper boards of studies made up of academic staff. Sure, input from industry is important, but the main focus should be a holistic education.

Unless technical staff and academic staff are given the right opportunities and conditions, brand new equipment will remain underutilised, new ways of teaching and learning will not be developed and, above all, treating MCAST as some kind of ‘lesser’ institution – even as regards conditions of work and the resources afforded to its academics will just strengthen long standing prejudice at the expense of society.

It is curious that Education Minister Evarist Bartolo, who is usually so vociferous when it comes to improving the educational infrastructure and the reform at the University of Malta – including the professional development of academic staff – has so far been silent on the entire subject. But then we might remember that the University of Malta will also shortly be made subservient to the interests of the business world!

published in the Malta Independent on Sunday : 7 January 2018

Skola taċ-Chiswick f’Pembroke ma tagħmilx sens

L-applikazzjoni tal-ippjanar biex tkun effettivament trasferita l-iskola taċ-Chiswick mill-Kappara għal Pembroke tiftaħ kapitlu ġdid fl-opposizzjoni għall-oxxenitajiet tal-ippjanar li qed ifaqqsu madwarna kuljum. L-art proposta mhiex barra miż-żona tal-iżvilupp (ODZ). Fil-fatt is-sit identifikat għall-iżvilupp propost b’kejl ta’ 15,900 metru kwadru qiegħed fiż-żona tal-iżvilupp.

Għalfejn għandna nopponu din il-proposta? Hemm numru ta’ raġunijiet għaliex din l-applikazzjoni ta’ żvilupp għandha tkun abortita, illum qabel għada.

Daqqa t’għajn lejn il-Pjan Lokali li nirreferu għalih bħala North Harbours Local Plan (li jikkonċerna ukoll lill-Pembroke) jagħtina l-iktar raġun bażika l-għaliex din l-applikazzjoni l-anqas biss kellha tkun ippreżentata. L-art li ġiet identifikata, tifforma parti minn art ikbar li l-Pjan Lokali, li kien approvat fl-2006, jidentifika bħala li għandha tkun soġġetta għal eżerċizzju ta’ ippjanar metikoluż u li dwarha għandu joħroġ dokument imsejjaħ Pembroke Development Brief. Fil-pjanta intitolata Pembroke Policy Map li qed tidher ma dan l-artiklu, l-art in kwistjoni hi mdawra b’ċirku aħmar.

Il-Pjan Lokali jispjega b’mod ċar l-iskop li għandu jintlaħaq mill-Pembroke Development Brief, li s’issa għadu ma ġiex ippubblikat għall-konsultazzjoni pubblika.

L-ebda wieħed mill-oġġettivi stabbiliti mill-Pjan Lokali għall-Pembroke Development Brief Area ma jittratta dwar skejjel jew edukazzjoni. L-erba’ oġġettivi msemmija fil-fatt jittrattaw użu li jiġġenera impiegi ta’ natura mhux industrijali, użu assoċjat mat-tgawdija tal-ħin ħieles, Ċentru Lokali u qasam residenzjali privat. Meta l-Pembroke Development Brief ikun ippubbikat għall-konsultazzjoni pubblika għandu jippreżenta gwida dettaljata dwar kif dawn l-oġġettivi għandhom jintlaħqu.

Il-Pjan Lokali jistabilixxi ukoll l-obbligi ta’ l-ippjanar li għandhom ikunu ndirizzati mill-Pembroke Development Brief. Dawn huma: 1. titjib komprensiv tal-infrastruttura, 2. li l-inħawi (ta’ Pembroke) ikunu pprovduti b’aċċess aħjar għat-trasport pubbliku, 3. titjib tas-sistema tat-toroq fil-lokalitá b’mod partikolari kif it-toroq li jagħtu għal Triq Reġjonali jaqdu liż-żona fejn hemm l-iskejjel, 4. Il-kostruzzjoni ta’ triq bejn Triq Reġjonali u s-sit li jkopri l-Pembroke Development Brief, u dan flimkien ma titjib lis-sistema tat-toroq arterjali u lokali li jirriżulta neċessarju wara studju dwar l-impatt tat-trasport, 5. titjib f’St. Patrick’s Park u 6. titjib tal-ispazji miftuħa .

Hu ċar li l-proposta għal skola ġdida fi Triq Gabriele Henin kantuniera ma Triq il-Mediterranean Pembroke ma tirriżultax mill-Pjan Lokali applikabbli, anzi hi f’kunflitt miegħu. Allura għalfejn l-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar qed tippermetti li din l-applikazzjoni tibqa’ pendenti? Ma jkunx aħjar kieku l-awtoritá tikkonkludi l-eżami ta’ din l-applikazzjoni bla telf ta’ żmien meta hu ċar li tmur kontra dak li jipprovdi l-Pjan Lokali? Meta l-affarijiet huma daqshekk ċari għalfejn id-dewmien meta setgħet tingħata tweġiba definittiva f’ħames minuti? Meta timxi b’dan il-mod l-Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar tagħti l-messaġġ li l-Pjan Lokali l-anqas jiswa’ l-karta li hu stampat fuqha!

L-iskola taċ-Chiswick li presentement qegħda fil-Kappara, tul is-snin kellha impatt mhux żgħir fuq il-kwalitá tal-ħajja tar-residenti tal-Kappara. Jekk l-iskola tiċċaqlaq lejn Pembroke dawn il-problemi kollha jkun esportati lejn Pembroke biex jiżdiedu ma dawk tal-iskejjel li diġa hemm f’dik il-lokalitá. Ċertament din l-iskola pproġettata mhux ser ittejjeb il-kwalitá tal-ħajja tar-residenti ta’ Pembroke: anzi tkompli titfagħhom lura.

L- Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar għandha responsabbiltá li tħares lir-residenti ta’ Pembroke u li tkun t-tarka tagħhom huma u jitqabdu biex itejbu l-kwalitá tal-ħajja tagħhom.

Huwa importanti mhux biss li jkollna deċiżjonijiet tajba, imma ukoll li dawn ma jdumux ma jittieħdu iktar milli meħtieġ. Għax l-iskola taċ-Chiswick f’Pembroke ma tagħmilx sens.

Imma, sfortunatament mal- Awtoritá tal-Ippjanar qatt ma taf fejn int.

ippubblikat f’Illum : 13 t’Awwissu 2017

Proposed Chiswick Pembroke school is a non-starter

The planning application to effectively transfer Chiswick School from Kappara to Pembroke opens a new chapter in opposing land-use planning atrocities which seem to sprout every other day. The site proposed for development, measuring 15,900 square metres is not Outside the Development Zone (ODZ). In fact it is within scheme.

So why oppose the proposal? There are a number of reasons why this planning application, even though just an outline application at this stage, should be aborted, the soonest the better.

A cursory look at the North Harbours Local Plan (which deals with Pembroke in addition to a number of other areas) gives a very clear basic reason why this application should not even have been submitted. The selected site forms part of a larger area which the Local Plan, approved in 2006, identifies as the Pembroke Development Brief Area. The site, circled on the Pembroke Policy Map shown on this page, is subject to Local Plan Policy NHPE 09 which policy explains in detail the objectives that the Pembroke Development Brief should aim at when published for public consultation.

None of the objectives listed in the Local Plan for the Pembroke Development Brief Area involves schools or education. In fact, the four specified objectives are: non-industrial employment generating uses of a national/regional catchment area, leisure uses, a Local Centre and private sector housing. The Pembroke Development Brief, when drafted and published for public consultation, should present detailed guidance as to how these objectives will be attained.

The Local Plan also establishes that key planning obligations of development within the Pembroke Development Brief Area will include: 1. a comprehensive infrastructural improvement; 2. the provision of better access to the area by public transport; 3. the upgrading of the existing Regional Road Junction that serves Suffolk Road and the schools area; 4. the construction of the link road from this junction to the Pembroke Development Brief Site, and other improvements to the arterial and local road network deemed appropriate through the recommendations of a Transport Impact Statement (TIS); 5. the upgrading of St. Patrick’s Park and 6. the upgrading of open spaces.

It is clear that the proposal for a new school as proposed in Gabriele Henin Street corner with Mediterranean Street Pembroke does not feature in the provisions of the North Harbours Local Plan. So why has the Planning Authority permitted this application to proceed so far? Should it not have submitted an immediate recommendation for refusal on the grounds of a clear and unequivocal conflict with the provisions of the North Harbours Local Plan? Why does the Planning Authority procrastinate when it could have given a clear and definite answer within five minutes and thereby transmit a clear message that when push comes to shove, the Local Plans are worth the paper they are printed on?

Over the years, Chiswick School, currently in Kappara has had a negative impact on the daily lives of Kappara residents. Exporting these problems to another area will not serve any positive purpose. It will only make the lives of Pembroke residents – already struggling to cope with the impact of the large number of schools already in their area – more miserable.

The Planning Authority owes a duty of care to Pembroke residents. Acting expeditiously is as important as acting correctly. It is clear that the proposed Chiswick School at Pembroke is a non-starter. But over the years I have learnt one thing: with the Planning Authority you never know where you stand.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 13 August 2017