Today Eric drove us a short drive to this 1 hour circular walk. Simply beautiful. Ħajt tas-sejjieħ glowing in the Maltese sunlight with fields of green, mimosa and almond trees well and truly in the spring of their life cycles. Birdsong everywhere and a sky to die for. As I walked I tried to make sense of the sizeable number of people all over social media who attempt to shame people like us who continue to spend time in the Maltese countryside in the time of Covid-19.
It’s not like we’re at risk of becoming infected with Covid-19 in the countryside. We’re used to being outdoors; it’s something we have always done as a family. Obviously we practise social distancing and the odd time we see people in the distance we make sure that we are more than 2 metres away from them when we pass them.
It’s not like we’re breaching any measures introduced by the Superintendent of Public Health, Prof Charmaine Gauci either. This is what Legal Notice 112 of 2020 has to say about being outside:
The Superintendent of Public Health hereby orders that, in public spaces, groups of more than three (3) persons are prohibited including in queues and bus stops:
What do people understand by the word countryside, I wonder?
When I think back to the days before Covid-19 I remember the busy Sundays when we used to encounter picnickers by the roadside with everything but the kitchen sink – barbecues, picnic tables, chairs, the radio in the car full blast – having a wonderful time with their extended family and friends. Five minutes away from this cacophany of noise and there’s hardly anybody crossing your path.
Is this where the confusion lies? Do most people in Malta have a different idea of what is meant by ‘countryside’? Is this what they imagine constitutes a visit to the countryside?
And then I understand. Most people have become detached from nature. They see it as extraneous. As though human beings have absolutely nothing to do with nature. As though human beings do not essentially depend on nature. The trees taking in carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. Maltese agriculture producing our vegetables, our fruit and indirectly our meat. We get most of our food from abroad, don’t we. Agriculture is unimportant. We can get by without it. Or so people think.
The people who do not see anything wrong in mature trees being chopped down to make way for wider roads to accommodate yet more four by fours are the same people who think that going out in the countryside simply means taming it to suit your needs, to park the car in a field or by a food stall. Do they move any distance at all from their car? No, not at all.
I take this thought further still. Of course, this is the reason why the Maltese Planning Authority is allowed to continue with its trail of destruction everywhere it stamps a dirty APPROVED all over the paperwork. People are ok with state sanctioned attempts to tame the earth.
Most people do not appreciate nature. It’s as simple as that. They don’t understand that, for some, being in touch with nature is an essential. It’s healing. It’s as essential as the oxygen you breathe and the food you eat.
Now imagine if most people did appreciate nature. If they did roam the countryside and marvel at its beauty. If they didn’t stop by the roadside just to mimic their living rooms.
How I wish Covid-19 would make people understand the fragility of our existence. How one minute you are lording it over Planet Earth, abusing it, wrenching trees from it, polluting it with pesticides, spreading concrete over it, building in valleys... And then the next you are forbidden from seeing people other than the people in your own household. All because of a microscopic pathogen. If only every single person roamed the countryside, and marvelled at its beauty, we would maybe then stand a better chance of living in harmony with nature. We would maybe then respect our place in the circle of life which includes so many other living organisms. We are not the be all and end all.
If we are not good at understanding that we share the planet with thousands of other species, we are also not good at showing solidarity with members of our own species who need help. Our leaders are letting us down again. Prevaricating about the saving of lives. I am numb with the constant failures of leadership everywhere I look. How do we deal with this? I so hope that when I wake up later on today, the crisis has been averted and social justice prevails.