photo of a tree and forest

“Take action NOW, minister!” Open Letter demands real action against climate emergency

‘No more “criminal” municipal licensing in sensitive areas’

Two dozen organisations and various well-known thinkers and academics have delivered an Open Letter to the minister of the environment, saying “Mr Minister, take action”.

In the context of so many environmental ‘battles’ – the ripping up of cork oaks in Sines; the razing of a coastal forest in Cascais; the struggle in the north and centre by communities to retain the integrity of their water supplies; the seemingly endless expansion of intensive agriculture along the Costa Vicentina, the letter demands “a new policy for nature that prevents ecocides“. 

Not stopping the “environmental collapse” is “criminal”. It is time “for Portugal to change”, the letter stresses:

“We wake up every day to alarming news about the climate emergency, with serious consequences for people’s health and safety, the environment and the economy, in Portugal and around the world, sometimes caused by droughts, fires and unbearable heatwaves, sometimes by rising sea levels, heavy rains and violent floods.

These extreme phenomena are essentially the result of bad land-use planning practices and over-consumption,” say signatories.

Writing under the banner:  “Towards a New Policy for Nature”, the letter states that it’s time for Portugal change; to take more and better adaptive and mitigating actions towards the climate emergency.

And this has to happen now – not when agriculture becomes unviable due to desertification, or when sea levels rise, when floods reach more urban centres, when the air becomes unbreathable, when respiratory diseases increase.

It’s time to create a new policy for nature that prevents ecocides – destruction with a major impact on the environment, and the over-exploitation of non-renewable resources.

“Now, before it’s too late”, say the authors, who end their letter with the phrase “Mr Minister, act”.

Signed by university professors Viriato Soromenho-Marques and Maria Amélia Martins-Loução and by various associations, the letter states that September was the hottest month on record, that October temperatures in Portugal are much higher than usual, and that efforts to prevent temperatures from rising ‘are not enough’.

It recalls the warnings about this problem from the United Nations, scientific organisations, Pope Francis among so many others, concluding that “it is urgent to create a new policy for nature”.

The letter alludes to Portugal’s multiple ongoing ecocides – “the destruction of forests and water reserves for construction, the cutting down of cork oaks and other native forests, the massive construction in Comporta, Grândola, and the continued expansion of intensive agriculture in the Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Natural Park (greenhouses), among many other examples”, writes Lusa.

Say the signatories: “It is not possible to continue to support municipal licensing in sensitive areas and/or projects of national interest and/or policies that will only aggravate the ongoing environmental collapse and the social and environmental costs that this collapse will entail for everyone, for decades to come. It is criminal to allow it.” 

The letter equally refers to the actions led by groups like Climáximo and Grève Climática Estudantil warning that “inaction provokes radicalisation, something we do not want to happen.

“If nothing is done, the only path left will be the violent one that has been followed by Climáximo, for example…”

On cue, today – and in the absence of any response by the minister for environment – comes the news that the Minho river is now showing signs of ‘worrying decline’, due to pollution, over fishing and climate change .

[email protected]