Two-Faced Environmental Corruption

At a time when virtually every newspaper front page features an article related to corruption, let’s focus on the two hands of environmental corruption in Malta: the one hand that commits corruption, and the other hand which silently tolerates it.

The Maltese environment – our landscapes, the sea surrounding us, the air we breathe – belongs to each and everyone of us. Just as we have received these blessings in a healthy state from our ancestors, it is our responsibility to pass them on in an equal or better state to the generations who follow us.

Sadly, in every political scenario, there will always be power- and money- hungry individuals who tend to forget that. Who have no qualms about selling away parts of our shared heritage to ensure a profit, either for themselves, or for developers to whom they owe something. What these politicians conveniently “forget” is that the environment does not belong to them alone.

The environment belongs to the whole nation. Politicians are elected to work in our interest, not their own or of their clique. This basic principle often falls by the wayside.

But then there is the second hand of environmental corruption, which bears the name of our silence. Our apathy and lack of action when we see abuse. It is not enough to mutter threats under our breath, or to reason that those politicians will feel our anger come the next election. Over five years irreparable damage to our surroundings can be inflicted, if we do not flag up abuse as soon as we become aware of it. And we cannot keep making excuses – that it’s no use, that we’ll only be ignored, that we’ll make ourselves unpopular. Our environment is extremely precious – our health depends on it.

We need to fight for it!

Proclaiming angrily via social media that eNGOs should be taking action does not cut it either. NGOs are the standard bearers in a struggle that is our collective responsibility. The numerous actively engaged NGOs are not paid to ensure our well-being, while our politicians, on the other hand, are being paid rather handsomely by our taxes to do so. So what stops us from getting active, and pressuring our local and national governments when another tree is endangered, or another landscape falling victim to abusive development?

Most NGOs have carved their mark in society through long years of research, studying laws, formulating opinions, lobbying politicians, organising educational conferences. They are eager to share their knowledge to support the citizen in fighting battles against corruption. But they are there to support us, not to fight our battles.

Sitting back and doing nothing, or the bare minimum of voting every 5 years, is just as harmful as the actions of the few that are actively corrupting the environment for their personal gain. When that next case of environmental corruption surfaces, as it surely will, it may be wise to take a long look in a mirror, and begin to un`derstand that when we remain silent we are the second hand which allows that first hand to corrupt our environment. As

Archbishop Desmond Tutu said: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”