Friday, December 04, 2015

Plastic Politics: Mallorca's environment

Last Saturday, hundreds of people took to the streets of Palma to march in favour of the future of the planet and renewable energies and to alert everyone (those who must have been living on a different planet for the past couple of decades) to the threats posed by climate.

The global climate change march, or at least the march in the small part of the globe that is Mallorca, demonstrated that there are hundreds more inclined to concern themselves with the environment than they are with Mallorcan independence. That protest march was on the same day. Barely tens of people were sufficiently moved.

Nonetheless, there was a degree of crossover, even if certain groups concerned with marching on behalf of the climate didn't actually put their names to the independence stroll. The usual suspects displayed their green credentials - GOB, Més, Friends of the Earth, Podemos - and some even wore the green t-shirt of trilingual teaching defiance (hasn't that become somewhat passé?). Still, if you're on a demo for a green issue, then what other colour should you wear?

Climate change attracts its lunatic wings at the polarities of the argument - the Flat Earth deniers and the Armageddonists - but they aside, why is it that this is an issue, in Mallorca at any rate, which appears to interest only the left? There is political mileage, as with Més, in being "eco-nationalists", but the "eco" part is inclined to get lost for the vast majority who are probably generally sympathetic to the cause but who grow fatigued by the constant and largely meaningless narrative of sustainability. Such is the political centrality of this concept that Més have even managed to honour it by introducing a tax in its name. Sustainability is the new political hectoring.

Taking to the streets to warn of the possible end of the world is a noble enough thing to do. If the message gets across, then fine, but it's not as if those who matter aren't aware. They invented sustainability, as an example, around thirty years ago and then made it globally popular at the Rio Summit. Waving banners and wishing to overcome can seem somewhat futile in the face of colossal smokestacks - the whole of China one has the impression - and the avarice of Big Business. It's much the same with paying for a supermarket plastic bag. Why not just ban them? Another futile gesture though because of all the other plastic packaging to be carried home.

In Mallorca, many spent last summer getting into a flap - rightly - about the tons of plastic drifting up from north Africa, where the Algerians have managed to create landfills (not particularly efficient ones at that) right by the coasts. The clean-up efforts were admirable, but they were a shining light of eco-action as opposed to eco-conscience-assuaging and eco-indifference. Mallorca loves a good recycle. Or would do if the populace was inclined to follow instructions. 

At fiesta time, the chances are that you will stumble across recycling workshops. Everywhere has one (or several). Mainly aimed at children, if they fulfil a worthy educational function, then so much the better. But the island's eco-values aren't, despite all the huffing of Més and others, that strong. Yes, everyone bangs on about the environment, but there isn't, as an example, the strict enforcement of recycling as there has been in Germany for a good twenty odd years. Woe betide anyone who falls foul of the Green Gestapo ready at any moment to leap out from behind a container if a householder errs in dropping a miniscule piece of plastic into the paper bin. In Germany, the very name of the recycling enforcement agency was met with a look of dread and fear.

Then there are the renewables. Or should one ask - what renewables? A target of 20% renewable energy by 2020, supposedly a regional pledge made several years ago, will not be met. It will be missed by many percentage points, one fancies. At present, the islands manage to generate roughly a measly 2% from renewables, while a region in the middle of the Spanish land mass - La Rioja - has over 80% renewable energy source. Why is the figure so low in the Balearics? There are many reasons why, but try starting with Endesa and Red Electrica.

Environmental issues demand fully joined-up policy thinking and making. Currently, this has the look of being piecemeal. It's one thing to direct the sustainability dogma at the tourism industry and invent a tax in the process, but it cannot be piece by piece, it has to be whole, if sustainability is actually to mean anything. 

Més (and Podemos) will doubtless steer a course towards such unity of policy, only to find it undone when they lose the next regional election. Environment - right versus left. Why not stick it in the centre, where it belongs.


Son Fe Mick said...

Morning Andrew
What about the pipe that has recently been laid from Andratx to the power station here in Alcudia. Presumably it goes all the way to the mainland? What is that all about? Will it make the island greener?
If it's for gas, may be it will stop all the muck they blow out of the chimney and the ash dust they spread over the local countryside!
That will be really eco, green, sustainable and nice.

andrew said...

The gas does indeed come from the mainland, Mick. It's been suggested that the power station could run on a mix of gas and oil and lose the need for coal, though I suspect it won't: too many interests involved with the shipping and transportation from the port, for example. But what about renewables? It's said they're too expensive, but it's all wrapped up in how electricity is paid for through arrangements with government. An absolute nightmare trying to make sense of those. There is meant, though, to be a large photovoltaic station installed near the power station which, the claim has been, could supply the equivalent of most if not all of Alcudia. We'll see.