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

Il-Bandiera l-Ħadra : investiment fil-futur ta’ pajjiżna

Green Flag

Kien ta’ sodisfazzjoni kbir il-bieraħ nisimgħu l-aħbar li iktar skejjel kisbu l-Bandiera l-Ħadra, rikonoxximent tal-għarfien ambjentali tat-tfal u ż-żgħażagħ tagħna fl-iskejjel Maltin.

S’issa hemm 36 skola li kisbu l-Bandiera l-Ħadra u hemm bosta oħrajn li qegħdin fit-triq. Dan kollu bis-saħħa tal-proġett eko-skola.

Dan hu ċertifikat kbir għall-iskejjel tagħna kif ukoll għall-għaqda ambjentali Nature Trust Malta. Imma iktar minn hekk hu investment fil-futur. Għax l-għarfien ambjentali li kisbu dawn it-tfal u ż-żgħażagħ diġa qed ixerrduh: illum fil-familji tagħhom, għada fis-soċjeta. Huwa investiment fiċ-ċittadini ta’ għada li bla dubju ser ikunu f’posizzjoni tajba biex jikkoreġu l-iżbalji tal-ġenerazzjonijiet ta’ qabilhom.

Prosit għal dan is-sodisfazzjoni kbir u għat-tama kbira għal Malta ta’ għada li tkun waħda aħjar minn dik tal-lum.

Eko-Skola: kelmet iż-Żgħażagħ dwar l-Ambjent

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Ħadt sehem fit-tieni Summit ta’ Eko-Skola dwar l-Ambjent li sar dal-għodu fi Xrobb l-Għaġin Marsaxlokk.

Flimkien ma Mario de Marco u Joseph Muscat indirizzajt lill-istudenti u lill-għalliema tagħhom.

Iż-żgħażagħ tagħna fehmu l-ħtieġa li jeħtieġ li jkunu huma li jieħdu ħsieb il-futur tagħhom. Dan hu rifless b’mod qawwi fid-dikjarazzjoni tagħhom li approvaw dal-għodu fi tmiem is-summit.

Iddiskutew bosta suġġetti pero fuq quddiem kien hemm l-ilma, l-enerġija l-iskart u l-baħar ta’ madwarna.

Id-diskussjoni li kellhom dal-għodu tawgura tajjeb ħafna għal futur għax ifisser li tiela ġenerazzjoni b’sensittivita ikbar għal dak kollu li qiegħed jiġri madwarha. Huwa awgurju tajjeb ukoll għall-għalliema u l-familji ta’ dawn iż-żgħażagħ. Għax iżjed minn xi ħaġa li tgħallmu dak li smajt dal-għodu hu prova ta’ dak li jħossu, ta’ dak li jippruvaw jgħixu kemm huma kif ukoll dawk ta’ madwarhom.

Prosit mill-ġdid liż-żgħażagħ tagħna li permezz ta’ eko-skola qed juru kemm li tinvesti fil-ġenerazzjonijiet futuri hu l-iktar pass għaqli.

The Freeport : will MEPA backtrack ?

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published on Saturday, March 21, 2009

by Carmel Cacopardo

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On February 26, during a public session, the Mepa board discussed development proposed at Malta Freeport. It decided that the approved development was to include a condition that an environmental permit relative to Freeport operations was henceforth to be a requirement and that this was to be underpinned by an environmental management system (EMS).

I was fortunate enough to participate in this discussion on behalf of AD and in support of the Birżebbuġa local council. I stressed the need to address and contain the impacts of Malta Freeport on the local residents through an EMS, which would be subject to environmental auditing.

This decision by the Mepa board is of the utmost importance. For the first time, Mepa has intervened in order that local industry adopts an EMS into its control mechanisms. In Malta, to date, this has only been carried out by companies operating as part of an international set-up, such as ST and the pharmaceutical companies that have set up shop recently.

The Freeport needs to understand that it has to behave as a good neighbour to the Birżebbuġa community. Economic activity on its own, generating profits and employment, though essential, is not sufficient. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) needs to be factored in. CSR is not about corporate sponsorships and donations: it is about the responsible behaviour of business and industry. Acting responsibly includes ensuring that the impacts of industrial activity are addressed.

This would undoubtedly entail costs. Currently, these costs are inexistent on the Freeport balance sheet: they are being borne directly by the Birżebbuġa community and paid for through an inferior quality of life. These hidden costs (externalities) include but are not limited to the contamination of the bay, the emissions to air from the various activities going on within the Freeport perimeter and noise at all times of the day, most notably during the silent hours.

Malta Freeport Terminal has been assigned to CMA-CGM, the third largest shipping container company in the world. They have commenced direction of the terminal for a period of 65 years pursuant to a decision of Parliament.

Given its size, CMA-CGM operates from a large number of ports around the globe in which they have built a solid reputation. Their website proudly and justifiably reveals that they have an environmental policy which aims at “protecting the marine environment, fighting climate change and developing eco-friendly services and solutions”. The CMA-CGM group also prides itself with the award received for the second year running from the Port of Long Beach, California as part of its Green Flag Programme. This award, according to the CMA-CGM website, reflects their commitment to environmental protection!

The Green Port Policy of the Port of Long Beach has five guiding principles, the first one of which is “the protection of the community from harmful environmental impacts of port operations”. The latest available annual report (2007) for the Port of Long Beach, entitled Reshaping A Vibrant Community, emphasises that the port takes a leadership role in the development of strategies to mitigate security risks in the port complex. Of particular interest is the section in the said report (page 17) which speaks of “Exporting Green policy to seaports worldwide”. Linking with such a vision on the part of CMA-CGM should put the minds of Birżebbuġa residents at rest! Will it?

So far, globalisation and its cousin competition policy have been the vehicle for privatisation, deregulation and economic fundamentalism. The global players imported within our shores to take charge of sections of the Maltese economy have yet to bring along their best environmental practices such that it be ensured that the communities in which they operate are not burdened with the hidden costs of their operations. To date, it has been a globalisation of opportunities for profit seekers, responsibilities lagging far behind! CSR is hardly in sight!

The Mepa board decision of February 26 paves the way for Malta Freeport to be compelled to manage its environmental externalities. It is indeed noteworthy to see that Mepa has, following public participation, taken a leaf out of the CMA-CGM environmental policy and included this as one of the conditions of the development permit.

On February 26, the Mepa board, in addition to underlining the fact that Malta Freeport needs to address its environmental impact, refused one of its applications: that dealing with an extension of the Terminal One West Quay. It is hoped that the Freeport will be capable of deciphering the writing on the wall. By determining that an EMS should underpin an environmental permit regulating the Freeport operations, the Mepa board has identified the way forward. Its neighbours hope that Malta Freeport will move along that path and that Mepa will not backtrack after the June MEP elections!