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MT 18 September 2016

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maltatoday, SUNDAY, 18 SEPTEMBER 2016 15 Similarly, the hunting situation as a whole has clearly improved, from the days when there weren't even any hunting laws to enforce (i.e., before 1980). This is indeed hopeful, but when it comes to other areas of environmental sen- sitivity, it is debatable whether we can expect the same level of improvement. To return to the construction and development sector – and one could extend the argument also to the fisheries sec- tor, which is once again causing an environmental stink (literally, this time) – there are economic considerations that simply do not apply to hunting or trapping. There is (let's face it) a deep- seated tendency to value con- struction on the basis of its con- tribution to the economy. And to be fair, it doesn't come only from business or political interests: the population at large also tradition- ally perceives property as a reliable investment. Even tourism – an- other stable of the local economy – relies heavily on the construc- tion of new hotels, new facilities, and so on. It seems that Malta, as a nation, has never hit on any real alterna- tive to building as a means of gen- erating wealth. Doesn't that also mean that we are permanently condemned to lose more and more land to unbridled develop- ment in future? "I think we need a new vision, definitely. To come out of a situ- ation, you have to create another situation as an alternative. There's no point in telling someone not to play football, unless you give him a basketball court instead. Ultimate- ly, I think it goes back to the core issue of our identity as a nation. We have been independent for just over 50 years now, but in all that time we have never really sat down and held a discussion about what direction we actually want to go. "In fact our economic ideas haven't really changed at all since then. After independence from Britain, there was a mad scram- ble to industrialise – to attract foreign investment from here and from there – and all these years later we are still doing the same thing. If you look at the projects that have been approved, they are mostly aimed at foreign buy- ers. The type of development may have changed, but we're still stuck in the same economic rut…" Meanwhile, all efforts to lift ourselves out of this vicious cir- cle have so far failed… as is per- haps evidenced by the suggestion of a 'new' tactic ('new' in relative terms… it had been used, to some effect, in the distant 1980s): a boy- cott of companies involved in the aforementioned projects. This proposal has divided pub- lic opinion... lending weight to Mizzi's earlier point that people may want to achieve change in theory, but may be less willing to inconvenience themselves in the process. But what is Mizzi's own opinion in the matter? Does he consider a boycott to be an appro- priate response? "On principle, I agree 100% with the idea of a boycott. And when we discussed it at Graffitti, there was general agreement there also. But one must tread with caution. A boycott is a powerful tool if used properly… but there has to be a clear and consistent campaign, a functional strategy, if it is to suc- ceed. The last thing we would want is to organise a boycott that would be ineffective. That would not only defeat the purpose, but might also rob us of another tool at our dis- posal…" I suppose this brings us back to the original question. The fact that we are talking about a boycott at all, only confirms that all other strategies have so far failed. People have time and again proved power- less against the vested interests of Malta's political-industrial com- plex. Wouldn't they be justified in considering the environment to be a lost cause? "No, I think it's the other way around. People are not giving up; and they're not powerless either. I think they are only just begin- ning to realise how much power they wield. It goes back to the ef- forts at Ta' Cence, Tal-Virtu and elsewhere. I have been to consulta- tion meetings where hardly anyone showed up. But in those cases, hun- dreds of people came to the meet- ings, to the extent that they needed police at the door. That's when you realise how much power the people wield. Are we winning the fight? At present, no. But can it be won? I think that's a different question." Interview Environmentalists have long warned about the dangers of over-development, with little visible effect. Has the time finally come to admit defeat? Moviment Graffitti's CHRIS MIZZI admits the present is bleak, but argues that there is still hope for the future PHOTOGRAPHY BY CHRIS MANGION defeat

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