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Island Ecology

Island Ecology

by José P Ribas



Ibiza Ecology

There are very good reasons for autumn to be the best season for the natural conditions of Ibiza and Formentera and also for the social conditions of natives and residents.

They include the physical reasons, the natural meteorological conditions and the labour and social conditions.

After the first rains and storms - normally by the end of the summer - the monotonous and tedious South winds, "Xalóc", "Mitjorn" and "Llebeig" (as we say in Ibicenco), Southeast, South, Southwest, blowing softly, almost non stop all summer from North Africa, hot, dry and dusty, gradually changing to "Llevant", "Gergal" and "Tramontana" (East, Northeast, North).

These winds are much cleaner and fresher. The temperature can drop between four to six degrees centigrade just with the change of winds, which take all the suffocating feeling and the dusty mist away.

The first rains wash away all the dust accumulated during the summer month on buildings, trees and forest, leaving the Island's skies much brighter, with a clean, unpolluted and transparent atmosphere. And the autumn Sun gives the Island's landscapes the best light of the year. Autumn is the best time for the Island photography; don't you think so Gary?

Our rains normally finish when the wind changes from "Gergal" (Northeast), coming from the open Mediterranean. It is very humid, the most rainy the Island gets. Then comes "Tramontana", the North Continental wind. It is the coldest of the lot, also humid when it reaches us.

Soon the wind turns to Northwest, coming from the Atlantic. But it has left its water over the Spanish Mainland. Being still cold, it is dry by the time it is over the Islands. This is "Mestral", very strong winds, often forming tempest, that can blow hard for several days, taking all the clouds away in just a while, leaving always blue skies behind.

"Ponent" (West) the "Sunset" wind as this word means in Ibicenco, have a very similar effect as "Mestral", but not for so long, and can bring spotty rains and very short heavy washes, especially if it blows together with the Southwest wind "Llebeig" - the real specialist for this "on and off" rain.

In general, the autumn temperatures stay warm, ranging from twenty to thirty degrees centigrade during the day. The sea water stays at about twenty degrees centigrade, a bit cooler at nights, but still pleasant to sit for a couple of hours on an open air terrace, comfortable and easier to sleep (or not to sleep) at night. It is the right temperature that we would like to have all the year around, or, let's say that this is how most European citizens programme the heater thermostat to be able to share the same temperature with us (unfortunately without open windows, sunshine and blue skies, of course).

These temperatures, and especially the very-much-needed rains, make our autumn almost like a second spring for the Island's Flora. There are almost as many plants that grow and blossom at the present time and during the coming weeks, as in March-April-May, and soon the mushrooms and toadstools will appear.

This can easily observed in the annual growing rings of the pine-tree trunks which have two cambium rings for each year, one for each raining season. Also in some crops, such as potatoes, having a second chance with the autumn rains, that, hopefully, will be around fifty per cent of our total annual sky water income.

The Island's traditional crops, such as the summer fruits and cereals, apricots, figs, barley, corn, almonds and grapes, are normally ripe by now. However, they ripened about three to four weeks earlier this year, because of the prolonged hot and dry period we suffered during the spring-summer months. This has been happening for the previous five years, during which time the average amount of rain water has been from forty to fifty per cent less then it should be for our minimum requirements, and far, far less then we actually need. So, as we say here, the almonds are already in the sack and the new wine already in the barrel. The harder jobs are over and local farmers look ahead with confidence, keeping an eye on feeding and pampering the pig that will soon be sacrificed. You always can tell when these jobs are done. There is always a smile on the farmer's face and sparks shine in the eye when they tell you how many sacks and especially when they speak about the great quality of their home-made yearly wine. This year, the best ever! They say this every year.

In fact, the grape crop and the wine industry are growing fast on Ibiza, both in quantity and quality. This is something that I will write about more deeply very soon. (As soon as I have been able to taste a few of these new, happy and magic nectars... and I can recover from the hangover).

For the "other" Ibiza, for the tourist trade and all the community involved in it, these are also good times. "S'es figues ya estan cuidas, i si no y'estan, poques s'an cuiran." (You will have to learn Ibicenco if you want to know what this means, but I honestly don't think it's worth it). We already know the balance of trade from the tourist season, the money should be earnt by now, and even though it's not over yet, most of the suffering has been done.

Now we begin to feel the positive side of it, the young noisy crowds have gone, marching on, back to Britain, as most of their "exclusive oases" are closed by now. The marching processions of "Pub Crawls" and "Clubbing Nights" are over, and there is far less "commerce" in the streets. At last, this is not like a Football Cup Final every night.

This is a nice realisation a very much-needed break for all, the local population and the remaining tourists.

On the other hand, also the temporary workers have been paid and these businesses have been steaming strong, so there is more money in the community and also - for some - time to spend it.

There are still a lot of hotels open and some venues - such as good restaurants and the best bars - will do well, maybe even better, for the next month. These weeks can represent the icing on the cake.

For the majority of Ibicencos, it is a real pity that we cannot always work at this civilized tempo, or at least at least enjoy this period for another three or four months than we do now. We all know that this is possible if there is the real political will for it.

But, in general, everybody is already looking forward to closing time, thinking of resting, happy to be a summer survivor, counting the well deserved and hard earned money and also making plans for the winter holidays.

Let's hope that whatever wind blows from now on, will blow peace and harmony into our hearts and cool down our heads, brushing all the black clouds away like "Mestral".

Up in the skies, the planet Mars is still getting closer to the Earth. In a few months, it will be the nearest to us that it has ever been, or will be, for many centuries, so, please remember, if you drink, don't drive... and don't play with nuclear weapons either.

The Good News

Ibiza and especially Ibiza Town have celebrated "The First Environmental Week" a complete week of ecological activities. There was a lot of participation from politicians and university professors presenting the new plans and laws about buildings, waste disposal, water and general development to schoolchildren. They learned about turning rubbish into art, how to produce compost, ecological agriculture, new and clean technologies, etc. Also there were concerts, clown shows and special games for the handicapped. Everybody said it was a great idea and a big success. We all hope it will be repeated in future years.

On Saturday we had "A day down town without my car" a relatively new experience that is being enacted in more and more cities all over the world, over 800 this year. The real practical effects of it are not very bright, but, as Hazel Morgan says in her regular article in the local newspaper, it helps to wake up consciousness and can open a positive debate to find solutions to a very important problem, such as urban traffic congestion.

Hazel Morgan is the president of "Amics de la Terra, Eivissa" the local branch of "Friends of the Earth International".

To Tim Bosnjak from down under in Sydney, Australia. Thank you very much for your kind e-mail. How is it living upside-down? I still don't understand how you can keep the coins in your pockets without dropping them! I am very glad that you have decided to come back some day to Ibiza. Let us know when you are coming; I look forward to it and will save a nice bottle of our new wine to share with you.

Until then, keep in good form and stay by the side of loving company.

Best regards from José and Ibiza.

José P Ribas