As a result of mistreating the earth, we are damaging our own home: our common home. We are inflicting self-damage.
In the words of Leonardo Boff, the Franciscan Liberation Theologist, as a result of this mistreatment, the earth is in tears. In his 1995 seminal publication, Cry of the earth, cry of the poor, Boff emphasises that the tears of the earth are reflected in the daily tribulations of the vulnerable and the poor. They are the most impacted by the reactions of the earth to the mistreatment that it is continuously subjected to. It is the vulnerable and the poor who are bearing the brunt of droughts and floods, extreme temperatures, hurricanes and the rising sea level.
The basic clear message is that environmental policy and social policy are intertwined. Opposing and obstructing action to address environmental issues, at the end of the day, has a direct impact on the those most vulnerable amongst us.
Environmental degradation is one of the causes of social injustice. Consequently, enhancing the protection of the environment is also essential to address and reduce social injustice. The Earth is our common home. We share a common future: all the damage we cause to the earth boomerangs back to us. The ecology does not just add colour to our landscape: it is the very foundation of life itself. Nature is not just a desirable decoration to be captured on photographs, videos or paintings. Nature provides essential services without which, life, on this planet is not possible.
Unfortunately, we live in a world which tends to ignore non-monetary value. We tend to reduce everything to its equivalent in euro, pound, dollar or yen. It is the only value considered of relevance. This is the underlying reason for the general failure to appreciate the importance of the ecology in our daily lives. In fact, to some of us it is incomprehensible that we live in an eco-system. They believe that we live in an economy!
We need to understand that life itself is dependent on the eco-system services that are freely provided by nature. These services include water, fertile soil and clean air – all of which are being systematically ruined as a result of the so-called “development”.
Trees are being continuously chopped down and agricultural land gobbled up in order to make way for a never-ending building spree, including the large-scale road infrastructural projects.
Trees are a gift of nature. In addition to their various fruits, they supply us with oxygen, without which we cannot breathe. They produce this oxygen by absorbing carbon dioxide, retaining the carbon and releasing the oxygen in the process. As a result, trees provide us with two essential services free of charge: oxygen to breathe and a natural deposit for carbon – what we refer to as a “carbon sink”. Trees are the natural alternative to carbon capture technology. Carbon capture technology – used as part of the technological response to climate change – costs millions to produce and operate. Yet we have a natural alternative which we continuously discard. It is a free service and hence it is not appreciated. Large-scale deforestation, accumulated over many years, is one of the contributors to climate change.
We are significantly more dependent on nature than on the size of our country’s GDP and yet while we worry with the fiscal deficit, many ignore the ever-increasing environmental deficit. Seriously addressing this environmental deficit is essential before it is too late. No bale-out procedures are available to address this environmental deficit.
The signs of the ever-increasing environmental deficit are here for all to see. We need to act the soonest, in order to be in a position to reduce the impacts. It will get substantially worse than it already is. We are already running late.
ADPD Deputy Chairperson
Published in The Malta Independent – Sunday 27 August 2023