It was a now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t moment that gave us all a terrible shock. The Azure Window came crashing down together with our hopes of ever seeing it ranked among the natural wonders of the world. With a mighty whoomph and an explosion of sea spray, we were forced to part with a geological treasure that has been around for generations in just a few seconds.
Soon after the shock wore off, everyone was muttering that we are a careless nation and, were it not for widespread indifference, the window would have been saved from destruction. The window frame, naturally carved from erosion by stormy seas over countless years, now lay in its watery grave. We didn’t grieve for long… which kind of sums up our environmental credentials. Before the day was over, we were giggling at the comical memes and video clips poking fun at the window’s untimely demise that were rapidly circulating on the Internet.
Meme by Charlton Agius
But that’s not all folks. Another surprise lay in store for us that day. A few of those mutters must have caused some ripples among the authorities. Four cabinet members promptly called a press conference intended to empathise with the people’s feelings of loss and emptiness and to reassure us that the window was only a small part of the ecological importance of the Dwejra area.
No apologies were offered, acknowledging the persistent disregard for our heritage sites by the authorities over the years, so, no comfort there. Looking forward with plans to transform the Dwejra area into a heritage park will not bring our window back. Neither does it imply that the authorities are committing themselves in any way to the preservation of our national heritage. For we are a nation that does not subscribe to the prescription that prevention is better than cure but, rather, to the practice of crisis management.
Yes, we really should be pulling our socks up, and right above our knees too, when it comes to the protection of the ecological and cultural environments. For starters, more education, more information and more civic engagement. We can all do our little bit by showing more respect for our surroundings and neighbours. If we cannot keep our own neighbourhood clean and tidy, how can we expect to keep our country free from pollution? Secondly, rigorous enforcement of environmental regulations and sanctions must be in place to ensure that everyone, without exception, is equal before the law. It would be a huge step forward.
Finally, we are all witness to the remarkable transformation of Valletta’s historical buildings and magnificent fortifications, not to mention Gozo’s Cittadella, restored to their original splendour after centuries of neglect and we cannot wait for the same to happen to the other architectural gems across the islands. Now, if only today’s land developers could be persuaded to take up the challenge of strict urban planning and give more consideration to aesthetics and eco-friendly energy measures, our legacy would be so much more than an ugly concrete jungle. It would be a treasure.