The environment in Spain; despite significant actions for its protection, the environment of Spain is in a worrying situation. The boom in mass tourism has had a significant impact on coastal ecosystems as well as on the consumption of natural resources and agriculture through intensive cultivation, the heavy use of pesticides, and the large consumption of water.
Within the European Union, Spain is among the poor performers, along with Cyprus and Portugal: from 1990 to 2017, while all the Union countries reduced their greenhouse gas emissions, it had a growth of nearly 17.9%. However, it had committed to a reduction by ratifying the Kyoto Protocol in 1990, and the figure continues to increase despite everything. In addition, since 2009, Spain has been regularly called to order by the European Commission, in particular for violating European legislation on the treatment and disposal of waste. The country has also extended Barajas airport in Madrid; one of the Top 10 most beautiful airports in the world has taken the place of several thousand hectares of a Natura 2000 classified area.
In 2018, Spain announced its project of 100% renewable energy and carbon neutrality for 2050. It is gradually turning to alternative energy sources, such as wind turbines in Navarre and Andalusia, or even the whole first commercial thermal power station in Europe inaugurated in Seville in 2007.
1. Environment in Spain; the environment victim of the crisis
The economic crisis and corruption in Spain have catastrophic consequences for the state of the subsoil, the coastline, firefighting, and health.
The environment is “one of the main victims of the crisis,” which erupted at the end of 2008 and continued until 2013, resulting in an increase in unemployment, which is still high to date, at 23.7%.
The cases (of corruption) are not counted hundreds and leave behind them natural spaces covered with cement (because of constructions) and soil contaminated by the hazardous waste stored there.
2. Environment in Spain; polluted air
People in Toledo are breathing polluted air as a result of traffic congestion on Gran Via Street. In Sierra Norte, outside Madrid, hundreds of people spend the weekend in the capital; they believe they enjoy a refreshing air without realizing that they are in one of the world’s most polluted areas. At the same time, there are other rural areas, such as Easy Fisy in Catalonia and villages in the Jain region, containing pollution levels that violate the regulations for air quality in the European Union.
According to informal estimates, these are only a few examples of pollution separatists, which negatively affect the health of at least 15 million people in Spain. The most affected areas are Madrid and Barcelona, but areas of Andalusia, such as Extremadura, Castella La Mancha, and Valencia, are also grafted with high-risk levels.
Spain suffers from three main pollutants: nitrogen dioxide, caused by traffic and often causes a problem in major cities. PM10 particles, which consist of dust, ash, soot, and similar substances produced by traffic and central heating systems, industry, and construction. And finally, ozone, a pollutant associated with other pollutants, is widespread in hot weather and can be spread over long distances, which is why areas where we can assume the air to be clean, such as the Sierra Norte in Madrid, can be severely polluted.
3. Environment in Spain; the minor Spanish sea is experiencing an ecological disaster
The beaches in the region of Murcia, Spain, don’t look like they were a few years ago.
The ecological disaster of the Mar Menor. Europe’s largest saltwater lagoon is now suffocating from pollution; the inhabitants are witnessing the death of thousands of fish.
At the origin of this disaster; a rainy episode that dumped tons of mud. But according to a local biologist, this is only the visible part of the ecological disaster. At issue; boundless urbanization and intensive agriculture developed in the region. Oscar Esparza Alaminos, a marine biologist, explains: “This is where the biggest problems come from; Nitrate and organic matter drains into the lagoon and saturates the waters.”
4. Environment in Spain; Understanding environmental conflicts
Nature is the object of clashes between social groups. Hydrological planning in Spain and its contestation illustrate the antagonism of the values brought into play and the power relations that play out there.
During the last twenty years, ecological economists have developed much work on questions of environmental justice through the study of conflicts and inequalities linked to the environment. One of the eminent figures of ecological economics (EE), Joan Martínez-Alier, was at the origin – as early as the 1970s – of a series of works on environmental conflicts and the ecologism of the poor (Martínez-Alier , 1977; 2011). For this author, there are many cases around the world that illustrate the stranglehold of the rich and powerful over the exploitation of resources, even though their use should be common to all. The poor, for their part, are concerned about the protection of their environment, not primarily for reasons related to ecology, but because this degradation generates a break with their ways of life, based on a relationship of dependence on nature, essential to their survival.
The most revealing element in the ecological awareness of poor and vulnerable populations is the number, intensity, and variety of environmental conflicts observed around the world. If it is in the field of the extraction of primary mineral resources (copper, for example) that the first environmental conflicts were recorded in the second half of the 19th century [Martínez-Alier, 2011], the reasons for conflicts taking the purpose of resources and the environment has since become very diversified. The Environmental Justice Organizations, Liabilities and Trade (EJOLT) research project thus conducts an interactive mapping of these conflicts in the world and today identifies no less than 1,600 of them. EJOLT is interested in conflicts on production sites, reprocessing and storage of the nuclear industry, those relating to access to land and biomass, infrastructure projects (roads, railways, buildings, etc.), water management (dams, hill reservoirs, grabbing of resources), recreational and tourist activities (amusement parks, seaside resorts, etc.), issues of biodiversity and resource conservation and, finally, conflicts linked to industrial sites and the pollution generated by these sites. Most of the conflicts identified are in places where the population is very high, with a frequency and an intensity arguably more marked in Latin America or Africa.
Lisa Scholfield is a Talker, writer, Journalist and news reporter at Republik City News. My background has been in journalism my entire life, writing community news, investigative series, features, reviews and columns. I believe everyday people should pick up the tools of journalism and inform their communities about the news they need to know.