When, for the most part, the world spins around the ideals of consumerism and capitalism, it is often hard to reconcile these motifs with an environmental awareness. In the case of Spain, and in the past few years, there has been an evident effort from governmental quarters to implement policies that may contribute to a safer and healthier environment. However, some of the policies implemented so far seem, at least, slightly paradoxical as they often enter in conflict with other government-sanctioned practices that do not contribute to a more eco-friendly ’cosmos.’
On the one hand, and at the level of production, for example, big efforts have been made in Spain in order to improve the way in which factories and businesses relate to the ‘downsides of productivity.’ Increasingly, businesses have to be more accountable for the management of solid, liquid and gas residues resulting from any industrial activity. Only a few decades ago, factories released their pollutants directly onto the waters of nearby rivers and uninhabited areas of land with no responsibility whatsoever for how they altered the makeup of entire ecosystems and, on the way, affected humans. Now, controls both at the national and regional levels are more intense and exhaustive and, though direct pollution to the environment still occurs, it is less frequent and always punishable by law. In a similar vein, and in order to decrease the country’s dependency on fossil fuels, new private and public edifications and buildings are required to make use of some form of renewable energy or other as a means to obtain electricity, warm water, or central heating. Likewise, and also triggered by the need to be more competitive with respect to other countries, renewable sources of energy have progressively found a way—if slowly— into the Spanish market. If we pay attention to education on the other hand, we can also observe that ever since the late 1990s governments in Spain have tried to release different campaigns to educate people on the need to recycle and to endorse a more eco-friendly attitude towards their surroundings.
However, Spain is far from been a ‘grass-green’ haven for environmentalism. Even if recent reports comment that Spain is the country in the EU where polluting emissions decreased the most in 2010, the reality in Spain is that we do not recycle nor protect the environment in due measure. Amongst the greatest paradoxes in my opinion, is the fact that more and more ‘green areas’ all around the country are going either bare or else turning into industrial compounds. In a similar way, while most of Spain’s advertisement as a travel destination for foreigners focuses on its many kilometers of warm coastline, little attention is payed to the ultimate impact that the frequent overcrowding of this type of tourism has on those areas.
In the end, Spain, as many other countries, is prey to the dilemmas of being competitive in a market where being environmentally aware takes time, money and resources. Almost at the verge of the closing of the first phase of the Kyoto agreement in 2012, not much has been achieved with respect to the way in which the most powerful countries in the world manage their environmental impact. Though there is hope still for improvement–countries as diverse as Iceland, New Zealand, Switzerland, or Costa Rica have been able to figure out a way to keep their countries clean and efficient, thus setting a positive example to follow–we cannot deny the way in which the world has been postergating getting to work on this matter. We can only hope that after the upcoming meeting in Durban, South Africa, this November, an agreement will be reached as to how to better approach the issue of contamination and sustainability in a way that may be fulfilled for the countries in the developed world in the short run.