18 Jan 2019 Story Air

Reconnecting with an environment both rich and fragile

An interview with Silvia Calvó, Minister of Environment, Agriculture and Sustainability of Andorra 

What do you think is the most pressing environmental issue today and why?

I think the most important environmental problem that we're facing today is humanity's irrational and unsustainable over-exploitation of natural resources. This is contributing to water and air pollution, climate change, reduced biodiversity and all the other environmental issues that have been observed in recent decades.

This problem is probably due to the fact that humanity has become completely disconnected from its relationship with nature, mistakenly assuming that, with the aid of technology, we can free ourselves of the limits which nature imposes on us. Andorra, a mountain country of less than 500 km2, has an environment that is both rich and fragile. We welcome some eight million tourists a year, so we must be very alert to the pressure which we can exert on our natural resources.

What do you think are some of the practical ways to address it?

We who live in the most highly developed countries should probably give up part of our way of life with respect to the consumption of fossil fuels (for transportation, heating and air conditioning), food consumption (in relation to an excess of meat in our diet and food waste) and other aspects of this type. This would have a very direct effect on our consumption and would jump-start the so-called "green economy", which includes everything from the principles of the circular economy to the production of clean energy.

It would be very important for the countries that have not experienced this type of development, which is so aggressive towards nature, to achieve the same development level without going through all the stages which are known to have disastrous effects on the environment and on people's health. This would involve the direct development of models of society which consume less resources, making a determined commitment to sustainable mobility, renewable energies and more responsible consumption, in the aim of giving rise to exemplary innovative societies whose members will surely face fewer health problems.

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How would you encourage the public to support environmental causes?

To achieve a change of model it is indispensable to have the support of society as a whole for a way of doing things that is respectful of the environment. People need to be correctly informed, they need innovative and accessible solutions, and they will probably need to make an effort if they are to run counter to the attractive dominant consumerist model. I am sure that the change will be made with the new generations and it is with them that we must work. In Andorra, near 70 per cent of our school-going children and young people attend green schools, which are organized to face, by means of education and in all spheres of school life, the new challenges and values of sustainability.

Above all, however, we should recognize the priceless value of the ecosystem services provided to us by biodiversity, and we should recover the respect for nature which is indispensable if humans are to rediscover the place they should rightly hold on our planet. Andorra is a mountain country where a large part of the people live with their backs to the mountains. In order for our society to recover its contact with nature, we are building a network of green paths that connect urban areas with protected spaces, allowing our citizens, families and elderly people to enjoy our natural and rural landscape in full safety.