Polar bears and copying

Former Nationalist minister Michael Falzon has a bee in his bonnet about all things environment-related. For him the world has become a frightening place populated by eco-fascists ramming their green ideology down his throat and stopping him from exercising his God-given right to throw away chocolate wrappers out of the window of concrete blocks built outside the development zones.

These threatening greenies go around preaching their ruinous doctrine and traumatising Falzon. From the way he goes on you would think he was once kidnapped by a group of environmentalists and made to watch Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth on a loop for a week while being force-fed lentils and beetroot juice. Only that sort of experience could explain why he charges into battle (metaphorically speaking, of course) every time an environmentalist shows up on his radar.

He has now taken up the cudgels for the protection of children from the insidious brainwashing of those evil tree-huggers who have infiltrated our schools and educational establishments. Yes - according to the former minister - there is a sinister plot afoot to indoctrinate young children with eco-anarchist notions.

The plan is already well underway and innocent young children are already under the sway of their eco Piped Pipers. The Moonies had nothing on the environmentalists, it seems.

The incident which has irked Falzon so much was a visit by children from various schools to Parliament for an event called Eco School Parliament. Press reports stated that the children "castigated" politicians about the need to act on the impending water crisis facing the country.

A seven-year-old girl was reported as saying that the way people were ignoring the law was "shameful", that all houses should have wells and that some people were extracting water from the ground illegally. She added that she hoped they wouldn't have to repeat the same things next year.

To my eyes, this does not appear to be evidence of brainwashing or a scripted speech which the girl was made to recite. Rather, it seems to be elementary science which a seven-year-old is quite capable of understanding. If the aquifer - one of our main water sources - is sucked dry by people using boreholes, then there's not going to be much water left in a few years' time.

Any science teacher worth her salt would have explained this process in terms which her students would have grasped. She would also have pointed out that water conservation is important and that everybody should chip in to prevent this happening.

And it shouldn't only be incumbent upon children to turn off the tap while brushing their teeth, but also upon industries which make their millions from pumping water from the aquifer for free. Since it is unlikely these industries will give up their free source of profit voluntarily, shouldn't the government step in at some point? Why should this simple argument be beyond the ken of a schoolgirl?

But Falzon thinks the girl's speech was one which her teachers had made her recite. In an article published in another newspaper on June 6, he flung serious accusations at what is a worthy educational initiative. Falzon described it as "indoctrination" and compared it to the indoctrination of children under the Hitler regime, in fundamentalist Islamic states and in the cases where warlords capture children to turn them into soldiers.

I read that last example and was dumbstruck. How could teaching children about the depletion of water resources (a well-established fact) be compared to brainwashing them to commit murder? How could bringing up these issues be considered as disrespectful of parliamentarians? Wasn't the inaction of the politicians even more disrespectful?

You know what I find even more disrespectful? A bottling company which extracts 51,000 cubic metres of water for free from its boreholes, and being given an award for 'sustainability'. And the Prime Minister visiting that company, donning a glorified shower cap to inspect the facilities and saying that "as long as the country continued investing and removing mediocrity then it would move ahead". We have absolutely no sense of irony in this country.

But back to our erstwhile environment minister whose rants are beginning to read like petrol head's Jeremy Clarkson's screeds against the greens, shorn of the humour found in the originals.

There was something in Falzon's article I couldn't put my finger on. I got the feeling I had read something of the sort before, perhaps by those climate-change deniers who insist the whole idea is a massive hoax perpetrated by Al Gore and polar bear obsessives.

I googled extracts from Falzon's column, and up popped the same sentences, whole paragraphs and phrases - written by other people. Bits from a blog post written last December by a blogger called Babel-Fish and a whole chunk from an article entitled 'Environmental education, environmental education', also written last year.

At this point, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Here was a former minister, a star columnist, fulminating against children for disrespecting ministers and educators for doing their job, and then not respecting readers' intelligence by presenting an article containing passages strikingly similar to various posts on the internet. If this represents our political class, it's no wonder that even children are seeing through politicians.

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