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Island Ecology

Island Ecology

by José P Ribas

Kafka Upside-Down On A Carousel ...


Ibiza Ecology

Just after we were able to taste the first fresh figs “figas-fló” (the first kind to appear around Sant Joan in the last week of June) I intended to start a series of two or three articles about another of the symbolic trees of the landscapes and the culture of the Pitiusas Islands, the fig-tree.

We have been receiving in the last few months, personally and also to the editorial at Ibiza History Culture a good number of e-mails from our readers from all parts of the Islands and some from other countries, from residents with property here that they use only temporarily.

They are astonished to see the amount of negative changes they find every time they come. They see many “irregular” works and buildings being done all over, such as deforestation in protected areas, the closing of ancestral ways to the seaside or the opening of new ones just for private use.

They see where people have been building walls and fences on public ground to use the soil for private business, perforating and using new private wells without any licence just to water their grass and exotic gardens.

In Ibiza Town they still have to drink salty water this summer.

Meanwhile there are people removing earth and sand to be sold, creating new illegal sandpits, changing completely and drastically the landscape of entire areas, building villas and blocks of apartments, even complete urbanisation in what are supposed to be very restricted, protected areas.

In the great majority of these cases, this activities means, with no doubt, the breaking of the actual laws about ecology, a clear and real crime against the environment, condemned by the local, national and international environmental laws. And always for the profit of a very few, always for the same ones.

But why? Why are all these crimes allowed? Is it because the ecological laws are considered to be second, or rather third class laws? How is it that these laws can be so easily broken with the complicit partnership of some of our politicians and tribunals?

I would love to be able (if I’m capable), to answer all these e-mails publicly, because I think this is the only way that it can have some practical effects upon the problems that we are all denouncing.

Opening a public debate on them (only the denouncements that reach the front page in local newspapers seem to get any timid answers there may be from the soft political opposition). And also because now, at this time of the year, after working hard - at least ten hours for seven days a week in my regular job - apart from writing these weekly articles as well as other responsibilities as a family man, there is very little time and energy left for me to answer personally to each one of them.

Everybody, including all the political parties, says they recognise and agree about the extremely urgency to face and work out our ecological problems. They involve residues, water, black-water treatment, energy, uncontrolled and anarchic building, etc., They are still there, despite everybody knowing the total impossibility of carrying on building, growing and developing like in the past years, trying to ignore and avoid those more-than-obvious problems, without a sustainable plan, without a clear and accepted definition of our obvious limits. The real truth is that these problems just keep getting bigger and bigger, becoming chronic, and condemning us and our children’s’ future.

The political and the legal situation towards these problems in our community have reached the “summum” of the absurd and the maximum inefficacy in practical terms.

Or maybe everything is so obviously clear and it is really scary just to see how much perfidy and greed there is in the hearts of some of those who say they do all for the best of the Islands and its inhabitants. (The ones, who say that the power should be for the people, really want the power for the ones who say that the power should be for the people. I remember reading that somewhere!).

Oh yes, there is plenty of bitter debate on these problems, in every political session. Kafka could have beaten his own absurd records just by writing about the political news and the contradicting declarations of the politicians appearing daily in the local press.

Let’s take for instance a singular case, a private urbanisation by “Port des Torrent” in Sant Josép. This urbanisation was being built two years ago (just before and during the building moratoria declared by the “Consell Insular” to try to stop - without success - the chaotic building situation).

It was twelve metres away from the beach and the seaside (I went there with some neighbours to measure it). The “National Law on the Coast Line” says, and also said at the time, that no buildings can be built within two hundred metres from it. The neighbours’ association presented a denouncement to Sant Josép Town Hall and to the local government “Consell Insular”, advised and backed by “GEN” and “Friends of the Earth, Eivissa” for what they thought was a clear case against the actual laws.

The response of the “Consell Insular” proved the neighbours right and sent the orders to Sant Josép to stop immediately all the building works. Nothing happened.

The response of Sant Josép was that this area was declared as already urbanised, as it was part of Sant Josép downtown, seven kilometres away! But to declare an area as urbanised means that all the infrastructures are already built on it (water and energy supplies, sewerage system completed and working, pavements and parking areas, roads and accesses open, etc).

Nothing of it was even started then (!!). The answer of the building company was to start building the trenches for all those needed services. To do so - to make a trench of more then two kilometres long by almost two metres deep and one metre wide in solid rock - the most heavy and noisy machinery was used. Caterpillars with huge compressor hammers among others. This was happening by the end of June and it went on all through July, August and September, in an area with more then two thousand tourist beds, as well as several hundred residents in a radius of less then four hundred metres and twenty metres from Port des Torrent beach, one of the most crowded on the Island.

The national laws, as well as the Balearic Community, including Sant Josép laws, are very clear about building in the tourist areas: any and all building activities have to stop completely from the 15th May until the 15th October, especially in tourist areas, or near by the areas that are being used as tourist relaxation areas, such as beaches and public parks; nothing that can disturb the relaxation of the tourists who have paid their good money to be able to rest and enjoy their holidays(!!!). More denouncements came from the neighbours, from all the ecological groups, from the “Consell Insular” and from private tourists, taking the case in to the tribunals.

The response of Sant Josép was that, in some cases, if they considered it was a priority and an event of “public interest” (?) they can vote a new local law and give the licence if they consider it convenient. But the law also says that no local laws can derogate a national law without a voting of the National Courts. So what on earth is all this?

The debate was opened and bitter discussions started. The carousel started turning, speeding faster and faster as the discussions around the problem were getting spun more and more. The arguments were speeding around the problem, but the problem itself, as with the axle of the carousel, didn’t move a single inch.

But what I really wanted for this week was to speak about the figs and the fig tree.

The fig tree is the favourite tree of the painters, as the almond tree is the favourite of the poets and photographers. The fig’s twisted and long branches, forming like an umbrella with its supports, are an excellent drawing exercise and it decorates beautifully the paintings of our countryside.

The fig tree is also a mystic tree; Buddha was illuminated meditating under a fig tree. There is definitely an aura around the fig tree, as I can remember as a child, after the Sunday celebration lunches, where we use to eat the fish that my father, and later my brother and I use to catch the same morning to be eaten with the rest of the family, at my grandparents’ farm. After the lunch, in the hottest hours of the day, I remember my father and mother going to get fresh figs from the tree as dessert. They warned the children not to molest them, because they would have a little siesta under the tree’s lovely and cool shade after eating. I know since then that there is something very special with this tree, when I remember their faces after the “siesta”, normally with a serious and hard look, then they was radiant, relaxed and happy, like coming back from Nirvana.

The apartments in Port des Torrent have been for longer than a year already on the market for sale. You can see the publicity blurb (apartments for sale in Port des Torrent, ten metres to the seaside) in the Diario de Ibiza. The denounces? Goodness knows! The results of this Kafkaesque affair: A lot of energy, time and resources wasted. The Rights of a lot of citizens ignored and frustrated. The Truth and the Justice insulted and violated. All and anything for the money. (Of a few, of course).

This is like reading Kafka upside-down, speeding around on a carousel, trying to eat figs at the same time (I have a headache).

Even so, I will try to continue for a few weeks, just to try to understand something of it myself. I hope to have the help of Hazel Morgan, president of “Amics de la Terra, Eivissa” and also from Joan Carles Palerm, president of “GEN-GOB, Eivissa-Formentera”. Meanwhile, I will carry on eating figs. (Do you have any aspirins left? Please).

José P Ribas