Sharing insight in times of crisis
By John Barea
Mother Nature has given us more than enough warnings, and yet very little has been done worldwide. There is far too much pollution in the atmosphere, the seas are full of plastics and waste, and there is very little reduction of fossil fuels, not to mention the continuous deforestation of the Amazon rain forest. The largest rain forest in the world which plays such a vital part for the planet as it controls one of the most dangerous greenhouse gasses, carbon dioxide - a major contributor for the sun’s rays getting trapped in the atmosphere and heating the entire planet causing massive global disasters, such as unstoppable forest fires, tsunamis, large areas of ice melting in the Arctic Circle, floods etc.
I will borrow Sir David Attenborough’s words:
“The plain fact is that every mouthful of food you eat comes from the natural world. Every lungful of air that you breathe is refined by the natural world, oxygen breathed out by plants. If you can’t breathe and you can’t eat, you don’t exist.”
In my opinion Covid-19 has come about mostly because of global warming and this pandemic is nature’s way to save the planet, it’s a warning, a wakeup call.
Climate-change scientists claim that due to the worldwide lockdown, there has already been a notable decline in pollution. Things change rapidly. It’s very strange how an invisible agent has enforced closing down the business of the world and the economy. Because of the pandemic hundreds of Gibraltarians have excelled themselves by registering to become volunteers, and continue doing vital work helping the elderly and assisting the government in other fields. They have been disposing of our household refuse, and delivering the Gibraltar Chronicle, and the Panorama. Our heartfelt thanks go to these volunteers and to the Chronicle and Panorama for these kind gestures.
On a lifesaving note, I urge everyone to comply with the GHA medical professional’s advice. Also to be attentive, and pay attention to a man who we are lucky to have as Chief Minister, Mr. Fabian Picardo, a highly intelligent politician, an excellent diplomat, and a loving family man who cares deeply for the safety of each and every person in Gibraltar. Undoubtedly, he bears an enormous weight on his shoulders. It is imperative not only to listen attentively, but to act to his instructions. We thank the two political parties that are helping Government. A big thank you must also go to our Deputy Chief Minister, for his present help, and for the untiring preparatory work relating to Brexit, together with all his professional team.
A big shout of gratitude goes to Health Minister Paul Balban and our super heroes on the frontline; doctors, matrons, sisters, nurses, paramedics, EMT’s, chemists, clerks, cleaners, and all others GHA staff worthy of mentioning. To you all, our heartfelt thanks; we are with you all the way and will comply with your instructions.
An important side effect of Covid-19 is the uneasiness it’s manifesting because we know so little about it. Anxiety thrives on uncertainty; the more stress you have the more vulnerable you can become to viruses; stress can dampen your immune response. You can do one of two things: worry yourself sick, or try one of the many programmes that deal with stress and fear management, prayers, different types of meditation and exercise do help.
It seemed that Gibraltar was blessed when the overpowering Grand Attack of 1782 by France and Spain, was repulsed and ended in an outstanding victory for British Gibraltar.
On 3rd September 1939 Britain declared war against Germany. For reasons of defence the civil population of Gibraltar consisting of women, children, the elderly and infirm, were uprooted forcefully from their homes and evacuated to Casablanca in French Morocco. The first batch had sailed in May and the second in June 1940. In such a close knit community like ours which is family-orientated, leaving our loved ones behind was a painful and heart-breaking experience. We were less than two months in French Morocco, when the Royal Navy Force “H” left Gibraltar and on arrival at Oran on 3rd July 1940, destroyed the French Fleet that was berthed there. Subsequently, we were turfed out of Casablanca, and forced to embark in filthy cargo ships that had previously shipped French troops. On arrival, the Governor Clive Liddell did not allow evacuees to land but this was later resolved.
On 10th August 1940, our eyes were filled with tears as we hugged and said goodbye to our loved ones that were left behind because men that held jobs considered essential for the war effort were not allowed to leave Gibraltar. The first batch of 1,250 evacuees boarded TS Neuralia and sailed to the island of Madeira on 10th August. On the 9th October 1,093 evacuees boarded Neuralia and left for Jamaica.
On 20th August 1940 the Neuralia set sail to the United Kingdom with 1,800 evacuees, I remember that in order to avoid enemy submarines the convoy had to circumnavigate far out into the Atlantic. After sixteen days at sea we finally arrived in Liverpool wharf and tied alongside. Most evacuees were ill, and the stench of vomit was everywhere. Late evening, the air raid alarm went off and a heavy air raid begun. The Neuralia immediately cast off and hurriedly sped out of the docks and went out a few miles into open sea. It was obvious the Luftwaffe target was the dock area.
We returned the next day, disembarked and boarded the train for London where we very soon experienced the Battle of Britain and a few years of heavy bombing both by conventional aircrafts and flying bombs. Later some were sent also to Nissan huts in Northern Ireland.
Some years later, the Association for the Advancement of Civil Rights (AACR) were very active dealing with repatriation of evacuees. Eventually the AACR became a political party and introduced political reforms.
The 1969 New Constitution was the boiling point for General Franco. He indiscriminately closed the land frontier and closed all communication with Gibraltar, hoping to bring the Gibraltarians to their knees in submission, but the cast iron resilience of the Gibraltarians, to never surrender, won the day. Gibraltar gradually started to prosper with the help of Great Britain and the friendship and work of our Moroccan neighbours. Sixteen years later, the new Spanish Socialist government opened the frontier.
THE NEXT CHALLENGE: BREXIT
The Chief Minister, his deputy and team, have been negotiating very thoroughly with their UK counterparts. Most of our financial businesses will deal mainly with the UK, and in addition, we will also be working with the Commonwealth countries. It will take time, but Gibraltar will prosper as it has always done.
From the early stages of Covid-19, the Government of Gibraltar together with the health professionals have been preparing for the worst scenario well in advance and this has helped considerably, and the population have contributed quite well and thanks God no deaths have been reported.
Nature is sending us a message with the coronavirus pandemic and the ongoing climate crisis, according to the UN’s environment chief, Inger Andersen. Today’s civilisation is “playing with fire”. The experts say to prevent further outbreaks of global warming and the destruction of the natural world, immediate action by all nations is paramount.
Considering Gibraltar’s historic ability to overcome very difficult situations, without any doubt, the world will eventually conquer this pandemic monster and our life on this blessed Rock will reap unimaginable benefits.
Finally, let me say to the world outside.
The people of our little nation are kind, peace loving, and generous.
Once a week they contribute to different charities locally and abroad. They contribute to charities as far afield as Western Africa. “Gib Mission Africa” was taken over by Gibraltarians on the demise of Father George Grima a priest much loved by all. “Action 4 Schools” continues working in Sierra Leone operated by Jimmy Bruzon and his founding trustees, and Louise Barea GHA staff nurse promoter of “Help Me Learn Africa” and her team of excellent volunteers continues to do outstanding work in helping the least fortunate children of Africa in the village of Maranatha (Aramaic – “The Lord Cometh”) in Ghana.
I will borrow a paragraph from “The Gibraltarian” written many years ago by the late Director of Education Dr. H.W. Howes, courtesy of publisher Joe Garcia.
“Yet there is something rather fine in a people, who, coming from several lands on or near the Mediterranean Sea, and have had to progress the hard way, have managed within a British framework to forge ahead commercially, artistically and politically. Perhaps, even more striking is that in about two and a half centuries, the people of Gibraltar with different racial and cultural inheritances have become so welded together that there has emerged the Gibraltarian.”
In the fabric of the Gibraltarian lies a deep notion capable of turning survival and adversity into outstanding success.