By Prof. Andrew Azzopardi, Dean, Faculty for Social Wellbeing
As Dean of the Faculty for Social Wellbeing, I note with discontent the recent agreement entered into by Government with the Federation for Hunting and Conservation (FKNK) regarding Miżieb and l-Aħrax woodlands public space. While I would normally laud government for decentralizing its power by involving NGOs and other interest groups in the running, maintenance and environmental conservation of a public space, I believe that in this instance the driving factor is discounted political gain as opposed to the principle of community development and social wellbeing. The aims, values, expertise and organizational infrastructure of the FKNK do not lend themselves to delivering the much-needed public service. They are instead a minority interest catered for and able to deliver to their service users, which while some may not consider inherently wrong are incoherent with public nature of this particular space.
With few public spaces remaining, and even less natural environments this loss registers more deeply than the ecological ramifications which are significant and catastrophic in and of themselves. The decision that has been made is a blow to public spiritedness and community.
We have lost an opportunity because public spaces offer opportunities whereby the various divisions which permeate our society ranging from politics to socio-economic status are allowed to blend. Public spaces are a chance to set aside the bile and rhetoric that tends to be taking over our communities. Public spaces allow us to reconnect with our shared humanity and restore our relationship with nature. Limiting access to the general-public and providing privileged access and gatekeeping to a powerful lobby continues to stress the cynical relationship that the forces of power have cultivated with nature and communal spaces, reducing them to political prizes for continued political support.
As a Dean of the Faculty for Social Wellbeing I encourage government to take on the mantle of moral leadership and to forego short-term political gains and instead engage in value based, consensus building that ensures equitable access to all to the resources Malta and Gozo has to offer. We ask that public spaces are given special protection. We augur that starting from the Miżieb and L-Aħrax woodlands debacle but moving on to a greater structural re-evaluation of our concept of space and equitable access, this government ensures that social justice and social wellbeing become a priority.
Disclaimer: Opinions and thoughts expressed within this article do not necessarily reflect those of the University of Malta.