The Desertification of Malta

It struck me suddenly as I was walking in the scorching sun along a dusty, plastic littered pavement. The only non-human life around was a row of orphaned bushes in a centre strip. Nowhere to hide from the scorching heat. Malta’s environment is in the process of desertification, becoming like a desert. Desertification is a natural process that would normally take place over thousands, or even tens of thousands of years in normal evolutionary time frames. Not so now.

The following day the editorial of this newspaper warned “Put starkly, climate change threatens the basic elements of life in Malta: access to water, food production, health, the impact on security through increased migration from people fleeing their climate-hit countries, threats to Malta’s coastal areas and the ecology itself.” Pointedly adding that the “Desertification of the Maltese countryside will become unstoppable” and that “The effects on our natural heritage landscapes, flora and fauna will be devastating.”

In Malta, and globally, people have so overexploited nature’s resources, have so exterminated plant and animal species, have so polluted air, land, sea and ocean habitats that humanity is now the sole agent of the sixth mass extinction of life on Earth and of largely irreversible global warming. In Malta over population and over exploitation of our natural landscape are decimating plants, trees, animals and wild habitats at an accelerating rate. Our islands are indeed a microcosm of all that is unholy in mankind, led as we are by amoral behaviour that makes a mockery of thousands of years of religion.

It is unprecedented in the entire history of planet Earth that one species would turn on all other sentient life with the intent of annihilation. It is also unprecedented in Malta that islanders, such as we are, would turn on their own island home with the intent of turning it from an oasis of life into a barren land, a desert.

A recent article by Kristina Abela in the Times of Malta quoted Maltese scientist James Ciarlo as saying “The Maltese climate will become more arid in the future, with a potentially devastating impact on ecosystems and human health”

We are part of nature and have come to be in nature. The mental construct we call economic growth, our relationship rituals, our entertainment, jobs, our politics and wars, all follow the rules of nature. The fact that our behaviour is destructive, misguided or even stupid changes nothing. The fact that to us it seems intelligent, innovative, hi-tech and complex is irrelevant.

From Earth’s perspective the climate crisis, the mass extinction of life on Earth does not really matter. There have been five previous extinctions in the past 450 million years since life first occurred on this planet. Now it is to be six – this is no big deal for nature, it will recover over a few million years. Of course humans will have died off very early on, the only remaining trace being a narrow geological strata across the planet.

We are not destroying nature. That is an absurd notion. We are destroying our life supporting system within nature. You would be forgiven to wonder what stupid animal would do such a thing. Look around you. It walks on two legs, is full of BS, it covers its nakedness, moves in herds and elects morons to lead it.

It seems inevitable that the story of sentient life on Earth will again end badly. This notwithstanding I still believe that there is a glimmer of hope if we are ready to take extraordinary actions. There is anger mounting in the hearts and minds of men and women at the sight of their home, the Earth, being ravaged by death mongers. This is also happening in Malta. I will take a line from Harrison Ford, vice-chair of Conservation International, to say to those who would peddle death for profit “You know who you are, we know who you are”. They are mistaken if they think that we are going to stand by and do nothing or that we will eventually be discouraged as the odds stack up against us – quite the opposite.

This is a national emergency and we should treat it as such. We should cool off the economy by introducing fiscal and other measures to re-establish a balanced and equitable economy at a lower level. Managed economic de-growth will have a positive impact on car and population numbers and improve the quality of life for Maltese people across the board.

Our fresh water aquifers continue to be polluted with nitrates from agriculture. We must take more effective measures to eliminate pesticide and fertiliser use in our agricultural sector. We should no longer allow our fresh water reserves to be plundered, without charge, from illegal boreholes and registered metered or unmetered ones. Our agricultural sector should be incentivised to become organic. We should build another reverse osmosis desalination plant with the sole purpose of replenishing the aquifers.

Notwithstanding the declared opinion by the Malta Hotel & Restaurant Association that our islands should be a destination for quality and not quantity tourism, we are now at the absolutely unsustainable level of 2.6 million tourists annually – the number should be at least half that – our marriage made in hell with economy airlines is a large contributor to this tragedy.

Crime is on the rise with foreign ethnic groups establishing no-go areas which even our security forces are loathe to enter. Societal values have gone down the toilet as we indulge in this soulless cosmopolitan society. A society that finds it acceptable that just under six hundred people die prematurely annually from air pollution, a society in which a huge number of children suffer from potentially life threatening breathing ailments.

We are also about to offer our islands and population as an experimental base for the rollout of 5G radio frequency, electromagnetic radiation, mobile phone and base station technology. This despite the fact that our own scientists are telling us that 5G may not be safe and may potentially kill plants, animals and people in large numbers. Apparently our very lives are up for sale.

We need a serious commitment to climate action. We need to replant woodlands to cover one third of the surface area of our country, using rewilding principles, before it is too late. We need a credible move to electric vehicles across public, private and business sectors. We need to stop using all fossil fuels by 2030 and we should stop the importation of all single use plastic by 2022.

There is a widespread lack of political will to act. Politicians and business lobbies have hijacked our future. Profit is an important motivator for business. However, above all, business should have purpose, a purpose that is aligned to the healthy functioning of the Earth’s eco-systems.

The survival of life on earth, and in our country, depends on our actions today. In the words of the young climate activist, Greta Thunberg “We have not come here to beg the world leaders to care for our future. We have come here to let them know that change is coming whether they like it or not”.

Article published in the Sunday Times of Malta, 6th October 2019