The self-made man – undone?

We have two colours of bougainvillea: this one covering the front veranda

We have two colours of bougainvillea: this one covering the front veranda . . .

. . . and this one, starting to show strongly at last, on a front wall

. . . and this one, starting to show strongly at last, on a front wall

A close-up of Narrow-leaved Crimson Clover, Trifolium Angustifolium. You have to get close to some of the wild plants to see just how lovely they are

A close-up of Narrow-leaved Crimson Clover, Trifolium angustifolium. You have to get close to some of the wild plants to see just how lovely they are

This 40cm lizard appeared on the veranda: an Eyed Lizard, named for the blue spots along its flanks. We'd never seen a lizard of this size before. The photo also serves to highlight how much the veranda is in need of cleaning and painting

This 40cm lizard appeared on the veranda: an Eyed Lizard, named for the blue spots along its flanks. We’d never seen a lizard of this size before. Its arrival also served to highlight how much the veranda is in need of cleaning and painting

I tried for a long time to catch the Carpenter Bee and its violet-blue wings, but it does not stay still for more than a micro-second. Still, this is not a bad shot of the big fat bee

I tried for a long time to catch the Carpenter Bee and its violet-blue wings, but it does not stay still for more than a micro-second. Still, this is not a bad shot of the big fat bee

 

When you hear a whistle at your back, a sharp, clear Fee fee-ooo, of course you turn to see who is calling you. It turns out to be the Golden Oriole, whose fluty call is one of the dominant sounds of the valley right now. The bird is about the size of a blackbird; the male is brilliantly yellow with black wings, the female drabber in olive and yellow. Despite the gloss-paint shine of the male bird, he is well concealed in sunlit leafy trees. A couple are often in our back garden and might be nesting there.

Sousa Cintra heard a whistle at his back this week. He has finally been stopped from drilling on a site in Perdigão in the western Algarve. Under guise of drilling for water he was covertly, and slightly ludicrously, engaged in oil exploration. Activists had been monitoring the site, where chemical froth was pooling on the land and running into a nearby stream. A geologist employed by Portfuel – Cintra’s hastily put together ‘oil’ company – was found to have been on site for much of the time; a hardly necessary appointment had Cintra simply been drilling for the water. In a joint action of planning and environment agencies, along with the GNR (the national republican guard), Cintra was told on 27 April to suspend the work.

On 28 April, Jorge Moreira da Silva, ex-Minister for the Environment, faced a joint hearing of the parliamentary committees on environment and economy about the onshore oil concessions in the Algarve. He continued to make the mutually-self-cancelling defences that the contracts are for exploration only, and that the people of the Algarve deserve the wealth and the development opportunities that oil will provide. He said that all the fuss about the oil was being kicked up by retired foreigners who wanted to preserve the Algarve as ‘uma terra de índios’: a land of indigenous poor people. As a politician’s view of the people of the Algarve, it’s revealing. Until 1911 when Portugal became a republic, the country was known as ‘the kingdom of Portugal and the Algarve’, and this sense of the Algarve as being ‘other’ seems to prevail.

The money argument is a difficult one. The idea that oil brings wealth is deeply embedded in human culture. However, even if you kick all the environmental arguments into the long grass and pretend that it’s still a good idea to dig up Mother Nature’s fossil fuels, it isn’t going to make Portugal rich. If you compare the planned payments to the public purse of the explorations in Portugal with those of, for example, Norway, the difference is startling. The Portuguese concessions must pay, after all their expenses have been recovered, 3 per cent (to begin with); in Norway it’s 80 per cent. And by the way, why have the payment terms been stipulated when the contracts are ‘only for exploration’?

But we cannot kick the environmental arguments into the long grass. The law which allowed these oil concessions to be awarded is dated 1994, not so long ago in human years, but aeons ago in human consciousness. We emphatically know the risks of global warming now that we only suspected then, and we have dangers now that we’d barely dreamt of then, such as fracking, and its release of methane gas, even worse than carbon dioxide. And we are compelled to act upon this new knowledge. Or we should be, especially if we are the Minister for the Environment. But not so Moreira da Silva.

Then, just to show that he truly is shameless, we learnt that he stood for the post of executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. He reached the last two in the competition. He didn’t get the gig; it went to Mexican Patricia Espinosa instead. Small mercies.

The local mayoral organisation, who are vocal in their condemnation of the contracts given to Sousa Cintra to explore for oil onshore, are less vocal about the offshore concessions, which are due to start activities in October this year. That’s a whole other battle.

10 Comments

  1. Hazel

    The perfidy of big business. Just going to look up Carpenter Bees now to discover how they acquired their name! Brilliant sunshine here in London today and it’s almost warm! xx

    Reply
    1. Edith (Post author)

      Carpenter Bees so-called because they like to nest in wood. It was probably checking the frame of my lovely artwork from Taran Flaten as a potential nest site. I’m glad it went elsewhere!

      Reply
  2. BeckyB

    Wow that Lizard is enormous . . she probably is delighted with how your gorgeous veranda looks! Very envious of you and the lizard at the moment, it is nice to be back home but we are really missing the warmth, wildlife and the markets!

    And what nonsense Jorge Moreira da Silva says . . .if the miserly 3% was going directly to the locals then yes perhaps he could argue the ‘foreigners’ are depriving them of wealth. However little and probably none of it will ever find its way to those who live in the Algarve. Plus he seems to be forgetting that the so called ‘foreigners’ probably match if not exceed that 3% in what they bring to the Algarve and will continue to bring if the region remains beautiful.

    Reply
    1. Edith (Post author)

      Becky, quite right, well put. The Algarve’s contribution to GDP via tourism is immense and far exceeds any fantasy contribution by a destructive oil industry. The people who are pushing this dinosaur on us will line their own pockets, that’s all. And worsen our lovely planet’s sorry state.

      Reply
  3. Patricia Roberts

    You are. amazing Mab,you care for the. Environment which is to everyone’s advantage.

    Reply
    1. Patricia Roberts

      So much good sense you have,every bit helps ,such a wonderful earth we have please let us keep it that way.

      Reply
  4. Marlene

    Jorge Moreira da Silva sounds like a proper villain. Thank goodness he didn’t make the cut. What claim does he have to lead the UNFCCC!

    http://newsroom.unfccc.int/unfccc-newsroom/patricia-espinosa-selected-new-unfccc-executive-secretary/

    Awesome lizard, by the way. Had to look it up. Regarded as common in the Iberian Peninsula. Amazing creature!

    Reply
    1. Edith (Post author)

      Hi Marlene, yes, another grinning villain. A very good journalist here, called João Camargo, wrote a piece on Wednesday for Público, national newspaper, about how Moreira da Silva, while minister for the environment, behaved exactly like the minister for oil. It’s shocking that he was even in the running for the UNFCCC. (Glad you like the lizard!)

      Reply
  5. Allure

    That lizard is the “sardão” in Portugal.
    Another lizard we see often in Portugal is the “lagarto-de-água” (Lacerta schreiberi), or the Iberian Emerald Lizard. Its absolutely gorgeous, I recommend you check it out 🙂

    Reply
  6. fatma

    Once again, stunning photos to contrast with the ugliness and deceit of politics. (the blue winged carpenter bee is indeed arresting). ‘chemical froth was pooling on the land and running into a nearby stream’ – this sentence alone paints a painful picture. How can some people be so contemptuous and care so little about the beautiful earth that supports us?

    Reply

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