You’ve probably heard of Greta Thunberg right now, the Swedish teenager who is emotionally lambasting leaders worldwide for not putting their money where their mouths are when it comes to tackling climate change.
The young activist has said a climate change awakening is going on worldwide, spurred by youths who are concerned their immediate future is at risk. And this awakening has, slowly but surely, started to hit Malta’s shores too.
Inspired by Greta Thunberg, a group of youths have teamed up to form ‘Extinction Rebellion Malta’, Malta’s first lobby group dedicated specifically to climate change.
And their first goal is to pressure the Maltese Parliament into passing a bill that would officially declare a climate emergency, following in the footsteps of the UK, France, Ireland and Canada.
“I realised how desensitised we have become to our surroundings, not only our natural environment but also the people,” one of its founders, 19-year-old Aya Omar, said in an interview with Lovin Malta. “I’m a student and a resident in Malta and I find it offensive that people can come and take advantage of such a beautiful island filled with opportunities and experiences.”
“I try my best to educate myself, to respect myself and to respect my surroundings. My passion is to try and think out of the box and to be as conscious and self-aware as possible. I believe we are the change.”
“Hope is contagious. As a species, we’re incredibly powerful and if we cooperate we can do brilliant things,” fellow activist Steven Bajada, 20, added. “Look at the world we’ve constructed and certain challenges we’ve overcome. People say that climate change is so hug. Yes but so was bringing clean water and electricity to every household a huge challenge once. So was vaccines and eradicating smallpox, we’ve done that all so why can’t we combat climate change?”
As a global movement, Extinction Rebellion has gained popularity through its tactics of civil disobedience, with activists in the UK having blocked traffic, glued themselves to banks and even ended up in court.
However, Steven insisted the Maltese movement are moderates, who will only consider going down the path of civil disobedience if their demands for Malta to declare a climate emergency are persistently ignored.
“I’d like to make this clear; we are moderates, we want reform and we want serious action to combat climate change, so we are willing to work with any policymakers who are serious when it comes to talking about the climate crisis and taking action,” he said.
Sceptics of environmental activists regularly try to discredit them by accusing them of hypocrisy, of not practicing what they preach in their everyday lives. However, Aya and Steven have taken a conscious decision to change their lifestyles to help the environment, even though they know it alone won’t mean much in the grand scheme of things.
Significantly, although they have both passed the legal driving age, they have put off obtaining their driving license so as not to add two more cars to Malta’s already congested and polluted streets.
“I’ve taken the conscious decision to delay learning how to drive and delay buying a car, perhaps until the policies are in place where you can only buy electric,” Steven explained.
“Malta is very small and I thank my lucky stars that I’m a healthy 20 year old male so I can use public transport or walk. It’s a small step but I am reducing my carbon footprint, and besides its cheaper.”
Besides foregoing her license, Aya is also transitioning to vegetarianism so as to help climate change problems related to livestock.
“Just because I’m transitioning to vegetarianism doesn’t mean I want everyone to,” she said, immediately countering the stereotype. “However, I do appreciate when people are aware of their actions and are conscious of their impact and of what is happening around them. That’s the only way we can keep going and thats partly why I wanted to enter activism.”
Extinction Rebellion Malta held their first protest last weekend, a ‘die-in’ in Valletta to symbolise the mass extinction that climate change will bring about. The event was relatively successful, with many youths answering their call to protest, something any activist in Malta will tell you is no mean feat.
Watch this space, Malta. A new environmental movement has been born and it has everything a movement needs to gather steam.