The environmental deficit

 

traffic jam Malta

 

Going by the information available on the increased incidence of various types of cancers, both common and rare types, it is evident that the accumulated environmental impacts originating from human action is exacting its toll. Few make the link between the increased incidence of rare diseases,  cancers and environmental neglect accumulated over the years.  

Over the Christmas period, as a result of the never-ending humanitarian operations of the Community Chest Fund, we hear of the ever-increasing demand on state resources by those struck by cancer. The demand is such that the resources of the state have to be supplemented by the annual telethon which this year raised a record €5.5 million.

The advertising blitz on the switching over of Malta’s power generation from one dependent on heavy fuel oil to natural gas informs us that air quality in Malta will improve substantially as a result. This statement is only partially correct as the major contributor to Malta’s poor air quality was not power generation but the ubiquitous and exponential increase of cars on our roads.

The cars on our roads are part of the real “cancer factory” in operation on Maltese territory.

As is evidenced by the substantial investments channeled towards the improvement of the road infrastructure, it is clear that the political will to address this issue is very weak. Improved road infrastructure, such as the construction of flyovers to ease traffic congestion, will only increase the dependence on cars. In the long term, this improvement to the road network will hamper the drive to shift custom to public transport. Consequently, it will serve to further increase cars on our roads and will hence contribute to an increase in the output of the “cancer factory”.

Public transport has been improved as is evidenced by a gradual increase in its use. Various initiatives to encourage the use of public transport have been introduced. However, the Maltese state is sending conflicting signals when it simultaneously speaks in favor of public transport yet invests heavily to facilitate the continued domination of our roads by private cars.

Lack of adequate environmental protection in the past has contributed to an ever-accumulating environmental deficit which in turn will lead to total and complete bankruptcy as no one is in a position to bale out Mother Earth.

Environment protection is multifaceted. Addressing the different waste streams and seriously plotting the path to the 2050 zero waste targets established by Malta’s Waste Management Strategy would definitely signify that we are in earnest. However, it is certainly not enough. What about the excessive use of pesticides which still end up contaminating our food chain? Or what about our water table, which in addition to being depleted is also contaminated with pesticides and fertilisers?   I could go on and on with a never-ending list of examples.

The environmental deficit is constantly on the increase. Each generation creates additional environmental impacts without in any way adequately addressing the accumulated impacts handed down by the previous generations. Governments are worried by economic deficits, yet few seem to be worried by the accumulating environmental deficit. We are using the earth’s resources as if tomorrow will never come.

No one will bail us out from the consequences of this deficit, yet nature has its own way of extracting its dues. Climate change, the collapse of agriculture in various countries and a higher incidence of common and rare forms of cancers are all different forms of payment which nature is extracting. These bills can only be avoided (in the long term) if we switch back to operating in a manner which is compatible with nature.

Otherwise the accumulating environmental deficit will bankrupt humanity.

published on The Independent on Sunday – 1 January 2017

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L-iżbilanċ ambjentali

 

traffic.Marsa

 

Minn dak li hu magħruf dwar l-inċidenza dejjem tikber tal-cancer, jidher li l-impatti ambjentali tal-ħidma tal-bniedem qed ikollhom effett qawwi. Ftit huma dawk li huma konxji dwar ir-rabtiet li hemm bejn il-ħsara ambjentali u uħud mill-mard rari li s-soċjetá tagħna qegħda tiffaċċja.

Fil-ġranet tal-Milied, riżultat tal-ħidma bla heda tal-Community Chest Fund, nisimgħu dwar id-domanda ma tieqaf qatt għas-servizzi li jagħti l-istat lil dawk milquta minn kull forma ta’ cancer. Id-domanda hi tant kbira li riżorsi tal-istat huma mgħejjuna mill-ġbir li jsir waqt l-Istrina, li, din is-sena laħaq is-somma record ta’ €5.5 miljuni.

Il-Gvern qed ixandar riklami dwar il-qalba tal-ġenerazzjoni tal-elettriku minn waħda dipendenti fuq il-heavy fuel oil għal waħda dipendenti fuq il-gass naturali. F’dawn ir-riklami qed jgħidulna li ser ikollna titjib fil-kwalitá tal-arja bħala riżultat ta’ din il-qalba. Din id-dikjarazzjoni (tar-riklami) hi biss parzjalment korretta. Dan minħabba li l-kontributur ewlieni għall-kwalitá tal-arja f’Malta qatt ma kienet il-ġenerazzjoni tal-elettriku iżda n-numru ta’ karozzi fit-toroq li donnu ma jispiċċa qatt. Huma dawn il-karozzi fit-toroq li jiffurmaw parti mill-fabbrika reali tal-cancer f’Malta.

Kif anke jidher mill-investimenti sostanzjali dedikati għal titjib fl-infrastruttura tat-toroq huwa ċar li r-rieda politika biex dan ikun indirizzat hi dgħajfa. Għax iktar ma titjieb l-infrastruttura tat-toroq, iktar ikunu inkoraġġiti karozzi fit-toroq, għax it-triq għalihom tkun iffaċilitata. It-titjib fl-infrastruttura tat-toroq, iżżid id-dipendenza tagħna lkoll fuq il-karozzi u bħala riżultat ta’ dan, tostakola l-ħidma biex iktar nies tuża t-trasport pubbliku.

Sar titjib fit-trasport pubbliku, anke bħala riżultat ta’ diversi inizzjattivi li ttieħdu. Imma l-pajjiż qed jagħti sinjali konfliġġenti, għax filwaqt li qiegħed jinkoraġixxi l-użu tat-transport pubbliku, fl-istess ħin qed jinvesti flejjes sostanzjali biex jiffaċilita l-kontinwazzjoni tad-dominazzjoni tat-toroq tagħna mill-karozzi.

Il-ħarsien tal-ambjent jinvolvi ħafna ħidma diversa. Jinkludi ħidma biex ikunu indirizzati b’serjetá s-sorsi differenti ta’ ġenerazzjoni tal-iskart biex b’hekk infasslu t-triq li biha rridu naslu ħalli nilħqu l-mira ta’ “skart zero”. Din hi mira stabbilita mill-Istrateġija Nazzjonali tal-Iskart u trid tintlaħaq sal-2050. Dan ċertament li mhux biżżejjed. X’ngħidu għall-użu eċċessiv ta’ pestiċidi li mhux biss qed jikkontamina dak li jkun prodott fir-raba’ imma parti minnu jispiċċa ukoll f’dak li baqa’ mill-ilma tal-pjan?

L-iżbilanċ ambjentali qiegħed dejjem jiżdied. Kull ġenerazzjoni qed tispiċċa żżid l-impatti mingħajr ma tindirizza sewwa l-impatti akkumulati li tkun wirtet mill-ġenerazzjoni ta’ qabilha.

Il-Gvernijiet qed jinkwetaw fuq l-iżbilanċ finanzjarju imma ftit wisq minnhom jinkwetaw fuq l-iżbilanċ ambjentali li iktar ma jgħaddi żmien iktar qed imur għall-agħar. Ir-riżorsi tad-dinja qed jintużaw qieshom bir bla qiegħ.

In-natura għandha l-modi tagħha kif iġġiegħlna nħallsu għal dan l-iżbilanċ ambjentali. It-tibdil fil-klima, l-kollass tal-agrikultura f’diversi pajjiżi kif ukoll iż-żieda qawwija ta’ kull xorta ta’ cancer huma kollha tweġiba tan-natura li biha kull wieħed minnha qiegħed jerfa’ l-piz tal-ħsara li saret lin-natura. Dawn il-kontijiet li qed tibgħatina n-natura jistgħu jonqsu fil-futur jekk nibdew minn issa ngħixu b’mod li joħloq inqas ħsara ambjentali. Jekk dan ma jseħħx il-kontijiet tan-natura, bla ebda dubju, jwasslu għal kollass totali.

ippubblikat fuq Illum – Is-Sibt 31 ta’ Diċembru 2016

Some memories of my father

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It is now four weeks since he passed away in the early hours of 11 June. Yet I still find myself dialling his telephone number at least twice a day to exchange some news or to ask for his opinion or advice on some matter.

Three months short of his 85th birthday, he had retired from the civil service 25 years ago after a continuous public service spanning over 40 years. I do remember most of his postings, in particular those at the Customs and the then Water Works Department. He was dedicated to his duties at the Department of Social Services where he spent more than twenty years of his public service.

He was an only child as his elder sister had died at birth. At the tender age of six he was already an orphan when he lost his father who worked as a linotype operator at the government printing press. It was in 1937, two years before the outbreak of World War II. Without a breadwinner at home and inexistent social services life was miserable.

My father was not into politics. He was of the opinion that it would have been much better had I followed in his footsteps! He told me as much in very forceful language many times, in particular on the morrow of Black Monday in October 1979 when standing in the timber balcony of our home in St Paul Street Valletta we could still observe smoke coming out from the gutted Progress Press, home to The Times and The Sunday Times for many years.

He was a civil servant of the old school who took much pride in his work. As a young boy I could observe this at close quarters whenever he took me along. As an account keeper at the Water Works Department in the 1960s he would patiently listen to and address complaints on “errors” in water and electricity bills. Later in the 1980s, he would apply his skills as a welfare officer in the different area offices of the Department of Social Services assisting the elderly and vulnerable who sought the assistance of the state.

In 1977, after taking part in a sympathy strike called by the UĦM in solidarity with bank employees he was transferred to the Bormla Area Office of the Department of Social Services. It was certainly not intended to be a pleasant experience. In fact, he used to recount how in the first weeks after his being transferred to the Bormla Social Services Area Office, various officials of the local Labour Party Club used to turn up at the office “to check” on the progress of the new welfare officer! Subsequently he was transferred to other Area Offices.

My father spent his last weeks in palliative care at the Sir Anthony Mamo Oncology Centre where he was much impressed by the dedicated service of all members of staff, without exception. My family is grateful to them all as their care and dedication ensured that his last days were bearable right to the very end. May he rest in peace.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 10 July 2016

It-Tabib Godfrey Farrugia u l-ilma

Godfrey Farrugia

L-ewwel nett nagħti merħba lil Godfrey li rritorna għall-ħidma politika wara l-esperjenza kerha li għadu kif ħareġ minnha. Ngħidlu prosit għall-mod kif affronta l-kanċer tal-prostata kif ukoll għall-messaġġ pożittiv li ipprova jwassal permezz tal-esperjenza tiegħu.

Illum Godfrey fil-Parlament għamel intervent qasir fid-diskussjoni dwar l-estimi tal-Ministeru tal-Enerġija u s-Saħħa.

Tkellem dwar żewġ punti importanti.

Tkellem dwar il-ħtieġa tal-konservazzjoni tal-ilma tal-pjan u tkellem ukoll dwar ir-rimi tal-mediċini.

Nieħu pjaċir li Godfrey ħass il-ħtieġa li jemfasizza l-ħtieġa tal-konservazzjoni tal-ilma tal-pjan għax il-Ministru tal-Finanzi ma sabx il-ħin fid-diskors tal-baġit biex jagħmel dan. Is-serq tal-ilma tal-pjan bil-boreholes illegali kif ukoll il-kontaminazzjoni tiegħu, prinċipalment minn sorsi agrikoli, mhiex biss issue ambjentali. Hi ukoll materja ta’ importanza ekonomika kbira li ma nistax nifhem kif il-Ministru tal-Finanzi qiegħed jinjorha sena wara l-oħra.

Godfrey tkellem ukoll dwar il-rimi tal-mediċini. Bosta jarmu l-mediċina fis-sistema tad-drenaġġ inkella maż-żibel. Dan mhux aċċettabbli għax toħloq diffikultajiet kbar. Is-suggeriment ta’ Godfrey li l-ispizeriji fl-ibliet u l-irħula tagħna għandhom rwol importanti fil-ġbir tal-mediċini li jkunu għar-rimi m’għandux ikun skartat. Ikun utli kieku l-Wasteserve teżamina sewwa is-suġġeriment ta’ Godfrey għax naħseb li jista’ jkun implimentat mingħajr wisq diffikulta.

 

Ecocide in the Mediterranean. The known consequences so far.

Cunsky

Carmine Schiavone’s secrets are now public knowledge. They  join the testimony of Francesco Fonti at the Mafia’s maxi-processo in Palermo. The mozzarella scandal of 2008 pales into insignificance.

Organised crime has a solid grip on toxic and nuclear waste disposal in the Italian peninsula. They dumped it in  areas where buffalos grazed. They dumped in areas around Naples, in particular around Casale di Principe or in the Mediterranean Sea. Francesco Fonti had mentioned 42 ships laden with toxic and nuclear waste which were sunk in different areas of the Mediterranean. The location of one them, the Cunsky (vide illustration above) had been identified just off the coast of Calabria loaded with 120 barrels of toxic waste.

The latest revelations involve the dumping of nuclear and toxic waste originating from Germany and Northern Italy  in areas where they contaminated ground water.

Legambiente, the Italian environment NGO is not surprised with the information revealed in Schiavone’s testimony. Over the years it has documented countless cases which it classifies under the title Ecomafia: it has published annual reports on the matter since the year 2000.

I will not bother you with more details. Just one tiny bit: one particular health centre in the Naples area has identified that the number of cancer cases it deals with has skyrocketed from 136 in 2008 to 420 in 2012.

The New York Times on Sunday reported : Mafia’s dumping of toxic waste blamed for high cancer rates in Italy.  “Cancer rates have increased 47% for men and 40% for women in the areas around Naples and Pompeii thanks to illegal disposal by Mafia-controlled companies that occurred during a 20-year period, in which the harmful substances were dumped into lakes, farmland, quarries and caves.”

In Malta the above has not triggered any particular interest yet.

Budget with positive, vague and missing measures – AD

Alternattiva Demokratika – The Green Party said the budget had a mix of measures, some of which were positive, whilst others being rather vague. The budget also missed out from taking concrete action in certain social and environmental matters.
 
Michael Briguglio, AD Chairperson, said: ‘It is positive that in a context of global economic difficulties, Government is aiming to reduce the deficit. Hopefully, Government’s expenditure programme will be more sustainable’.
 
‘We also agree that Government shall pay workers on minimum wage who undergo training programmes, and that Government will make life easier for people on social assistance who choose to work. On the other hand, AD strongly believes in an increase in the national and hourly minimum wage, including that for part-timers and contractual workers on a pro-rata basis. AD also augurs that Government’s enforcement against employers who exploit foreign workers is effective’.
‘As regards cost of living and social benefits, we agree with the increase in supplementary benefits and in expenditure aimed at vulnerable groups such as fostered children. We would however have expected more expenditure on disabled persons and the inclusion of vulnerable groups such as those with ME and FB for entitlement of disability benefits’.

‘As regards health, it is also positive that Government shall investment in the Cancer Centre at Mater Dei Hospital. In this regard, it is important to note that cancer should also be confronted through better environmental policy which is currently lacking. Government should also do much more to tackle costly medicinal prices, including considering importing them itself alongside importers from the private sector’.

‘Alternattiva Demokratika believes that it would have been better if Government put even more investment in public education and childcare centres rather than incentivising private education’.
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Ralph Cassar, AD Secretary General, said: ‘As regards environmental policy, we strongly believe that Government should do much more for sustainable development, for example by reactivating the national commission for sustainable development. Government’s expenditure on renewable energy is simply not enough, especially when one keeps in mind the dirty fuel which shall be used in the power station extension. Government should also elaborate on the assistance schemes for sustainable energy’.
‘Government should also have introduced fiscal measures on property speculation, from the third vacant property onwards, particularly when one considers that Malta is a perpetual building site where a quarter of properties are vacant. Fiscal mechanisms should encourage the renting and selling of properties which are kept vacant for speculation purposes and the use of existing buildings rather than building more areas’.

‘AD also supports the investment in farmers’ markets and in animal welfare centre. It is also positive that Government shall introduce incentives encouraging cleaner transport. Till now details are too vague to comment in detail.’
 
 
Baġit b’taħlita ta’ miżuri pożittivi, vagi u nieqsa – AD

Alternattiva Demokratika – The Green Party qal li l-baġit kellu taħlita ta ‘miżuri, li wħud minnhom kienu pożittivi, filwaqt li oħrajn huma pjuttost vagi. Il-baġit ukoll ma ħax azzjoni konkreta fuq ċerti materji soċjali u ambjentali.

Michael Briguglio, AD Chairperson qal: “Huwa pożittiv li f’kuntest ta’ diffikultajiet ekonomiċi globali, l-Gvern qed jimmira li jnaqqas id-defiċit. Nawguraw li l-programm ta’ infiq tal-Gvern ikun aktar sostenibbli “.

“Aħna wkoll naqblu li l-Gvern iħallas ħaddiema bil-paga minima li jagħmlu programmi ta’ taħriġ, u li l-Gvern se jagħmel il-ħajja eħfef għall-persuni fuq assistenza soċjali li jagħżlu li jaħdmu. Min-naħa l-oħra, AD temmen li għandu jkun hemm żieda fil-paga minima nazzjonali u bis-siegħa, inkluż dak għall-part-timers u ħaddiema kuntrattwali fuq bażi pro-rata. AD tawgura ukoll li l-infurzar tal-Gvern kontra min iħaddem li jisfruttaw ħaddiema barranin ikun effettiv “.

“Fir-rigward ta’ l-għoli tal-ħajja u l-benefiċċji soċjali, aħna naqblu maż-żieda fl-assistenza supplimentari u fin-nefqa għall-gruppi vulnerabbli bħal tfal fostered. Iżda konna nistennew ukoll nefqa ikbar għal nies b’diżabilita’ u  li l-Gvern jinkludi gruppi bħal dawk li jbatu bl-ME u l-FM ma dawk intitolati għall-benefiċċji ta’ nies b’diżabilita’”.

“Fir-rigward tas-saħħa, huwa wkoll pożittiv li l-Gvern qed jinvesti fiċ-Ċentru tal-Kanċer fl-Isptar Mater Dei. F’dan ir-rigward, huwa importanti li wieħed jinnota li l-kanċer għandu ukoll ikun kkonfrontat permezz ta’ politika ambjentali aħjar li bħalissa hija nieqsa. Il-Gvern għandu wkoll jagħmel ħafna aktar biex jiġu indirizzati prezzijiet mediċinali għaljin, inkluż li jiġi kkunsidrat l-importazzjoni tagħhom flimkien ma’ importaturi mis-settur privat’.

“Alternattiva Demokratika temmen li kien ikun aħjar jekk il-Gvern jinvesti aktar fl-edukazzjoni pubblika u childcare centres minflok fl-edukazzjoni privata”.
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Ralph Cassar, Segretarju Ġenerali ta’ AD, qal: “Fir-rigward tal-politika ambjentali, aħna nemmnu bil-qawwa li l-Gvern għandu jagħmel ħafna aktar għall-iżvilupp sostenibbli, per eżempju li jerga’ jattiva l-Kummissjoni Nazzjonali għall-Iżvilupp Sostenibbli. In-nefqa tal-Gvern dwar l-enerġija rinnovabbli hija sempliċement mhux biżżejjed, speċjalment meta wieħed iżomm f’moħħu l-fjuwil maħmuġ li se jintuża fl-estenzjoni tal-power station. Il-Gvern għandu jelabora wkoll dwar l-iskemi ta ‘assistenza għall-enerġija sostenibbli’.

‘Il-Gvern naqas milli jintroduċi miżuri fiskali fuq l-ispekulazzjoni tal-propjetà, mit- tielet propjeta vojta ‘l fuq, partikolarment meta Malta u Ghawdex huma sit tal-bini perpetwu u meta kwart tal-propjetajiet huma vojta. Mekkaniżmi fiskali għandhom jinkoraġġixxu l-kiri u l-bejgħ ta’ propjetajiet li huma miżmuma vakanti għal għanijiet ta’ spekulazzjoni u uzu ta’ bini ezistenti milli l-bini ta’ aktar postijiet’.

‘AD tappoġġja wkoll l-investiment fis-swieq tal-bdiewa u fiċ-ċentru għall-ħarsien ta’ l-annimali. Huwa wkoll pożittiv li l-Gvern jintroduċi inċentivi li jħeġġu trasport aktar nadif. S’issa d-dettalji huma vagi wisq biex nikkummentaw f’aktar dettall’.

The eco-threat of the Italian Mafia

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by Carmel Cacopardo

published September 19, 2009

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The revelation by Francesco Fonti that the Calabria Mafia sank a number of ships in the Mediterranean carrying a cargo of nuclear and toxic waste confirmed what the international environmental non-governmental organisation Greenpeace has been stating for a number of years.

The cargo on board these ships (which could number as many as 42) is of direct concern to Malta. The environmental crime of dumping this toxic and nuclear waste could have already affected (without our knowing) Malta’s water supply as well as the fish we eat and the seawater we swim in.

Whether and to what extent the food chain was contaminated is difficult to ascertain at this stage unless the relevant authorities are in a position to explain whether over the years fish and water (including sea-water) were sampled and tested for chemical contamination. Hopefully, such monitoring, sampling and testing was carried out. At this stage no information is forthcoming as to the type of toxic wastes dumped nor whether the waste dumped is still contained or else whether it has dispersed. The exact location of the dumping and the sea currents prevalent in the area would also be of extreme relevance.

Toxic contamination does not necessarily kill immediately. It may block or distort a number of our natural activities.

In the foreword to the book Our Stolen Future by Theo Colborn, Diane Dumanoski and John Peterson Myers, former US Vice President Al Gore speaks of  “a large and growing body of scientific evidence linking synthetic chemicals to aberrant sexual development and behavioural and reproductive problems. Although much of the evidence these scientific studies review is for animal populations and ecological effects, there are important implications for human health as well”.

Reference to three examples would serve to illustrate the nature of the threats.

President Jimmy Carter on August 7, 1978 had declared a state of emergency at Love Canal. A landfill containing over 21,000 tons of chemical waste dumped in the 1940s and the beginning of the 1950s caused the contamination of residential and educational environments and resulted in miscarriages, birth defects, respiratory ailments and cancer. Fifty-six per cent of children born in the Love Canal environs between 1974 and 1978 had a birth defect. This led the US to enact the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act known as the Superfund in the last days of the Carter Presidency.

In early 2008 in Italy it was found that buffalo mozzarella originating from some 83 dairy farms in an area near Naples was tainted with dioxin. The buffalo were grazing in an area of illegal dumps of toxic waste controlled by the Mafia. Dioxin can cause birth defects and organ failure.

On May 31, 1989 a beluga whale was found floating belly up near Pointe-aux-Cenelles close to Quebec, Canada. An autopsy carried out on the whale revealed that it had both a male and a female set of genital organs. It was a hermaphrodite. This was eventually traced to pollution-induced hormone disruption which derailed the beluga whale’s normal course of sexual development. “One cannot rule out,” noted the autopsy report “that pollutants present in the mother’s diet had interfered with hormonal processes (guiding the) normal evolution of the sexual organs of her foetus”. The beluga whale is a mammal like the human being.

The above examples point to the possible consequences of the Mafia eco-threat.

Sixty per cent of our water originates from the sea. Fish roam about the Mediterranean Sea including contaminated areas. Pollution will not respect borders.

All of us would be more at ease if we are informed of the measures being taken by the public authorities to shield us from these threats.

original article at   The Times