Foodprint

Portugal is importing nearly 75% of its food and the Mediterranean country with the heaviest per capita food footprint, meaning that if everyone in the world consumes resources like the Portuguese, 2.5 planets earth are needed.

The biggest culprit is the country’s exceptional appetite for fish. Portugal is – after Japan and Iceland – the third biggest consumer of fish in the world engulfing every year around 62 kg per person, most of it –especially tuna, swordfish, and cod –imported.

But dependence doesn’t stop there. The country also relies heavily on the biocapacity of foreign nations – like Spain, France, Brazil, and China – for cereals, honey, jams, chocolate, and fats. Any short-term improvement isn’t expected, due to the fragile structure of public policies to reverse this trend.  

The Associação Natureza Portugal (ANP) – partner of the World Wildlife Fund – also recalls, that the ecological footprint has increased much more than the global average of 1,6 planets a year.


‘This ecological footprint in our country has mainly increased in the last three years. Portugal now appears in 46th place worldwide, whereas in 2018 it ranked 66th. This is due to the massive growth in tourism after the economic crisis and before the arrival of the coronavirus’, explains Catarina Grilo, conservation director of the ANP.

Besides an excessive consumption pattern, about one million tons of food is thrown away every year. Especially fruits and vegetables are wasted when they lose their expiration date or appearance, although often still suitable for consumption. In the whole EU, it is estimated that annually nearly 90 million tons are wasted.


‘Some supermarkets and department stores have strategies to combat food waste at the same time helping those in need. With the current pandemic, food aid requests increased more than 60%’, explains Filomena Pinto da Costa, coordinator of the youth support organization Casa Pia.

In a country that presided over the EU in the first half of 2021, Portugal had an important role in setting goals to reduce the ecological footprint at the European level. The Minister for the Environment and Climate Action, João Pedro Matos Fernandes, recently declared that 1.2 billion euros of funds are reserved to restore habitats and ecosystems between 2021 and 2027.


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Weiwei

‘China is very powerful, with a clear vision. But it’s a secret state’ – Ai Weiwei

The Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei (1957, Beijing) is one of the most influential and creative names in contemporary art.
In 2020 he was elected as the most famous artist by the international journal The Art Newspaper.

His father, Ai Quing (1910-1996) – writer and well-known poet – was in the 60s the object of purges against intellectuals and artists, that Mao declared counter-revolutionaries and enemies of the Communist Party during the Cultural Revolution. 

Weiwei grew up in the far north-west of China, where he lived under harsh conditions, due to his father’s exile to a work camp in the Gobi desert. ‘The farthest place you can find on the map of China’, as he describes it himself.
Upon Mao’s death in 1976 the family returned to Beijing.

  


As an activist, he openly criticizes the Chinese government’s stance on democracy and human rights.
He was arrested several times and detained in 2011 for 81 days without charge and had his passport confiscated.


After being allowed to leave China in 2015, he subsequently lived in Berlin, Cambridge (UK), and since this year in Portugal.
In Montemor-o-Novo to be precise, in the Alentejo province.


This year he opened his first solo exhibition in Portugal.
Rapture (meaning ecstasy but also abduction) – with 85 pieces his biggest ever – reveals work from the different phases in his life.

For example, photographs taken during the 80’s – when he still lived as an unknown artist in New York. A serpent made of backpacks, symbolizing the more than 5000 children killed in the 2008 earthquake in the Chinese province of Sichuan.


A set of boxes with three-dimensional scenes from the days the artist spent in prison in 2011 and his video film Coronation, about the start of the coronavirus pandemic in the city of Wuhan.


But also works created last year in Portugal with local craftsmen and materials. Such as Pendente, a 10-ton marble toilet paper roll – produced at B Stone – which the artist sees as a symbol of a world struggling to free itself from the pandemic.



Odisseia – the massive tile panel made at the Viúva Lamengo factory – representing the odyssey of refugees around the world and last but not least a statue of the artist himself – brainless and sitting on a chair to which he is handcuffed – made of cork in collaboration with the Corticeira Amorim company.

On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Weiwei declared that “The one-party system controls the army and the police, there is no freedom of expression and no independent judicial system. The CCP will rule China for a long time, even beyond our imagination.”

Rapture is to be seen until the 28th of November in the Cordoaria Nacional in Lisbon.

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Renewables

According to Eurostat, Portugal’s GDP dropped this year by 5,4%, the greatest fall in Europe! Rating agency Moody declared, that Portugal is one of the countries most affected by the pandemic as small and medium-sized companies represent a large proportion of the GDP and its high dependency on tourism. The IMF is pessimistic about the recovery, expecting only a small surplus of +0,5% from 2024 onward.

Fortunately, the energy transition gains momentum.
Closure of the coal-fired power plant in Sines means a 12% reduction in the national emission of greenhouse gases every year!

If it is up to the socialist government, Portugal will become a major producer and exporter of green hydrogen (H2) gas. If all goes well, there could be 50-100 hydrogen stations by 2030, and is the percentage of hydrogen incorporated in the national gas network 10-15%.

A planned 1.5 billion industrial project near the deepwater port of Sines will produce 1GW of renewable electricity from solar and wind and 1 GW of green hydrogen from electrolyzers, provided the EU co-finances this integrated ecosystem.

Another climate-friendly project is the initiative of the Water Treatment Plant (ETA) to become neutral in energy consumption. This so-called ClorH20 program combines the production of hydrogen with that of chlorine, necessary for the disinfection of water. Instead of importing liquid chlorine, ETA will build an electrolyzer, that not only produces hydrogen but chlorine gas as well.

A British-US consortium is to invest 3.5 billion euros to build one of Europe’s largest sustainable data centers with access to trans-Atlantic fiber-optic cables in the port of Sines. Dubbed Sines 4.0, the center – with a 450 MW capacity and a zero carbon footprint  – is expected to create up to 8,000 highly qualified jobs by 2025.

On the first of June the submarine optic cable EllaLink – connecting Europe to South America – was inaugurated in Sines by the Portuguese Presidency of the European Council.

Local Braga company Rosseti Engenharia has signed a 23 million contract for a mega solar parc in the Alentejo province, capable of generating 100 GWh, enough to provide over 30,000 homes with green electricity.

Environmentalists warn that the race to embrace solar energy can have disastrous effects on the environment if these parks  – some of them stretching over 1,000 hectares – are being built in sensitive areas. 

Lithium – a key ingredient in batteries for electric vehicles and mobile phones – plays an essential role in the energy decarbonization agenda. As the north and center of the country have an abundance of this so-called ‘white gold,’ Portugal is keen to play its part. However, tenders for possible exploration are to exclude natural parks and Natura 2000 areas.

As a result of this ruling, the Government decided this year to cancel a contentious 500 million lithium mining project in the uppermost northern Montalegre region, a United Nations Agricultural Heritage site.


Keep fit                                  Fique saudável            (pic Ptnews/Ptresid)




















Malpractice

‘The elected politician nowadays is more a delegate of the party than a representative of the voter’
(Ramalho Eanes, former President of Portugal)

More than 80% of the Portuguese are of the opinion that corruption – is an essential part of business. In the Eurobarometer inquiry, more than three-quarters of the population – who claim to have witnessed a case of corruption – admit not having reported it.

Last year the country dropped on the Corruption Index – published by Transparency International (TI) placing itself in 33rd place (of 180 countries) with 61 points, the lowest score ever. ‘Over the past 10 years, little to nothing has been done to fight corruption and the result is an expression of this drift’, explains the president of TI-Portugal Susana Coroado.
Since 2016, only four crimes of bribery to foreign agents – all involving Angolan companies – have been investigated and none has resulted in sanctions.

In September the Council of Ministers approved the National Strategy for the Combat of Corruption, forcing public entities and private companies to address endemic threats of mismanagement. Those who do not comply with the new obligations, risk being fined but those who confess corruption might be forgiven.

The judiciary on her part stressed the lack of transparency in the funding of political parties. ‘No serious strategy should leave out the administrations of municipality councils nor the financing of the campaigns of political parties’, Manuel Soares – president of the Judge’s Syndicate – stated on radio. ‘People who are financed when exercising public office favor the companies and entities that pay them.’

Up until now, the Constitutional Court has rejected laws against ‘illicit enrichment.’ But in the wake of Operation Marquês, the tide has turned.
The Association of Portuguese Judges is now aiming at ‘reinforcing transparency in the exercise of public functions, with criminal liability in the case of non-compliance and President Marcelo de Sousa wants the Government to move forward and punish those in public office who become ‘unjustifiably rich.’

A recent survey showed the deeply rooted distrust of the population as to how politicians are properly monitored for corruption and the capacity and reliability of Justice to investigate them. Portuguese consider the President the most reliable (65%) in the fight against corruption, followed by the Government (42%) and the courts (23%).

But there are also international concerns, in particular about money laundering. At the beginning of this year, the European Commission has opened legal procedures against Portugal for incorrectly implementing EU anti-money laundering rules into its national law.


The good news, however, is – also for Brussels – that the controversial Golden Visa program for foreign real estate investment in the coastal and metropolitan areas of Lisbon and Porto is coming to an end this year.


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Homage

God created the black and white man; the Portuguese the mulatto (Anonymous)

It is often said that Portugal is not a racist country, despite enormous structural inequalities and decades of documented discrimination. All over the country, you can find monuments and statues dedicated to navigators – glorifying the epic 15th to 17th-century discoveries; crusading missionaries – converting indigenous people to Catholicism, and soldiers – fighting colonial wars in the 20th century against African independence.

But until now there has never been a memorial to Portugal’s pioneering role in the transatlantic slave trade nor any acknowledgment of the close to 6 million lives stolen until the 1960s when the country was still using de-facto slave labor in its colonies.

The forthcoming Memorial-Homage to the Victims of Slavery in Lisbon by Angola’s most successful contemporary artist – Kiluanji Kia Henda – will be the first of its kind. The installation – due to be unveiled at the Campo das Cebolas this spring – features 540 three-meter-high aluminum sugar canes, set five feet apart and painted in black. The artwork refers to the cold economic rationale that drove the lucrative slave trade.

Most of the Black population in Portugal today are immigrants and their descendants from the former Portuguese African colonies – Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique, and São Tomé Principe – holding in their memories and histories a very different version of Portugal’s famous past.

‘Our history is full of blanks on how Africans have been portrayed, declares Christina Roldão, a sociologist researching the histories of Black women in Portugal since the 16th century. ‘It is important to know how Black people lived, not only for the Black population today but for everyone else in Portugal’.

It is of note that the memorial is not an initiative of the Portuguese government, but of the Djass Afro-descendent Association, an NGO founded by the Portuguese MP Beatriz Gomes Dias.

Interesting as well is the fact that the memorial’s artist comes from Angola, the country that suffered the most catastrophic loss of lives during the Portuguese slave trade. By the 19th century, Angola had become the largest source of enslaved people taken to the Americas, in particular to the sugar plantations in Brazil.

The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights – recently stressed that Portugal should do more to confront its colonial past and role in the transatlantic slave trade in order to help fight the increasing racial discrimination and xenophobia in the country.

The Council also expressed concern at the rise in racist rhetoric in political discourse, singling out the far-right Chega (‘Enough’) party, whose sole MP Andre Ventura keeps making derogatory remarks against ethnic minorities.

Initiated by Black Portuguese and conceptualised by an African artist, ‘the slavery memorial will finally bring a visual counter-narrative against the supposed absence of racism and lack of racial prejudice in the Portuguese’, concludes Marcos Cardão, a historian of Portuguese culture and identity.

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Marquês

‘No one does wrong willingly or knowingly’ (Socrates*- Greek philosopher)

On Friday the 9th of April, the Portuguese judge Ivo Rosa ordered ex-Prime Minister José Sócrates (2005-2011) to stand trial for money laundering and falsifying documents, dropping more serious charges of corruption against the former leader of the Socialist Party (PS).

The decision – being the latest twist in a nationwide soap called ‘Operation Marquês’ (marquis) – is gripping the country since the police arrested the ex-PM at Lisbon airport on the 21st of November 2014. Sócrates almost spent a year in preventive pretrial detention before his conditional release in late 2015.

Sócrates quit the party in 2018, accusing leading figures of backing accusations against him. The current center-left PM and socialist party leader António Costa – who served as a minister under Sócrates – has so far succeeded in distancing himself from the case.

Among the 31 charges brought against Sócrates, judge Rosa decided to move to trial on just three accounts of money laundering and three of document fraud, for which Socrates still risks ten years in prison.

Sócrates himself has always denied the allegations. ‘All the great lies of the Public Prosecution have fallen’, he told journalists after de court’s decision.
‘I feel the tranquility of the innocent and want compensation for everything.’

The Public Ministry immediately demanded the annulment of the controversial decision and nearly 200.000 Portuguese signed a petition, calling for the removal of judge Rosa from the magistrature because of ‘his partiality and judicial errors.’

The outcome raises serious questions about the judicial system, which sent a former PM to jail, but fails to collect sufficient proof – despite nearly seven years of investigation – on the most serious charges, involving 11 volumes (over 6000 pages) of arguments.

Operation Marquês– named after the PM’s former residence at the Marquês de Pombal square in Lisbon – also incriminates Ricardo Salgado, ex-CEO’s from the biggest bank at that time – the Espirito Santo bank (BES) – who was accused of 21 crimes.

Judge Rosa, however, ordered the ex-banker to stand trial on only 3 cases of breach of trust, dropping more serious allegations that Salgado had bribed Sócrates to lucrative deals involving the state-owned company Portugal Telecom. Both BES and Telecom collapsed in the wake of the eurozone crisis, leaving the Portuguese taxpayers with a multi-billion-euro debt.  

Current president Marcelo de Sousa said he hoped Operation Marquês will reach a ‘visible end in due time’ but even if Marquês goes forward as the Public Ministry intends and even if the 63-year-old José Socrates is found guilty – with all the appeals that could follow – he would very unlikely see the inside of a jail before he is 80 and Ricardo Salgado (now in its 70s) before he is in his 90s. 

Socrates* (469-399 BC) was a philosopher from Athens best known for his dialectic method of inquiry. He was put on trial for not believing in ‘the gods of the state’, found guilty, and forced to commit suicide by taking poison.


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(ref Público/Político)











PaulaRego-2

Everyone hides things, at home, at work. I hide in what I paint.’

The Portugal-born, London-based Paula Rego is in vogue. Having finished last year a monograph at the L’ Orangery in Paris and a solo exhibition at the new MK Gallery in Milton Keynes (UK), she shows contemporary art as from the 4th of May at the transnational exhibition Diversity United, together with 90 artists from 34 countries.

This summer, a large, comprehensive retrospective is scheduled for Tate, Britain (June 16 -October 24). The exhibition in London featuring over 100 pieces – including collage, paintings, etchings, pastels, and sculptures – will highlight the nature of her work and the socio-political context in which it is rooted.

Since the 1950s Paula Rego has played a key role in redefining figurative art. An uncompromising artist of extraordinary imaginative power, who revolutionised the way in which women are represented.

Rego – who was born in 1935 – is known for her sinister lexicon, which often draws on dark folk tales, and stars ruthless female agents devoid of feat or meekness.

Although her subjects are physically vulnerable – like in the Abortion Pastels – it’s clear that she is
not painting victims.

Rego is vehemently pro-choice, and has often spoken of the desperate fishermen’s wives, mothers already several times over, who’d turn up at the house she shared with her husband – when they were living in the Portuguese coastal village of Ericeira in the 60s – begging for money for backstreet abortions.

Herself with a childhood full of loneliness. The feeling of abandonment – while her parents lived in England, she stayed with her parental grandparents in Portugal until she was three years old. The close relationship with her father – ‘he taught me to think for myself, to do what I wanted’ – and the distance with her mother – ‘I don’t think I ever had a worthwhile conversation with her’.

The tough years in London at the Slade School of Fine Art (1952-1956), where fantasy wasn’t given space. The troubled love story with her husband – the English painter Vic Willing – she admired, a married man seven years her age. Infidelities. The provoked abortions in Soho before the birth of her three children. The depression she already felt, since she was a child.

The loss of her family fortune after the Carnation Revolution – 25th of April, 1974 – forced her to sell her grandparents’ farm in Ericeira. The importance of her work for her and the late recognition of it. The husband’s chronic illness – for years bedridden with multiple sclerosis – and his death in 1988, after an unsuccessful suicide attempt a year before.

Paula Rego, artist, wife, and mother, in that order.

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Seafood

‘Eat wild, mostly small fish, preferably local’

Seafood is the cornerstone of the Portuguese kitchen. There are no people in Europe who eat as much seafood as the Portuguese and at the global level, only Japan and Iceland consume more fish. More than half of the fish consumed in Portugal comes from abroad.


The bigger the fish and the longer it lives, the more mercury it will accumulate, increasing the risk of neurodegenerative diseases. In addition to heavy metals, overfishing is a cause of great concern.

Most tuna (atum) species are severely over-fished and all tuna species contain mercury. Albacore tuna is the best alternative choice.

Scabbardfish (peixe espada) with its long life cycle, slow growth, and low productive rate inhabit the deep waters off mainland Portugal, Madeira, and the Azores. They contain high levels of mercury. Best alternatives are Sea bream (Sargo or Dourada).

Octopus (polvo) is with its 500.000 neurons probably the most intelligent spineless creature in the sea. Skin color depends on their habitat and mood. They feed on crustaceans, particularly crabs. Some might contain mercury. Alternatives are Cuttlefish or Squid.

Cod (bacalhau) – industrially caught in the cold waters of the Baltic and Northern Atlantic – is the nation’s favorite dish. Their status is vulnerable through overfishing. Alternatives are Seabream or Dourada.

Although sardines (sardinhas) are synonymous with Portugal, the fish is not as plentiful as it might seem. In recent years the fishery has completely collapsed through overfishing. The best alternative is Mackerel.

Shrimp (camarão) are caught on industrial ships to an unsustainable scale bringing populations to the brink of collapse. Over 80% of the giant Mozambique shrimp are exported to the EU – mainly to Spain and Portugal – causing vast ecological destruction in the Indian ocean. The best alternative is Clams.

Razor clams (lingueirão) are in sharp decline by trawlers that rake the sands mechanically to the extent that they all have been whipped out locally. Best alternative is Percebes.

Sea bream (sargo) – the king of the Alentejo coast – is usually line-caught and currently not in decline. They have strong teeth to feed upon mollusks.

Golden sea bream (dourada) tends to be relatively resistant to overfishing but is usually produced by aquaculture in the Mediterranean sea in large tanks with negative environmental impacts (i.e. seawater pollution through antibiotics and chemicals).

Mackerel (cavala) is a great alternative to sardines. Full of healthy omega-3 fatty acids and low in cholesterol. They have a healthy future population predicted.

Brown crab (sapateira) is imported to Portugal from waters surrounding the UK, Ireland, and northwestern France.

Clams (amêijoas) – found in the Atlantic and the Azores – feed on micro-algae. They are the main bivalve species produced through aquaculture in Portugal.

Goose-neck barnacles (percebes) are strange-looking creatures living on intertidal rocks off the Algarve, where they are hand-picked by divers. It is forbidden to capture them from October to April.

Oysters (ostra) are largely produced by aquaculture along the Portuguese coast. They are great for the local ecosystem as they are filter-feeders cleaning the water.

Cuttlefish (choco) has 8 arms and 2 tentacles like squid but have an internal skeletal structure, the cuttlebone. The catch method, by trap or hook and line, is a very low impact fishing method but they are also caught as by-catch.

Squid (lula) supply has been increasing in recent years possibly as a result of the declining fish populations and ecosystem changes.


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Airport2

The country’s never-ending airport story returned to square one this month when Portugal’s National Civil Aviation Authority (ANAC) refused to evaluate the request submitted by ANA – the French construction group that runs Portugal’s airports – to build a second hub for Lisbon’s airport at Montijo – at present a military airbase – on the southern bank of the Tagus river.

The country’s booming tourism industry – briskly brought to a halt last year by the coronavirus pandemic – complains already for years about the lack of capacity at Lisbon’s overcrowded inner-city airport.

Plans for a second airport near the capital have been under consideration for over a decade. The government of António Guterres choose Ota. Then came Alcochete, than Alverca. Later Portela+1, which after a vague announcement by the government of Passos Coelho and the determination of António Costa finally resulted in Montijo.

Very much against legal protests from two local communist councils – Moita and Seixal – and environmental concerns regarding precious birdlife in the Tagus estuary.

In a statement, ANAC declared, that it had no choice but to reject the request and explained that according to Portuguese law, it could only evaluate the project if all local governments provide positive feedback.

Despite this setback for one of the country’s largest infrastructure projects, the PS socialist government said it wouldn’t give up and is studying solutions for the impasse, including building the controversial airport elsewhere and re-evaluating the law allowing municipalities to veto plans of national importance.

As a matter of fact, the government is proposing three possibilities.
The first is to push forward with the current project and get support from the biggest opposition party PSD (Social Democrats) in Parliament to change the law so that the local opposition becomes meaningless.

The second is to make Montijo the principal airport and Lisbon’s Humberto Delgado a complementary terminal. The third would be the construction of a new international airport at the Campo do Tiro in Alcochete – about 40 km northeast of Lisbon – an option already favored by some of the many critics of the Montijo location.

With the project once again returning to square one, the successive heads of state resemble king Sisyphus in ancient Greece, who was punished by being forced to roll an immense stone up a hill only for it to roll down every time it neared the top.

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Rail

‘Rail is the only means of transport that reduces CO2 emissions while increasing transport volumes’

The narrative of Portugal’s high-speed rail connections to Madrid, Porto and the Spanish city of Vigo is back on track in this European Year of Rail with Portugal chairing the Presidency of the EU.

It started some 20 years ago when the former Minister of Infrastructure João Cravino promised to link Lisbon to Porto by train in 1 hour and 15 minutes. The high-speed rail project, however, went up in smoke through lack of funds.

Lisbon is nowadays one of the few capitals in Europe – besides Athens and Talin – without international rail connections. In March last year, both theSud-Expresso (to Hendaye, on the French-Spanish border) and theLusitânia Expresso (to Madrid) were suspended due to lack of profitability and the coronavirus pandemic.

These days a trip by train from Lisbon to Madrid requires 4 trains and 3 transfers. The journey of 600 km takes a little more than 10 hours and costs about 55 euros.

Portugal’s national railway and metro network has 528 stations. The 10 busiest – 8 in Lisbon and 2 in Porto – handle 38% of the 24 million passengers every month. The most overloaded station Cais do Sodré in Lisbon belongs to a metro network that doesn’t even has a connection to the national railway network.

Cais do Sodré is also the end of the suburban railway to Cascais and has a flow of 1.5 million passengers per month, just as much as the two busiest stations in Porto.

This decade the government will – with the help of EU grants – invest over 10 billion euros in 16 rail projects. Half of this amount is earmarked for the high-speed connections Lisbon – Porto (travel time 75 min) and Porto – Vigo (time 60 min). The high-speed rail Lisbon – Madrid (time approx. 150 min) is under construction and due to be finalized December 2023.

The other half of the 10 billion project serves the creation of new metro and train lines, the modernisation of existing lines and the purchase of rolling stock.

During the past decade, the use of cars in the Lisbon metropolitan area has increased significantly, leading to more congestion, pollution and noise. One of the key modernisation projects therefore is to improve the nation’s second-busiest railway Lisbon – Cascais in order to encourage sustainable and environmentally friendly (inter)urban mobility.

The existing 1500 volts DC electrification system on this 25 km course is completely different from the rest of the country’s railway network and the trains used are only suitable for this trajectory. Putting in place new 25 thousand volts AC overhead lines will not only enable integration in the national network but also result in 50% energy savings.

Before the purchase of new carriages, the 17 stations along the line will be upgraded and made more user-friendly. Moreover, its platforms have to be standardized to guarantee that new trains from the national network can smoothly pass and don’t get stuck as happened on a test-drive on Sunday, the 13th of December in São João do Estoril.

Stay safe             Fique saudável                       (pic Público/Sapo)