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Chances are we aren’t the only planet with life on it, or so a betting man would have it, given the balance of probabilities in this scenario dictates that one must at least consider the possibility.

The odds of finding another planet with intelligent life that is so intent on destroying itself, however, must be far slimmer, or so an optimistic man would hope.

Much like everyone else, I am not immune to the abject horror that follows upon hearing about the latest bit of surreal skullduggery surrounding the Ficus trees in Mosta’s square, the very same ones that can’t seem to catch a break from human beings who want to eradicate them.

Moviment Graffitti was one of the first to sound the alarm about the suspected act of poisoning, carried out via the direct injection of an unidentified liquid into holes that were bored into the trees. I visited the site myself and can confirm that the holes seem like they were drilled using precision equipment, indicating the work of someone who was equipped to do a job and knew exactly what to look for. You can see it in the photos below – roots were given preference wherever they were exposed. Trunks were only bored into whenever roots weren’t exposed at surface level.

The way in which this was carried out contradicts the official narrative condemning this as an act of vandalism. An act of vandalism tends to be imprecise, messy, and often attributable to a spur of the moment kind of decision. Besides the precise, deliberate methodology, the initial reports surrounding this story also indicate that the perpetrator has repeatedly visited the site and continued carrying out the operation according to what seems to be a schedule.

There is also the question of motive. Why would someone choose to vandalise these specific trees in this well-planned, resource-intensive manner? A vandal with a political message will often scrawl a message to drive their point home, or choose to target a building which represents an institution that is the subject of that message. A vandal who is simply angry and/or intoxicated will smash a window or maybe elbow a car’s side view mirror just for the hell of it.

Why would a vandal bore holes and pour what is probably some sort of specific poisoning agent into the trunk of twelve trees which were the subject of major uproar and subsequent public support? The next logical question, then, is to ask who benefits from wiping out these trees. Again, an average member of the general public has no identifiable reason to enact such a plan. There isn’t a political message to extract from this, and there isn’t any reasonable scenario in which some drunk goon would suddenly decide to rev up the driller and pour one out for the trees, either.

The only other logical conclusion is that this is somehow linked to the one thing that’s disturbed these trees since the Luftwaffe’s bombs ripped through Mosta’s dome: the much maligned roadworks that have been going on in the area for ages and which almost led to these trees being completely destroyed in the first place. It has to be someone who stands to gain more from these trees not making it to next winter than if they did.

Occam’s razor dictates that this is motivated by profit, not spite – there is no plausible reason to spite twelve trees which are clearly beloved by the whole locality. It is far more plausible to consider that one who stands to make a profit out of a contract to replace those trees or rearrange the landscaping of the area after they die would be far more motivated to do it. To be clear, this isn’t an article insinuating that coarse-headed mayor or his equally distasteful fellows on the local council are behind this, as I have no evidence to suggest that.

A young protestor who had attended a protest against the removal of Mosta’s trees last November holds a placard that reads: ‘the only thing you need to eradicate is the hatred in your hearts’. Photo: Julian Delia

But the fact of the matter is that this has ‘stitch-up’ written all over it, and it is automatically concerning to hear the authorities state that they are going to investigate it when they’re the ones who repeatedly breached public trust and almost spelled certain doom for these trees to begin with.

If they were willing to give the go-ahead to clear out these trees once, on what grounds are we supposed to trust that there will be no foul play involved in this instance? Of all the direct orders we’ve paid for to get precisely jack-shit in return, can’t we spare one for an independent expert who could establish what is going on here beyond any reasonable doubt?

One thing these trees did achieve within their lifetime is serve as a perfect analogy for what we are doing to ourselves.

We are so desperate for the feeling of personal insurance that profit brings that there are people who walk among us who would literally pour poison into a tree for it, people who would murder a journalist for it, people who will sell their daughters into prostitution, people who will commit one armed robbery after another, people who will commit heinous atrocities in the morning and watch a film with their partner and their kids in the evening. People who will sell hospitals, power stations, passports – anything.

Wherever you look around you, you will see signs of despair and worry written on people’s faces. Whenever you hear a conversation, someone will eventually bring up barely making it to the end of the month, or just needing to get through this week. You can practically taste the anger as it surges in our chaotic roads, overcrowded bars, unhappy homes. It is like living in a vacuum-sealed bag. The oxygen is running out, and most seem to think all they need to do is buy their way out of it. Just staying alive consumes all of your energy.

If it really was as simple as buying your way out of it, I’d be the first in line at the trough, itching to get my grubby hands all over the public purse with the best of them. But it isn’t. Working your way towards personal wealth won’t free you from living under all the oppressive governments which are bearing down on us all across the globe, even if you are in that government specifically to further your own personal wealth. Your own time in power will come and go, too, and when it goes, you will be shivering naked in the wind with everyone else.

Wealth won’t spare you from the climate crisis, the several ongoing major conflicts ravaging the earth as we speak, the all-too-likely collapse of everything you’ve ever known at the hands of men who simply do not know when to stop. It won’t spare you from knowing that, at a time when humanity needs selfless altruism more than ever, you chose to instead carve out as much as you could for yourself because that’s what you wanted.

Value for shareholders means fuck all when there is no food to eat.

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