Being by the sea is our only chance to experience public space once again; to be connected with one another and with nature.
By the IotL Magazine
Image by Raisa Galea
Are you suffocating on a little rock that is becoming crammed with buildings, parking spaces and wider roads to accommodate an ever-increasing number of cars? You are not alone. As the land is turning into a hostile cage—to provide for economic growth at any cost—we turn our gaze to the sea. The sight of the vast expanse of blue and the sound of waves crushing on the shore reinvigorate us and make the inhospitable urban environment more tolerable.
Just as the few remaining undeveloped spaces on land, the coast and the sea are under a constant threat of privatisation and overbuilding. Grand land reclamation projects and applications for private jetties at the expense of public swimming zones seek to deprive us of access to the source of joy and well-being—the sea. We must not let this happen! The reading list below revisits the reasons for safeguarding the sea as a public space.
1. A Sea That Connects and Nurtures Is No Longer Ours. Time to Reclaim It!
by Kristina Borg
The sea has always been the major force that shaped history of Malta. It brought food, goods, storms, visitors, good and bad news.
A man from Gżira recounted when as a child, together with his friend, he bought his first raft. Although they could not afford it, the sea offered a solution. Every morning they used to dive for glass bottles, thrown away and dumped on the seabed, and in the evening they returned them at the grocery store, earning a few cents for their glass recycling endeavour. Little by little, they managed to save enough money to buy a raft, and enjoyed rowing out to Sliema.
The sea was so child-friendly that it was common for children from Gżira to swim from Manoel Island to Valletta and back.
The sea was so child-friendly that it was common for children from Gżira to swim from Manoel Island to Valletta and back, or in the opposite direction for those who lived in Valletta. On the last day of the scholastic year, Msida children used to swim back home from their school—situated within the confines of today’s Pietà—to the creek.
The seafront as a public space and meeting point seems to be the only resource element that somehow managed to survive until today, but for how long will it prevail?
Read more here or listen to the audio essay below.
2. How the Sea Has Become Malta’s Only Pavement
by Charlene Galea
As I walked and looked around, my home town began revealing a striking pattern which I had not been aware of before.
Separated by a narrow busy road, there lay two distinct, contrasting worlds: the one of the tower cranes and apartment blocks, and the other of the sea. So close and yet so far, they could not have been more different. While the overexploited urban area reverberated with the roar of jackhammers, the sound of the sea was soothing and revitalising.
I could not take my eyes off the horizon—that blurred thin line where the sea met the sky—the only unobstructed view I could find. This was the ultimate landscape I was searching for, but could not find on land; the only refuge from the chaos of the claustrophobic, densely built up town. Not only did the worlds of land and sea look so unlike one another, but—most fascinatingly—people there seemed as though they were two different kinds of humans. Influenced by tower cranes and noise, people’s attitude varied from indifference to agitation, while, by the sea, they seemed at ease and more aware of one another. In other words, they were simply more humane by the sea.
Being here, by the sea, was the only chance to experience public space once again; to be connected with one another and with nature.
People flocked to the sea, immersed themselves into it and populated the narrow stretch of coastline, squeezed between the water and the construction sites. They sat there contemplating the horizon, talking, socialising: the coast was the place where life was happening. Being here, by the sea, was the only chance to experience public space once again; to be connected with one another and with nature.
Read more here.
3. Valletta and Our Common Good: Beyond the Pale
by Josephine Burden
Walking the track outside the bastions, I have that rare sense of being ‘beyond the pale’ or outside the influence of the authorities that determine the spaces within the defensive bastions in the city “built by gentlemen for gentlemen”. Implied in that phrase, the exclusion of women and of ordinary Maltese from the Common Good of the city is brushed over as history. “By gentlemen for gentlemen” denies the common good and sustains a view of Valletta as a gated community under the control of a narrow segment of the population.
Outside the walls lies a boundary space where ordinary people have more say in shaping the way we share the commons. Is sea and shore part of our common good?
What does it mean for the Common Good when three massive cruise liners enter Grand Harbour on the same day and pollute our air by burning heavy fuel oil to keep the air conditioning running for the passengers who are busy doubling the population of Valletta? How can we extend the Common Good of the ferry service so that other parts of Marsamxett and Grand Harbours are served? These are all aspects of this precious space outside the walls that we all need to negotiate as common good.
What does it mean for the Common Good when three massive cruise liners enter Grand Harbour on the same day and pollute our air by burning heavy fuel oil to keep the air conditioning running for the passengers who are busy doubling the population of Valletta?
Already, the Marsamxett side of Valletta is compromised by cars and commercial outlets. Perhaps we can enlist the natural force of the sea to save the headland but we will have to be nimble and organize collectively to save Grand Harbour foreshore from cruise liners and commercial exploitation.
My hope lies with the sea and the ferocious power with which she batters the exposed headland and pours water into this stretch of the ditch. Already the powerful storms have washed away the garish lights that embellished the new breakwater bridge.
Read more here.
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