The crisis that the Covid-19 virus unleashed (and still does) forced us to adapt to a new reality.
At the beginning, and during the first wave, for reasons that do not matter here, I found myself fulfilling the months of isolation that happened to me in Alentejo, in my homeland, Alvito. I was far from imagining that, for many months, the virus would not enter, much to our delight. I stayed at home, with rare exceptions, like most Portuguese whose profession and conditions enabled them to do so.
The few times I left the house to get some fresh air and walk to numb my body I ended up going out into the field. In my walks, even though I was not distracted, I noticed very concretely a change in the landscape, now with an immense planting of new trees, small and almost without space between them.
From what I learned, the most recent investment in the area - which is already common all over the Alentejo - was made essentially by non-Portuguese companies that bet on almond and olive trees. All of this would be great if it did not involve intensive production that brings with it many problems, some of which we already know today, others that only the future will reveal.
This issue is not new, there are even some scientific projects that study the implications that, in recent years, this type of productive approach has been having both in the territory and populations, and in workers. I also know that there are different approaches to the topic. If some claim that these cultures help local development, there are others that call into question these same intentions, so alternatives for development in the region should be sought.
Ideological and political-party perspectives aside, when we are confronted with this reality on the ground, there we better understand how change is taking place in this particular territory. For me, born and raised in the non-urban Alentejo, it seems to me that this path is not desirable.
The country's inequalities, at the most varied levels, as I have mentioned here several times, do not seem to be being reduced with the intention of leaving this territory to "God will give". Local and regional authorities seem to be unable to combat this reality. And I ask why.
The obvious, with the “naked eye”, will be the lack of reinvestment of what is supposed to be the profit of this type of intensive agriculture, bearing in mind the already known (but ignored) problems related to labor, with workers working too many hours and in unworthy and unfair conditions, many of whom are far from their countries of origin, they will soon be even more unprotected.
I would like to know if there is any added value, even in terms of local employment, of fixing a new population? And if so, does it pay off in the cost-benefit calculation when we are calling into question the biodiversity of a territory? No one will believe that the pesticides and fertilizers used in intensive production are good for the environment, flora and fauna, and, ultimately, for the people living in the region.
Some time ago, there were reports on various television channels, calling into question the survival of birds when the nighttime mechanical harvesting of olives in intensive olive groves, which once again puts the balance of the ecosystem at risk. A few days ago, news about the destruction of a tapir on a farm near Évora was causing sururu. But what is being done to combat and / or mitigate these actions? How are we preventing these affronts to our environment and our culture? What are we doing so that they can be reversed and corrected?
In difficult pandemic times, the consequent economic crisis, the interior of the country, this Alentejo da my soul, it will be even more forgotten. I fear that everything that makes this region fascinating, not only for those who were born there, but for those who visit it, in addition to the soul of the population and gastronomy, and the landscapes of old cork and holm oaks, will become just and just a mirage of a long-lived time.
At a time when the Western world is focusing on the environment and the survival of the human being in the “return to the roots”, the search for what is local, where the resisters who remained in the forgotten territory struggle to keep traditional products, to have their own business and make a living, turning your back on this challenge cannot be a solution. It is used to say “good caution before bad regret” or “cautions and chicken broths never hurt anyone”, and, I, caution see few or none.
The author writes according to the old spelling.