President of Malta George Vella called on the authorities, developers, industry, and academics to work together in the interest of our country’s natural heritage, while urging the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) to be more vigilant and to better protect the remaining environmental heritage. He stressed the need of striking a balance between economic success and sustainable development, and to realise that “progress” in the urban environment must not degrade the natural environment. He pointed out that we are very close to jeopardising this balance, with all the consequences that this entails. The President was speaking at the annual Buonamico Award ceremony, held at San Anton Palace. This award was introduced last year by the ERA in recognition of individuals who contribute to the protection of the natural heritage of the Maltese islands.
“We must not forget that what happens in our country does not only affect the health and safety of our people,” said the President. “Our behaviour in everyday life – what we eat, what we buy, what we throw away, and the means of transport we choose, have as much impact as big industrial projects. We must not forget that, in order to clean the air, reduce drastic climate change, protect wildlife and the oceans, we, all of us, are responsible… This does not happen by default: in most cases, we have degraded it ourselves… it is our duty to fix it. Therefore, we need to be aware of our actions. What we destroy today will be lost forever, but what we nurture will continue to bear fruit and give us and those who come after us a better quality of life.”
The President said that education and knowledge are the cornerstone of a society that is able to form a critical opinion, that recognises the good around it, and that is not afraid to change the bad and change itself for the better; the key to the balance between economic success and sustainable development. He stressed that if, from an early age, people learn to appreciate the natural heritage around them, they will understand that if they do not protect it, despite all technological progress, they will be threatening their own existence and that of future generations.
The President congratulated the two winners of this year’s Buonamico Award – lichenologist Ms Jennifer Fiorentino and educator Mr Alfred Micallef – for their work and for this deserved award. He praised them for how, through their work, they brought hundreds of students to the natural sciences and for, perhaps unknowingly, helping all those they have encountered to be more sensitive to natural heritage. He also thanked the ERA, not only for its valuable work but also for recognising the need to create this award and continue to honour Maltese personalities who have dedicated their lives to the protection and conservation of our country’s natural heritage.