Applauding a grandiose proposal from a political party weeks before an election is like getting excited when a witch in a forest starts handing you candy while warming up her oven. While any plan that involves trees is welcome, Joseph Muscat’s latest announcement is all a little shady (the OG definition)… and they haven’t started blocking the sun yet.

Emotional manipulation is one of the first signs of an abusive relationship and that includes guilting the other person into feeling grateful whenever you do the bare minimum of what’s expected of you. With that in mind, here’s a completely unrelated (promise) statement made by Joseph Muscat when announcing the (admittedly exciting) plans to add 80,000 trees to Ta Qali’s National Park:

“We could have easily given it up for commercial use because we have investors who need the space, but we saw the potential and decided to return it to the people.”

Well, aren’t we lucky! But before we rig up the hammocks and pop the champagne at being allowed to walk by a tree without having to pay for it, here are a few, extremely attainable, things that need to change first.

1. Stop building shit we don’t need (i.e. petrol stations)

We have enough. I’m aware this isn’t a controversial statement, it’s easily the second most-petitioned topic (after pleas for Joseph to stay on against his will), but it still needed to be reiterated.

As an individual whose forgetfulness has caused his car to stall enough times to have filling-bottles-with-fuel-and-forcing-them-into-my-tank down to an art, I get the knee-jerk reaction of wanting more for convenience. But realistically, if there’s only a seven-minute drive between each petrol station, we’ve already got too many already.

When promises for more trees are coming from people who are green-lighting new petrol stations while trying to make Malta an electric-car-only island, don’t be surprised when government subsidies are suddenly added to chainsaws.

“When promises for more trees are coming from people who are green-lighting new petrol stations while trying to make Malta an electric-car-only island, don’t be surprised when government subsidies are suddenly added to chainsaws”

2. Plan ahead (by more than one election)

Despite reservations about the likelihood of this project happening in its entirety, there is something to be said for an environmental investment that’s looking beyond just the next 365 days. Still, the problem is that it’s hard to get excited about a singular, isolated lung of greenery when everywhere else in Malta is essentially turning into a wasteland.

You might have a headache, but if a vampire hands you a blood-thinning aspirin, you should think twice before knocking it back.

Potholes aside (another article for another Sunday), the road that connects Msida and Birkirkara is a comparative joy to drive along, and it’s all thanks to the trees that grow there. You notice this more when there’s traffic, and you delay leaving your little patch of shade until the car in front of you has cleared into another sheltered spot, further along the road.

But like an Oscar winner who thanks their Insta-famous friends but awkwardly leaves out the film’s director, we often forget that nature literally designed giant, green objects that eat the rays from the sun we hate so much. Even an August drive to the beach in rush-hour traffic could become a lot more bearable if the island’s roads were lined with 80,000 more trees.

Part of said planning ahead should also include preemptively fighting off reasons to cut down any future trees planted. The usual excuses (when contractors and policy makers are forced to giving more than just a nonchalant shrug) is that they were damaging the foundations of roads and buildings. But in 2019, the year we were finally able to get the formula for a good Eurovision entry right, can we seriously not plan ahead for something as predictable as roots growing? There’s literally 370 million years worth of case studies.

“The worst part about this whole situation is having to admit that the biggest cliche of the 2000s, Counting Crows’ Big Yellow Taxi, was right all along”

3. Actively work to reverse damage done

You don’t really understand what it’s like to live life as an adult until you look at your first paycheck and see the incredible leap between the numbers near Gross and Net.

If you’ll temporarily turn a blind eye to the low-hanging nature of the fruit, it’s a pretty gross feeling. But what’s grosser is not considering the bombastic proposal made for Ta’ Qali is a gross increase, not a national net.

If we were to subtract the number of trees we’ve lost over the past decade from the proposed number being planted, we’d probably still have a positive outcome, but for how long? How many more inconsiderate extensions into ODZ land or fires in protected areas do we have to endure before the 80,000 new trees are more of a museum to what we once had than a much-needed, extra green lung?

We’re being guilted into thanking people for allowing us an open space to breathe in, and while the work (when completed) will be a project worth celebrating, the worst part about this whole situation is having to admit that the biggest cliche of the 2000s, Counting Crows’ Big Yellow Taxi, was right all along.

They really did “take all the trees and put ’em in a tree museum – and then charge the people a dollar and half to see them”.

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