Supporting Bill 28

The amendment to the Criminal Code forming part of Bill 28 which Parliament started discussing on Monday 28 November codifies the existing practice at the state hospital. It defines the necessary legal framework for therapeutic abortion. It does not introduce the practice of therapeutic abortion: this has been the practice for quite some time.

The Bill avoids use of the term “abortion”, using instead the term “termination of a pregnancy”, which as we are all aware has exactly the same meaning!

Legislation to date relative to therapeutic abortion is not clear at this point in time. On this basis ADPD-The Green Party was the only political party which tackled the matter during the March 2022 electoral campaign, including a whole section on sexual health and reproductive rights in the electoral manifesto. We went much further than that, emphasising the need for the decriminalisation of abortion too.

The Labour Party in Government, which has been practically silent on the matter during the electoral campaign, has now decided to act, taking a minimalist approach. It has limited itself to ensuring that current practice is protected at law. While this is definitely not enough it is a welcome first step and deserves our full support, even though there is still room for improvement in the proposed text of the proposal.

The Labour Party is right in saying that it is not introducing abortion through Bill 28: therapeutic abortion has been here and practised for some time even in the state hospital. Consequently, the approval of Bill 28 as presented will, in practice, not change anything, it will merely recognise the current state of affairs. As a result, it will give peace of mind to medical practitioners in state hospitals as their current modus operandi would be clearly spelt out in the law, as it should be.

In a sense the current fierce and at times emotional debate on abortion is much ado about nothing. It has however resulted in the local conservative forces speaking from the same hymn book. The opposition to the Bill is primarily twofold. On one hand there is the PN official stand which, together with Archbishop Scicluna has adopted the position paper published by a group of academics. In practice they seek to limit permissible medical interventions to cases of a threat to the life of the pregnant woman, eliminating health issues as justification. On the other hand, exponents of the fundamentalist Christian right, including a minority in the PN rank and file oppose the Bill in principle.

Put simply, the debate identifies three different proposals. The first, proposed by the Labour government in Bill 28, enshrines in law the current practice and places the onus on the medical profession to decide each case on its own merits. The second, supported by the PN opposition and the Church hierarchy seeks to substantially limit the discretion of the medical profession in Bill 28 primarily by eliminating health and mental health considerations. The third position brought forward by the fundamentalist Christian faction is in total opposition to all that is being proposed.

During the Parliamentary debate held this week I took note of the various positive contributions, in particular those of Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne, Parliamentary Secretary Rebecca Buttigieg and Opposition spokespersons Joe Giglio and Mario Demarco. Of particular note, in my view, is Fearne’s reference to the hospital’s standard operating procedures. It is being emphasised that these procedures do in fact address important aspects of the criticism aired during the debate, in particular that decisions taken by the medical profession relative to therapeutic abortion procedures should be taken by two or more professionals in order to ensure that no professional shoulders the decision alone. This, I understand is already standard practice!

There is always room for improvement in the proposed text of the Bill as indicated in the level-headed approach of Joe Giglio during the Parliamentary debate on Wednesday. As I emphasised in my article last week it would have been much better if Government had embarked on an exercise of public consultation before presenting the Bill. There would definitely have been more time to listen to and digest the different views. A valid point which was also emphasised by Mario Demarco.

In this scenario, even though viewing it as just a first step, which can be improved: without any shadow of doubt, ADPD supports the proposal put forward by Bill 28 in principle.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday: 4 December 2022

It-taħwida l-kbira dwar l-abort

Id-diskussjoni li qed tiżviluppa dwar l-abort hi taħwida waħda kbira. Taħwida li sfortunatament qed jikkontribwixxu għaliha kemm il-Knisja kif ukoll il-Partit Nazzjonalista.

L-abbozz ta’ liġi li ressaq il-Gvern hu dwar kif u meta, b’mod eċċeżżjonali, jista’ jkun hemm intervent mediku biex tintemm tqala. It-tmiem ta’ tqala hu definittivament abort: imma l-proposta hi dwar il-każijiet eċċezzjonali meta dan jista’ jsir u mhux kif qed jiġi kontinwament implikat b’mod malizzjuz.

Fir-realtà, anke dawk li qed jippontifikaw kontra l-abort qed jaċċettaw li hemm ċirkustanzi fejn dan hu permissibli. Id-dibattitu rejali għalhekk hu dwar liema huma dawn iċ-ċirkustanzi eċċezzjonali li fihom abort hu ġustifikat.

Il-Gvern qed jargumenta li apparti meta l-ħajja tal-mara tqila tkun fil-periklu jista’ jkun meħtieġ intervent meta is-saħħa tal-mara tqila tkun fil-periklu: is-saħħa hi ikkunsidrata fit-totalità tagħha jiġifieri tinkludi ukoll is-saħħa mentali. Dan hu tajjeb.

Ir-raġuni għall-inklużjoni fil-proposta tal-Gvern tad-deterjorament tas-saħħa tal-mara tqila bħala raġuni għat-tmiem ta’ tqala hi li m’għandekx toqgħod tistenna sakemm is-saħħa tkun ideterjorat tant li dan iwassal biex tpoġġi anke l-ħajja tal-mara f’periklu.

Il-kontro-argument għal dan kollu hu li dan jista’ jwassal għal abbuż.  Hu argumentat li l-parametri mfassla mill-Gvern huma wisgħin wisq u jistgħu jagħtu lok għal abbuż. Irridu nirrikonoxxu li dan hu dejjem possibli li jsir anke jekk dan ma naħsibx li hu intenzjonat.

Dan kollu għandu jwassal biex niddiskutu bi ftit iktar serjetà dwar x’miżuri għandhom jittieħdu biex ikun evitat dan il-possibli abbuż.

Wieħed mill-argumenti fid-discussion paper dwar il-proposta tal-Gvern li ġiet ippubblikata minn grupp ta’ akkademiċi hu li d-deċiżjoni dwar jekk għandux isir intervent biex tintemm tqala m’għandiex tittieħed minn persuna waħda iżda minn numru ta’ speċjalisti mediċi flimkien. Din il-proposta tista’ tkun soluzzjoni biex biha jkun hemm kontroll adegwat li bih ikun assigurat li ma jkunx hemm abbuż. Proposta li fil-fatt nisslet kummenti favorevoli mid-Deputat Prim Ministru Chris Fearne huwa u jressaq il-liġi fil-Parlament nhar it-Tnejn li għaddew.

Hemm bżonn ftit iktar serjetà fid-diskussjoni. Sfortunatament din hi nieqsa bil-kbir. Il-proposta tal-Gvern hi tajba: jeħtieġ iżda li jkun assigurat li d-dettalji tagħha jassiguraw li tista’ titħaddem b’mod li ma jsirux abbużi.

Din hi id-diskussjoni reali li għandna bżonn! Sfortunatament hi nieqsa.

Overdevelopment is eating up open space

The problems being caused by the continuous overdevelopment around us is a direct consequence of the local plans approved in 2006. The rationalisation exercise which was approved practically simultaneously, and as a result of which around two million square metres of ODZ land was given up for development made matters considerably worse .

The latest example is the planning application relative to a stretch of land measuring 1273 square metres in Santa Luċija. This land is, until now, an open space within the locality of Santa Luċija.

The late architect Joseph M.Spiteri, who in the late 1950s designed the locality of Santa Luċija from scratch took great care in planning for the needs of a community when he was preparing giving birth to the Santa Luċija locality. As emphasised by his son Dr Stephen C. Spiteri in the publication entitled Joseph M. Spiteri: A Maltese Architect and his work, when designing Santa Luċija, Joe Spiteri ensured that there was plenty of open space and trees. In his ideas Spiteri was undoubtedly influenced by the then prevalent housing design in the United Kingdom: Spiteri placed great emphasis on pedestrianisation and vehicular segregation together with the availability of plenty of open spaces. Environmentalists are still emphasising these points as an essential prerequisite for sustainable living.

The ideas pioneered by Architect Joseph Spiteri in Santa Luċija as a result of which open space around residential areas was considered as an essential contributor to enhancing the quality of life of all were unfortunately discarded over the years in housing design in the Maltese islands. Instead, we were offered intensive development of land aimed at maximising profits along the whole building development chain. Our quality of life was exchanged with healthy bank accounts.

The creation of an environment conducive to the creation of a sustainable living space has unfortunately been abandoned. The objective to be in harmony with our surroundings was abandoned.

Architect Joe Spiteri and his colleagues at the then Public Works Department invested substantial energies in trying to create from scratch a land use planning system during the mid-1960s. With the assistance of advisors sent by the United Nations a forward-looking town and country planning Act was approved by Parliament in the late 60s only for it to be ignored by those who were entrusted with its implementation.

This is the root cause of the present malaise in local land use planning. All efforts made by dedicated professionals over the years were meticulously undermined.

The current proposed project in Santa Luċija subject to planning application PA5152/22 has to be seen within this context. It gobbles up land which the original design for Santa Luċija had earmarked as open space.  The open space is not wasteland but part of the essential lungs which the local community requires to breathe. Without it the community is deprived of an essential element of its community infrastructure.

The Ministry for the Environment is currently advocating the need for open public spaces. This rhetoric has however not been translated into tangible action as the Planning Authority is still encouraging a free-for-all building spree transforming existing open spaces into euro machines.

One of the major lessons of Covid-19 was the mental health impact on many in our urban areas who were constrained indoors. The lack of adequate public open spaces made matters worse during the Covid months.

Our urban areas have been left to develop on their own for quite too long. As a result, they have been guided by business-friendly or market-friendly authorities, producing the mess of an urban jungle we have to face every day. This is a mess resulting from political decisions which have ensured that profits repeatedly have a priority over people and their quality of life.

The Santa Luċija planning application PA5152/22 is the latest example of all this. The creation of a sustainable living space has once more been sacrificed on the altar dedicated to the euro-machine!

published on The Malta Independent on Sunday: 25 September 2022

L-ekoterapja: in-natura tista’ tfejjaq

Il-bniedem hu parti integrali mill-eko-sistema. Li jkun f’kuntatt dirett mad-dinja naturali hi parti intrinsika mill-imġieba normali tiegħu. Hu għaldaqstant meħtieġ li nagħtu iktar attenzjoni lil kuntatti tagħna man-natura u dan, fost affarijiet oħra, biex nieħdu ħsieb saħħitna stess.

In-natura hi bosta drabi nieqsa minn ħajjitna. Richard Louv, awtur u ġurnalista Amerikan, fil-ktieb tiegħu The Last Child in the Woods jitkellem dwar diżordni kkawżat min-nuqqas ta’ kuntatt man-natura (Nature-Deficit Disorder) li fil-fehma tiegħu iwassal għal problema fl-imġieba ta’ tfal li tilfu jew qatt ma żviluppaw il-kuntatt tagħhom man-natura. Sfortunatament, mhux biss it-tfal qegħdin f’din is-sitwazzjoni. Hemm riskju kbir li aħna lkoll xi ftit jew wisq inkunu effettwati.

Riċentement bosta qed jitkellmu dwar l-importanza li niżviluppaw ġonna fuq il-bjut tagħna b’mod li noħolqu spazji żgħar naturali fiż-żoni urbani. Din hi idea tajba u tagħmel il-ġid, imma għandu jkun ċar li mhiex sostitut għal kuntatt dirett u reali man-natura.

Xi kultant din il-ħeġġa għal ġonna fuq il-bjut hi mod kif uħud jaħsbu li jistgħu jissodisfaw it-tniggiż tal-kuxjenza li żviluppat fil-konfront tal-ħerba fl-ambjent naturali u li qed tkompli tiżviluppa madwarna ħtija ta’ l-hekk imsejjaħ żvilupp bla rażan. Hi ukoll reazzjoni ta’ dawk li qed iħossu l-effett ta’ nuqqas ta’ kuntatt dirett mad-dinja naturali fuq tul ta’ żmien.

Il-kuntatt kontinwu tagħna man-natura hi ta’ għajnuna kbira biex inħarsu saħħitna. Dan ifisser ukoll li min hu marid, b’mod partikolari jekk soġġett għal mard mentali, jista’ jkun mgħejjun jikseb saħħtu lura permezz ta’ kuntatt dirett man-natura: f’numru ta’ każi jista’ jikseb fejqan b’mod naturali. Din hi l-ekoterapija.

Birdlife Malta u l-Fondazzjoni Richmond, flimkien, daħlu f’dan il-qasam madwar sentejn ilu. B’għotja ta’ €17,000 mingħand il-Malta Social Impact Awards fasslu programm ta’ ekoterapija li sejħulu Blooming Minds, intenzjonat biex itejjeb il-kwalità tal-ħajja ta’ persuni bi problema ta’ saħħa mentali. Żviluppaw programm impenjattiv li kien imsejjes fuq taħriġ fl-apert b’mod li jkun hemm użu tan-natura bħala għodda terrapewtika, kif ukoll bl-apprezzament tal-istess natura u tal-ġonna. Il-professjonisti inkarigati mill-programm identifikaw li dan wassal biex assista lil dawk li ipparteċipaw fi żvilupp ta’ fiduċja ikbar fihom infushom kif ukoll sensazzjoni ta’ kalma meta jkunu fil-kumpanija ta’ natura li ssaħħrek.

Waħda mill-professjonisti nkarigati mill-programm ikkummentat li dawk li ipparteċipaw fis-sessjonijiet ta’ ekoterapija ħadu pjaċir bil-parteċipazzjoni tagħhom. Irrilassaw permezz ta’ dan il-kuntatt tagħhom man-natura. L-ambjent naturali irnexxielu jħalli impatt pożittiv fuqhom.

Imma l-fondi spiċċaw u dan il-programm ta’ ekoterapija waqaf, għalissa.

Qabel din l-inizjattiva ta’ Birdlife u l-Fondazzjoni Richmond kien hemm inizjattivi simili kemm mill-għaqda ambjentali Friends of the Earth Malta f’Villa Chelsea kif ukoll minn oħrajn.

L-ekoterapija hi ta’ benefiċċju għal kulħadd imma l-iktar għal dawk bi problema ta’ mard mentali inkella li qegħdin f’riskju ta’ dan il-mard. L-ekoterapija toffri attenzjoni personalizzata, m’għandhiex impatti negattivi u tgħin lil dawk li jirċievuha jrabbu iktar fiduċja fihom infushom.

Mhux biss it-tfal jeħtieġu li jkunu mħarsa milli jiżviluppaw sintomi kkawżati min-nuqqas ta’ kuntatt man-natura. Ilkoll kemm aħna qed inqattgħu iktar ħin ġewwa! Għandna l-ħtieġa li nistabilixxu mill-ġdid il-kuntatti tagħna mal-egħruq tagħna: egħruq tagħna fin-natura, u mhux fuq il-bejt.

L-ekoterapija hi għodda li tagħtina n-natura biex nieħdu ħsieb is-saħħa mentali tagħna. In-natura tagħtina s-soluzzjonijiet għall-benefiċċju tagħna.

Il-Birdlife u l-Fondazzjoni Richmond ħadu inizjattiva tajba u li tagħmel il-ġid. Imma sfortunatament din l-inizjattiva waqfgħet għax spiċċaw il-fondi. Hu fl-interess ta’ kulħadd li nassiguraw li din l-inizjattiva terġa’ tibda mill-ġdid malajr kemm jista’ jkun u li din ma tibqax temporanja iżda issir inizjattiva permanenti. Dan ikun għall-benefiċċju ta’ kulħadd.

ippubblikat fuq Illum: il-Ħadd 17 ta’ Mejju 2020

Ecotherapy: nature can cure

Human beings are part of the eco-system. Being in direct contact with the natural world is an integral part of our normal basic behaviour. We need to pay more attention to our natural ties in order to maintain and reinvigorate our health.

Nature is many times absent in our daily lives. Richard Louv, an American journalist and author, in his publication The Last Child in the Woods coined the term Nature-Deficit Disorder through which he points at the consequences of alienating children from the natural world causing a wide range of behavioural problems. Unfortunately, it is not only children that are developing a Nature-Deficit Disorder. There is a serious risk that this can, and most probably is, infecting most of us.

Recently there is much talk going on relative to the importance of roof gardens, transforming our roofs into small gardens as a result creating small natural spots within our urban areas. This is an idea worth pursuing, but it is no substitute for the real thing: an interaction with an unspoilt countryside.

At times the clamouring for roof gardens is more the result of pangs of conscience seeking to somehow make good for the large-scale havoc on the natural environment resulting from unbridled development. It is also a call of those who feel the impact of being deprived of contacts with nature over a long time.

Our continuous contact with nature in its authentic unspoilt form helps us stay healthy. Conversely nature can help those of us who are sick, in particular the mentally sick, to regain their health, in a natural way. This is ecotherapy, a developing area of practice and study.

Birdlife Malta and the Richmond Foundation have together ventured into this area some two years ago. With a grant of €17,000 from the Malta Social Impact Awards they designed an ecotherapy programme called Blooming Minds aimed at improving the lives of persons with mental health problems. They developed an engaging and inclusive programme of outdoor sessions making use of nature as a therapeutic tool through nature art, gardening and a general appreciation of nature. This, as evidenced by the professionals guiding the programme, assisted confidence building, and the enjoyment of the calming effect of being in green spaces in the exclusive company of nature.

One of the programme managers commented thus: “Our clients have thoroughly enjoyed the ecotherapy sessions they have attended so far. They were relaxing and a really efficient way for them to get in touch with nature and wind down at the same time. It is clear that they were impacted by the environment in a positive way.”

The funds dried up and this particular ecotherapy programme was discontinued, for the time being.

Prior to this initiative by Birdlife and Richmond Foundation similar initiatives were taken by Friends of the Earth Malta at Villa Chelsea as well as by other environmental NGOs.

Ecotherapy is beneficial for everyone – but especially for those with a mental health problem or those at risk of developing one, offering focus and care that is person-centred, non-intrusive and empowering.

It is not only children that need to be saved from a nature-deficit disorder. All of us are spending less time outdoors. We need to re-establish contact with our roots, in the countryside not on our roofs!

Ecotherapy is a green tool to improve mental health. Nature offers solutions which we should tap and use for our benefit.

NGOs Birdlife and Richmond Foundation have taken a worthwhile initiative and have shown us the way forward. Due to a lack of funds this initiative is unfortunately not active anymore. It is in everyone’s interest to ensure that this initiative is reactivated the soonest and to lay the foundations to transform it into a permanent activity. Everyone stands to gain.

published in the Malta Independent on Sunday : 17 May 2020

Għawdex presepju?

circular economy

L-aċċess liberu u immedjat bejn Malta u Għawdex mhux xi ħaġa li bdejna nargumentaw dwarha issa. L-argument ilu għaddej is-snin. Niftakar, meta kont għadni żgħir nisma’ l-argumenti sħan dwar il-possibilita’ ta’ pont bejn Malta u Għawdex fis-snin 60. Riċentement l-argument issoffistika ftit ruħu u hemm min hu mħajjar mill-ħolqien ta’ mina taħt il-baħar bejn Malta u Għawdex.

Qabel iżda ma wieħed iqies jekk proġett bħal dan jistax isir, kif ukoll kemm jiswa’ u minn fejn ser jitħallas, ikun għaqli li nifhmu ftit xi skop irridu li jintlaħaq bi proġett bħal dan, u dan qabel ma nibdew biss nidħlu fid-dettall biex nikkunsidraw l-impatti ambjentali.

Bla dubju l-iskop ta’ min imexxi l-quddiem l-idea ta’ għaqda fiżika permezz ta’ pont jew mina  hu li din l-għaqda fiżika tnaqqas il-ħin biex persuna residenti Għawdex tasal għax-xogħol jew għal-istudju l-Universita’ f’Malta. Tiffaċilita’ ukoll il-ħidma tal-industrija li jonqsulha d-diffikultajiet biex twassal il-prodotti tagħha lejn is-swieq, kemm dawk lokali kif ukoll dawk barranin. Fi ftit kliem min imexxi l-quddiem l-idea ta’ pont jew mina jara dawn l-aspetti posittivi li jirriżultaw mill-fatt li Għawdex ikun parti integrali minn Malta. Pero’ sfortunatament jinsa’ l-bqija. Ma tistax u m’għandex, biex tmexxi l-quddiem l-idea tiegħek tarmi l-ideat ta’ ħaddieħor.

Ma nafx jekk qatt ġiex ikkunsidrat l-impatt fuq it-turiżmu tal-proposta ta’ mina jew pont. Għax b’mina jew pont, lit-turist ftit jibqa’ xi jħajjru biex jibbaża ruħu f’Għawdex waqt il-mawra tiegħu f’dawn il-gżejjer. B’pont jew mina, l-attrazzjoni ta’ Għawdex għat-turist tkun kważi identika bħal dik ta’ reġjuni oħra fil-gżejjer Maltin. Filwaqt li dan għalija hu ovvju, tajjeb li jsir eżerċizzju biex dan ikun ikkwantifikat biex meta jittieħdu d-deċiżjonijiet kulħadd ikun jaf x’inhu jagħmel, fejn qiegħed u x’inhuma l-konsegwenzi ta’ dak li nippjanaw u nagħmlu.

Għax fl-aħħar irridu bħala pajjiż niddeċiedu mhux jekk Għawdex ikunx magħqud ma’ Malta b’pont jew mina, imma dwar x’direzzjoni ekonomika għandha tieħu l-gżira Għawdxija. It-turiżmu f’Għawdex żgur li għandu potenzjal li jikber . Mhux qed nirreferi għat-turiżmu tradizzjonali iżda dak magħruf bħala eko-turiżmu.

L-eko-turiżmu għandu potenzjal kbir f’Għawdex. Jista’ faċilment jaħdem id f’id ma l-agrikultura u mal-ħarsien tal-ambjent. Inħarsu l-ambjent u nkattru x-xogħol permezz ta’ turiżmu li jirrispetta n-natura.

Bħalissa qed nitkellmu ħafna dwar l-agri-turiżmu fil-kuntest ta’ tibdil tal-politika tal-ippjanar dwar l-użu tal-art f’żoni agrikoli. Ma ġewx ippubblikati studji li jiġġustifikaw dak li ġie propost. Hemm ħafna potenzjal.

Per eżempju minn studji diversi li saru nafu li n-natura għandha effett terrapewtiku. Meta l-bniedem jirristabilixxi l-kuntatt dirett tiegħu man-natura iserraħ il-menti tiegħu u jikkalma. Il-kuntatt dirett man-natura tnaqqas l-istress.  Hemm branka ta’ xjenza magħrufa bħala eko-terapija li tistudja kif in-natura tista’ tkun utilizzata iktar fil-qasam tas-saħħa mentali. NGO Ingliża fil-qasam tas-saħħa mentali meta xi snin ilu ippubblikat ir-rapport tagħha intitolat Eco-therapy : A Green Agenda for Mental Health emfasizzat li n-natura għandha l-potenzjal li tkun għodda utli ħafna għall-futur tas-saħħa mentali tagħna lkoll. Dan jista’ jsir b’diversi modi: b’mixjiet fil-kampanja, tours ċiklistiċi, żjarat fir-rżiezet inkluż li ngħixu għall-perjodu ta’ żmien fost komunitajiet ta’ bdiewa jew sajjieda ………… u bosta ħidmiet oħra. Din hi ħidma li tfittex li tistabilixxi mill-ġdid ir-rabta bejn il-bniedem u n-natura. Din hi attivita’ li tnaqqas l-istress, ir-rabja, l-ansjeta’, l-għejja mentali u problemi diversi oħra ta’ saħħa mentali. (ara ukoll fuq l-istess suġġett il-blogpost tiegħi  Reconnecting to Our Roots)

Dan kollu hu fost il-potenzjal li għandu Għawdex. Potenzjal li joħloq ix-xogħol imma fil-ħolqien tiegħu jirrispetta l-ambjent. It-turiżmu flimkien mal-ambjent joffri futur interessanti għal Għawdex, ferm iktar milli jkun presepju.

Ibbazat fuq il-kummenti ippubblikati f’Illum : il- Ħadd 29 ta’ Dicembru 2013

Reconnecting to Our Roots

times_of_malta196x703published on August 15, 2009

by Carmel Cacopardo



Being Green entails a fundamentally different approach to politics from that of mainstream political parties. The point of departure being recognition of the fact that man does not form part of an economy but of an eco-system. Ecology establishes natural limits for our actions. However, it also provides solutions for a number of the problems we encounter.

Our society can be organised in a much better way than it is at present.

The building industry continues to produce residential units while a substantial number estimated at around 70,000 currently lie vacant.

Around 300,000 cars glut our roads. Given the small size of the Maltese islands, mobility can be more easily ensured through an efficient public transport system supplemented by other means including cycling. Yet continuously our society defies reason and without fail selects the worse option.

During the past two years in Mexico City, in the densely populated neighbourhood of Iztapalapa, a “nature roof” was created at the Belisario Dominguez Hospital. The project director Tania Müller when interviewed stated that “having direct and visual contact with a green area helps a great deal in patient recovery”. This “nature roof” in an intensely developed urban area is also proving beneficial to the medical staff who, like their colleagues around the globe, are constantly subject to stressful situations.

Nature has a therapeutic effect. Man is constantly searching for ways of re-establishing a lasting link in particular in situations where the “natural” link with nature has been eradicated. A “nature roof” may be a measure of last resort in a densely urbanised area but it is no substitute for the real thing.

A study published in May 2008 by the University of Exeter on behalf of the UK Charity LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming) concluded that a two hour visit to a farm can be more beneficial than the same time spent in a gym. The study entitled Feed Your Senses: The Effects Of Visiting A LEAF Farm concludes that nature has a calming effect in that it assists in stress reduction. This is beneficial not only to those in a good state of health but more so to those whose mental health is an issue. In some cases it can also be an addition or maybe even a substitute to conventional therapy, doing away with dependence on anti-depression treatment through the use of prescription drugs. MIND, a leading mental health charity in the UK, launching its report entitled Eco-therapy: A Green Agenda For Mental Health considers eco-therapy as an important part of the future of mental health. Eco-therapy is a developing branch of psychotherapy and involves the utilisation of nature for “people’s psychological and spiritual health and well-being”. Now this can take various forms: walks in the countryside, cycling tours, visits to farms, taking up residence periodically within a farming or fishing community. All seek to re-establish our “lost links” with nature and have been found to reduce stress, anger, anxiety, mental fatigue and various problems of mental health.

Agri-tourism offers such an experience too. Unfortunately, agri-tourism and its twin eco-tourism are not given much importance in the Tourism Master Plan For The Maltese Islands, which is more of a business plan for the hotel industry than a tourism master plan. Agri-tourism is not only a sustainable alternative to the building of farmhouses for urban dwellers fleeing from the stress of work but also a welcome reinforcement of the economy of the agricultural community.

Developing a healthy agri-touristic industry is not just beneficial for tourism and agriculture; if properly managed it could in the long term reduce part of the costs of the National Health Service in the sense that the agri-touristic infrastructure can also be utilised for medical purposes, rehabilitating patients with problems of mental health. This however requires an holistic view of policy.

The National Commission for Sustainable Development, which (to put it mildly) is known not to have met in the recent past, provides the framework within which policy can be viewed in an holistic manner. It also provides for a beneficial interaction between the different areas of policy which could lead to initiatives enhancing the quality of life for all. The Commission has the potential of being a laboratory of ideas to develop sustainable development policies. Such a useful tool is not being put to use at the present time.

The closer we get to the end of the current recession the more important it is that the National Commission for Sustainable Development develops the role of a “critical friend” of the Public Administration, developing ideas and subjecting the ideas and proposals of others to a sustainability benchmark. It is the only way to re-establish the links with our roots.


Xi gimgħat ilu kont ħadt sehem f’seminar organizzat mir-Richmond Foundation f’Malta dwar ir-relazzjoni bejn l-ambjent u s-saħħa mentali.

L-għaqda Ingliża LEAF ( Linking Environment and Farming ) illum ippubblikat rapport dwar kemm il-kuntatt man-natura huwa ta’ ġid għas-saħħa mentali. Jitkellem dwaru rapport tal-BBC tal-lum intitolat : Farm Trips may alleviate stress .


Ir-rapport oriġinali tal-LEAF huwa intitolat Feed Your Senses: The effects of visiting a LEAF Farm.

Huwa emfasizzat kemm sagħtejn f’razzett jistgħu jagħmlulek ġid iktar minn l-istess ammont ta’ ħin f’gym. Ir-riżultati ta’ dan l-istudju li sar mill-Universita’ ta’ Exeter fir-Renju Unit jitkellmu dwar tnaqqis ta’ tensjoni (stress), tnaqqis tal-għejja u anke tnaqqis tar-rabja ! In-natura fi ftit kliem tikkalmak .

Għandna bżonn nitgħallmu ftit iktar kif nistgħu nieħdu ħsieb ta’ saħħitna billi nżommu iktar qrib tal-għeruq tagħna, tan-natura. Min hu b’saħħtu b’dan il-mod jista’ jieħu ħsiebha iktar. Min hu marid jista’ jsib soluzzjoni.

Studji oħra li saru minn istituti oħra ta’ riċerka jindikaw li iktar kuntatt man-natura jista’ jghin ghall-fejqan ta’ tensjoni u depression. B’hekk nibilgħu inqas medicini ! L-ambjent jgħin lilna u aħna ngħinu lilu għax inqas mediċini ifisser ukoll inqas skart tossiku.


L-agrituriżmu u s-saħħa mentali



Il-Fondazzjoni Ager hija immexxija minn Victor Galea u hija l-ewwel organizzazzjoni tax-xorta tagħha f’Malta. Torganizza żjarat ta’ jum għand u mal-bdiewa (u anke mas-sajjieda) Għawdxin. Bħala riżultat ta’ dan kemm Maltin kif ukoll barranin qed japprezzaw iktar il-biedja Ghawdxija.



Dan huwa forma oħra ta’ Turiżmu li f’Malta għadu ma żviluppax. Għandu potenzjal kbir. F’pajjiżi oħra taw iktar kasu u għin biex jiżviluppa turiżmu sostenibbli.


Apparti l-benefiċċju għad-diversifikazzjoni tat-turiżmu għandu ukoll vantaġġi ta’ terapija magħrufa ukoll bħala eko-terapija. Mhux biss għal min hu marid iżda ukoll għal min hu b’saħħtu u jrid jistrieħ il-bogħod mill-istorbju u l-istress tal-ħajja ta’ kuljum.


Studji u osservazzjonijiet li saru f’pajjiżi oħra juru li l-industrijalizzazzjoni u l-urbanizzazzjoni begħdu lill-bniedem min-natura. Meta nerġgħu noqorbu lejn in-natura ikun qiesu dħalna lura d-dar. Esperjenza agri-turistika b’sorveljanza tista’ tkun ta’ għajnuna kbira għal min ibati minn skizofrenija u depression.



Dawn huma uħud mill-osservazzjonijiet li għamilt waqt seminar organizzat mir-Richmond Foundation nhar il-Ħamis li għadda bit-titlu : The Environment and Its Effects On Mental Health.