A PhD student wrote an open letter to the University Rector and the KSU President regarding the new plans to convert the Sports Ground into a car park.
John Paul Cauchi is conducting doctoral research on Climate Change Impacts on Food Security and Health in the remote Pacific Island nation of Kiribati. He describes what’s going on around him: the sea rose to cover entire swathes of land, killing vegetation and salinizing the soil.
As the effects of climate change overwhelm the Pacific Islands, this is certainly not a concern in Malta as the university has allowed its students and staff to park their cars on the racetrack.
“Universities are supposed to be Centres of Change, and yet in Malta it is a Cesspool of Complacency”
His letter is highly informative and will chill you to the bones. He compares the scenario in the Pacific, where people are losing their livelihoods (and lives) to climate change, to that of Malta where “it seems that the reality of the impacts of fossil fuel burning haven’t affected you.”
He charges the University for not inspiring change, but encouraging complacency; he addresses the rector Professor Alfred Vella for not taking the opportunity to intervene; he calls out students for “deeming your privilege to drive and park to be more important than attending lectures, then you shouldn’t be at University.”
You can read the full, impactful message below.
Dear KSU President,
I am writing to you from the remote Pacific Island nation of Kiribati, in the Equatorial Pacific, where I am carrying out my doctoral research on Climate Change impacts on Food security and Health.
As I write, a group of workers are frantically working on a leaky seawall a mere 20 metres away from me. Yesterday, a Perigean Spring tide (or a King Tide, as it is known here) affected the entire atoll of Tarawa. The sea literally rose to cover entire swathes of land, killing vegetation, salinizing the soil, poisoning the water table below. Their food security and water security is being compromised. With climate change in full sway sea levels will rise, putting the very existence of these atolls at risk. Tarawa at its highest point is 3 metres above sea level, about 10 minutes walk down the road. The tide today is forecast to be 2.5 metres.
You may ask at this point ‘Why exactly are you telling me this’? Well, it seems that the reality of the impacts of fossil fuel burning haven’t yet affected either of you, or any member of the KSU, or most members of the University of Malta administration. Here we are, in 2019, with the likes of Greta Thunberg speaking at Davos, with School Strikes for Climate happening around the world, where a Green New Deal is proposed in the US as a possible roadmap to mitigate the impacts of climate change and where people are growing increasingly angry at the political class for failing in tackling this major crisis of our time. However in Malta where the car-god reigns supreme we take the wrong decisions, and decide to use (of all places, I might add) the middle of a running track as a parking space for cars.
Universities are supposed to be Centres of Change, and yet in Malta it is a Cesspool of Complacency. Here you are, presented with a golden opportunity to present the situation as it is to the University population and encourage strong incentives for cycling, or shuttle buses, or using public transport. You could even propose walking for those who live in relative proximity. As far as I know, we haven’t devolved our legs, it seems, though most Maltese don’t think they’re there for any use except for pushing on clutch and brake pedals, repeatedly. Given the climate crisis globally, and the obesity crisis and the traffic crisis we have in Malta, you’d expect that these opportunities are grasped and utilised in an attempt to encourage a modal shift in transport, correct?
No. Not in Malta, it seems. In Malta, we worship the car-god, so we give it what its due. More space, and more incentives for people to use it.
In your address to University at the start of this Academic year, Prof Vella, you strongly encouraged sustainability. You had an opportunity here to intervene.
But you didn’t.
You might try to justify your decision perhaps as being a pragmatic one, or one that had to be taken in light of the terrible situation. Or, perhaps, you might say what will my forsaking a car do in the grand scheme of things vis-a-viz climate change? It’s just one car. Sure! That’s what billions of others say in the world we live in, too, and that’s why we are in the world we live in today. Because no one has the courage or the conviction to make the decisions needed where necessary. With your actions as KSU and UoM Administration, you are encouraging yet another intake of students to become addicted to their cars. If I can’t drive to university and find parking in time, then I won’t attend lectures! Dear student, if you deem your privilege to drive and park to be more important than attending lectures, then you shouldn’t be at University, especially given there are alternative modes of transport.
Tonight, there will be another high tide, even higher than yesterday’s. I doubt the workers will finish fixing the seawall in time. Storms at this time of year come and go. We might have a combined storm and high-tide, leading to a devastating sea surge, putting people’s property, assets, and lives in danger. This in the poorest country of the Pacific. In decades, this entire country might cease to exist, especially if we don’t curb the use of fossil fuels.
But who cares, right? Our cars are more important. Sure, let’s keep using our cars like there’s no tomorrow. After all, it seems Complacency is the order of the day, and nobody seems to have the courage or the moral stand to seize the bull by its horns, cry ENOUGH! and push strongly for a modal shift.
What a Disappointment.
Dr John Paul Cauchi, MD MSc.