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Turning a new leaf

Some weeks ago I had written about the possible consequences of global warming, one of which is the melting of glaciers in the Arctic, the most northern region of the world. I had argued that if this were to happen, it would open up a route for ships to go from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean and vice versa and thus potentially dilute the importance of the Mediterranean Sea in relation to commercial shipping.

The news this week was that the oldest and thickest glacier in the Arctic is breaking up. This is certainly the effect of climate change and what may have seemed unreasonable just a few months ago is slowly becoming a reality. The last perennial sea ice in the Arctic is slowly melting. The impact of this development is not only environmental but also economic, and can be disastrous for whole communities. We can no longer treat climate change and its impact as a controversy among academics and must start to understand fully its impact on populations.

We can no longer treat climate change and its impact as a controversy among academics. Photo: ReutersWe can no longer treat climate change and its impact as a controversy among academics. Photo: Reuters

Another news item this week, also with important economic considerations, related to food waste. New analysis shows that food loss is set to increase by a third by 2030 unless urgent action is taken. It is estimated that a total of 2.1 billion tonnes of food will go to waste by that date. This translates into 66 tonnes per second. Today the amount of food that is either thrown away or lost amounts to one third of all the food produced.

In the meantime the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates there are well over 800 million persons in the world who are suffering from undernourishment. Food waste also contributes to eight per cent of global greenhouse emissions, thereby also leading to harm to the environment.

Apart from the inequalities that this situation brings about, one needs to remember that agriculture continues to shrink in relation to the rest of the economy and there are still many economic inefficiencies in food production. We need to find solutions to reduce and eventually eliminate such inefficiencies and waste. We must stop burying our head in the sand and take an honest and objective look at food waste and the problems caused by undernourishment.

One of the positive news of recent days was that Greece has officially exited its eight-year bailout programme. At the time the bailout started, there were a lot of words said about Grexit (Greece’s exit from the eurozone) and its potential impact on the euro. This has not been an easy period for the Greeks as they had to undertake severe economic reforms.

Pensioners, students and workers have all lost as a result of the financial crisis that Greece had plunged into. They were very painful times. Today Greece is reported to be growing again, there is a budget and trade surplus, and unemployment is falling steadily. There are still those who doubt whether the Greek economy will ever get back to the levels pre-2010, and they may be right.

More reforms are needed, such as more digitisation, better functioning of the State sector, and less onerous conditions for business start-ups. However, this is not much different to other European countries. There are grounds to hope that Greece will have finally turned a new leaf.

We must stop burying our head in the sand and take an honest and objective look at food waste and the problems caused by undernourishment

An article in the newspaper The Guardian caught my eye. This also related to debt. It concerned the burden that American young people who go to University have to carry for several years after their graduation. Since tertiary education is not free in that country, most young persons who opt to go to University take out student loans.

The burden can be very hard to carry as many would not earn enough money to pay back the debt. Even the total amount that is owed in the form of student loans is mind-boggling. Repayments can amount to over $1,000 a month.

In Malta we do not even comprehend what this may mean. Tertiary education students receive a stipend for their efforts and most graduates would start their working lives without the burden of a loan. We have been able to afford such a system, thanks to the strong belief that we have had as a country that education is to be one of the areas that we should invest strongly in, and thanks to a thriving economy.

The silly season is gradually drawing to a close. However there are still many things that we read about daily in the news that should provide us with food for thought. As a country we still need to learn not to take things lightly, superficially and for granted. It is never too late to turn a new leaf.

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