Governments are trivializing young people’s concerns about the climate crisis 

Next Wednesday – on the 27th of September –  32 countries are being taken to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg by six Portuguese youngsters. They will argue that the nations’ policies to tackle global heating are inadequate and in breach of their human rights obligations.

After another summer in which wildfires raged across the Mediterranean, the young people will plead that the government’s failure to act quickly enough to reduce emissions is in violation of their human rights. It is the biggest climate case yet taken across the globe, unprecedented in its scale and consequence.

Lawyers of the Global Legal Action Network (GLAN) – representing the six young people taking the legal action – are to present evidence that the current policies of the 32 countries mean the world is on track to reach a catastrophic 3 degrees of global heating within their lifetimes.

A senior lawyer of GLAN said the action was being taken against the 32 nations in Europe because they all contributed to the climate crisis. ‘These young people face a future of unbearable heat; the IPCC report describes these conditions as unliveable,’ he declared. ‘Yet these governments are trivializing their claims’. The Portuguese government, for example, stated that the claim consisted only of ‘future fears, constituting only mere assumptions or general probabilities.’

Aged from 11 to 24, the Portuguese youngsters – who began their action six years ago – say they were driven to act by their experiences in one of the most destructive and deadliest wildfires in the country’s history that ripped through the Leiria region in 2017, killing 66 people and destroying about 20,000 hectares of forest.

‘The thing that scares me most is that it has all got worse since the fires in 2017,’ one of the claimants said.
‘We have had record-breaking heatwaves since then but European governments are choosing not to take their part.’

Crowdfunded ( by people around the world who have donated more than £100,000, the six youngsters are seeking a binding ruling from the 17 judges to force the countries to rapidly escalate their emission reductions.
The countries named in action are the 27 members of the EU as well as Norway, Russia, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and Turkey.

A victory would be groundbreaking as the decisions of the court are binding across Europe.

Enjoy the heat                       Aproveite o calor          (Pic Público/Sapo)

Most Portuguese pilgrims depart from Porto

The pilgrimage to the north-western city of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia is world-famous. It is believed that the remains of Saint James the Apostle are buried there.

St. James the Great was one of the twelve disciples of Jesus and the first to be martyred. He preached the gospel in Hispania but returned to Judea upon seeing a vision of the Virgin Mary on the bank of the Ebro river. He is the patron saint of Spain.

St. James was called the Great because of his length rather than his importance. He was the brother of John the Apostle. It is said that James and John asked Jesus to grant them seats on his right and left in his glory. Jesus rebuked them by saying the honour was not even for him to grant.

King Herod had St. James beheaded ( AD 44, Jerusalem, Roman Empire) and his remains were later transferred to the place where nowadays the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral stands.

The traditional pilgrimage to the grave of the saint – also known as the Way of St. James – has been the most popular pilgrimage for Western European Catholics from the Early Middle Ages onwards. Rembrandt depicted the saint as a pilgrim in 1661. The feast of St. James is celebrated on July 25, Galicia’s national day.

The most famous starting point is in France.
Caminho Português (the Portuguese Way) is the second-most popular route, starting in Lisbon (about 610 km) or Porto (about 230 km) and passing through characteristic cities and beautiful vineyards.

While starting in Lisbon, pilgrims will walk through Santarém – a medieval town full of Gothic architecture – and Coimbra – holding one of the oldest universities in the world.

From Porto, the route will go through the Vinho Verde vineyards in the Minho region, the city of Barcelos – famous for its Portuguese rooster (Galo de Barcelo) and other pottery items – and cross the Lima river with its ancient Roman bridge.

Porto is the second city from which most pilgrims depart (over 40,000 last year) – after Sarria in Galicia, the most popular town on the French Way – according to statistics from the Cathedral’s Pilgrim Welcome Center.

Pilgrims should make the caminho with their Credential (pilgrims passport) that serves as a record and is stamped by certified people on the way. It entitles to the certificate of completion (Compostelais entitled), that is issued by the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela.

To be eligible for the Compostela, pilgrims must have completed at least 100 km by foot, or 200 km on horseback or bicycle.

Enjoy your week          Approveite a semana            (pic Ptnews/Wikepedia)

Portugal, a country of strikes

The first half of 2023 was marked by successive strikes covering numerous sectors. From train drivers to doctors and from teachers to journalists. Even police officers gathered to protest against the lack of their right to strike.

Discontent is high and workers ready to use their voice. Portuguese are of the opinion that life is generally going well but that their financial situation leaves much to be desired.

Looking at the figures from the Directorate-General for Employment and Labour Relations (DGERT), it is found that the number of strikes last year increased by 25% compared to 2021, being the highest since 2013 – at the time of the financial crisis. And in January this year, the number of strike notices almost quadrupled compared to the same month in 2022.

The year started with a strike by Comboios de Portugal (Portuguese Railways) for a pay rise to compensate for the loss of purchasing power and quickly spilled over to the other sectors of public transport. 

The 2023 judicial year opened with a strike in January, against the lack of staff, the freezing of promotions, and the degradation of justice that undermines the functioning of courts. It did not stop there, with more strikes in February and April. The effects of the strikes on the justice system are devastating with the postponement of thousands of hearings and trials in the courts.

Journalists are not left out of the fight, with TV1 going on strike in March for raises in payment, an increase in meal allowance, and 25 days of vacation. Employees from the news agency Lusa followed in April and announced new strikes in June and August and also RTP (Radio and Television Portugal) unions threaten to take action in the absence of their ‘decent’ requests.

In February, technical and administrative staff from three hospitals in Lisbon united, to claim a collective labour agreement in all State-run hospitals. A strike in March was suspended after the hospitals finally gave in to their demands.

Nurses started paralyzing services in February. There were massive demonstrations countrywide and even the private sector joined in for better pay and working conditions.

As for doctors, a national strike of two days took place in March over the ‘lack of measures’ in the SNS (National Health Service) and the ‘unacceptable proposal of the Ministry on salary scales. New strikes have been announced in August. 

For teachers, the second term started in January with strikes against the government’s proposals for the revision of the recruitment regime and for better career perspectives. 45,000 teachers signed a petition. They warned that the protest would not stop ‘any time soon’, and they were right.

There were massive demonstrations and strikes all over the country. Fenprof (Federation of Teachers) called for convergence between unions in defense of teachers’ rights and public schools.

Negotiations with the government are deadlocked and strikes are back and forth in the north, center, and south of the country. Developments that do not bode well for the coming school year. Between pressure, threats, and hopes, the teachers’ struggle reached Brussels, where they try to find the answers they do not have in Portugal.

Enjoy your week                   Approveite a semana               (pic Sapo)

Health, Housing, and Education top the list

Portugal is a dissatisfied country according to a recent opinion poll undertaken by the University Institute of Lisbon (ISCTE) for the newspaper Expresso. Housing, Education, Health, and Justice top the list of citizens’ complaints.

Instead of spending time on bilateral agreements forged overseas, the government of António Costa better figure out a solution for all ‘who suffer months or even years on waiting lists for a consultation at the National Health Service, and for the younger generations who have had their learning hijacked by the pandemic, lack of teachers and continuous strikes.’

Moreover, attention is needed to the ‘structural lack of homes, the incompetent Justice system, and the urgent necessity to draw up a national plan in ending the waste of water from dams and rivers’ in view of the increasing climate crisis.

Expresso’s interpretation of the poll stresses that – although in the past it has always been for granted that the State guarantees a certain quality of life, even to those who are struggling financially – in the poll even ‘quality of life’ is poorly rated with over 80% of the respondents showing utter dissatisfaction with life in general and nearly 90% not being satisfied with the availability of housing.

The combatting of corruption saw an 80% level of dissatisfaction.
In the opinion of the Eurobarometer over 90% of the Portuguese believe corruption is common in the country. Two-thirds consider that the level of corruption has increased compared to 2022.

Different regions showed different answers. For example, with regard to National Health, over 60% of citizens in the north were little or not satisfied whereas this number rises to more than 90% in the south (Algarve/Alentejo). Education too is perceived differently. In the north only 35% consider themselves to be satisfied with the quality of education offered by the State. In the Algarve/Alentejo region, the number falls to a mere 20%.

Regarding confidence in the Institutions, those questioned have the most confidence in the police (80%), Armed Forces (75%), their Parish council, and President Marcelo da Sousa (70%). The least confidence is demonstrated against political parties (80% do not trust them), the government (65% without confidence), 60% distrust parliament, 55% the media, and 50% the Catholic Church.

Citizens want more participation in political decisions. Over 80% want more referenda on ‘important matters’ and a sizable majority (75%) want changes in the electoral system so that people can vote more for individuals and less for parties.

Enjoy the week            Approveite a semana               (pic Público/Sapo)

Why tapering a monument of freedom during the Pope’s visit?

The first visit by a Pope to Portugal took place on May 13, 1967, when Paul VI visited Fatima on the 50th anniversary of the apparition of the Virgin Maria at Cova da Iria in 1917. It wasn’t an official state visit as the Government of dictator Salazar didn’t like the fact that Paul VI had visited India in 1964, three years after the invasion of its colony Goa by the Indian state, considering the trip ‘an insult to the Portuguese nation.’

Thereafter Pope John II visited the country three times and Pope Benedict XVI once. The second visit of the Argentine Pope Francis to Portugal is the seventh of a pontiff in office to Portugal with Fatima as a common denominator. But this time also in view of the upcoming World Youth Days (WYD).

In connection with this, the Lisbon council is keen to ensure that the phallic sculpture by João Cutileiro (1937-2021)commemorating the Carnation Revolution of April 25, 1974 – isn’t visible during the catholic festivities and is willing to spend over 120.000 euros to hide the 90-ton and 6-meter-high obelisk during the Pope’s visit.

The original idea was to dismantle and remove the entire sculpture (to be returned to its place after the celebrations of the Catholic Church have ended) but the Councill then opted for a cheaper option of restoring the monument (which has suffered a number of fissures over the years) and keeping it under wraps during the religious encounter.

Officially christened ‘Cravo e Colunas’ (carnation and columns) – and popularly called the ‘dick’ – the phallic element of the work is meant to symbolize the virile force and vigor of the revolution. But the council believes it could be too much for the Pope to stage a mass next to the statue in Lisbon’s Park Eduardo VII and expose the young believers to the phallic vision of one of the country’s most famous modern sculptors. 

However, in view of the importance of this national monument, how can it be allowed to be covered in order to hold a religious ceremony? What is being covered anyway: the ‘penis’ or the celebration of freedom? 

WYD is costing the Lisbon council, the government, and the Portuguese Catholic Church combined over 160 million euros. Over 1 million visitors are expected during this bi-annual event, which runs in Lisbon from August 1-6. Despite all preparations, authorities have warned that traffic in the capital is likely to be chaotic in the five days affected.

Enjoy your week          Aproveite a semana                (pic Público/Sapo)

Lisbon and Funchal in EU top 10 for polluting cruise ships

World Travel Awards
named Lisbon as Europe’s Leading Cruise Port 2022.
Last year well over 200 cruises (with 45,275 passengers) departed at the port of Lisbon.
These vessels are emitting more sulfur oxides (SOx) than one billion cars.

According to a recent study by the European Federation of Transport and Environment focussing on European ports and released by the Portuguese environmentalist association ZERO, atmospheric pollution and greenhouse gasses from cruise ships increased substantially last year compared to pre-pandemic levels; sulfur oxide (SOx) emissions by 9%, nitrogen oxides (NOx) by 18% and fine particles by 25%.

These pollutants are responsible for cardiovascular and respiratory diseases and contribute to the acidification of the ocean. Worldwide, maritime transport is responsible for around 3% of global greenhouse emissions, 250,000 premature deaths, and 6.4 million cases of childhood asthma per year.

In the ranking of European polluters by cruise ships, the study puts Lisbon in 5th place after Barcelona (Spain), Civitavecchia (Italy), Piraeus (Greece), and Palma de Mallorca (Spain). The port of Funchal – the capital of the Portuguese isle of Madeira – rose 5 positions in the ranking (from 15th to 10th), which was justified by the considerable increase (25%) in cruise ship calls.

In 2019, the port of Venice won the unfortunate title of the most polluted cruise port in Europe. In 2022 it plummeted to the 41st position after banning large cruise ships from entering the port. The measure resulted in an 80% reduction in SOx emissions.

Zero draws attention to the ‘false solutions’ by cruise ship operators that do not represent viable measures and aggravate the ecological footprint. In the first place, the widespread use of exhaust gas cleaning systems (scrubbers), promotes the emission of fine particles by 60% when used with heavy fuel.

Furthermore, wastewater discharges redistribute pollutants in the ocean. There is also a record of the wrong bet on liquefied fossil gas (LNG) as an alternative fuel, which hides the fact that LNG is more harmful to the environment than heavy fuels because of methane leaks, says the organization.

It would be far better to create conditions for cruise ships to connect to the electricity grid in Lisbon and Funchal and create laws to oblige them to do so! Not only will the environment gain but also the Portuguese economy through the electricity sold to these – mostly foreign  – ships.

Enjoy your week          Approveite a semana                (pic Público/Sapo)

‘Plastic poisons our bodies and pollutes the environment.’

Plastic contaminates the entire planet from the summit of Mount Everest to the deepest oceans – where plastic litter from takeaway food and drink dominate – and microplastics have been found in people’s blood, organs, and breastmilk and have crossed the placenta. Plastic production has soared some 30-fold since it became widespread in the 1960s.

Global plastic pollution could be slashed by 80% by 2040, according to a report from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). The first step is to eliminate unnecessary plastic, such as excessive packaging. The next steps are to increase the reuse of plastics – such as refillable bottles – booster recycling and replace plastics with greener alternatives.

Such a shift would mean plastic pollution would drop from the current production of 450 million tons a year to about 40 million tons in 2040, reducing the damage to health, the climate, and the environment.

Europeans produce – on average – 35 kg of plastic packaging waste per year. Packaging is responsible for 40% of all plastic in the EU and plastic packing waste is expected to increase.

The European Commission indicates that the 10 single-use plastic articles most often found on European beaches represent 70% of all marine litter. Reuse systems could reduce plastic pollution by 30% by 2040.

Portugal is well below the European average with plastic waste recycling and most of the plastic ends up out of sight. Buried, burned or exported – in particular to Spain, where most plastic waste went last year.

Greenpeace warns that recycling plastic can make it more toxic – as breaking down plastics scatters microplastics and toxic chemicals in the environment – and should not be considered a solution to the plastic crisis.

‘Simply put, plastic poisons the circular economy and our bodies and pollutes air, water, and food, says Therese Karlsson, a science adviser with the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN). Real solutions to the crisis will require global control of over 3000 potentially harmful chemicals in plastics and a significant reduction in plastic production.

Representatives of 175 countries recently met at the UN headquarters in Paris for a second stage of negotiations to come to an agreement to end plastic pollution in the world. Just over a year ago, in Kenya, a principle of agreement was reached with the ambition to develop – by the end of 2024 – a legally binding treaty under the aegis of the UN.

The main objective will be to reduce the production of new plastics and ban disposable plastics as soon as possible. If successful, it could join the rescue of the ozone layer as a landmark success in environmental diplomacy.  

Enjoy the week                     Boa semana                 (pic Público/Sapo)

‘Look for the persons who benefit and you will know’ – Lenin

The four biggest economies in the Eurozone – Germany, France, Italy, and Spain – together represent two-thirds of the European Gross Domestic Product (GDP), an important indicator of economic health.

The Portuguese economy is relatively small – representing 1.5% of the European GDP – and surpassed by countries with less population like the Czech Republic, Sweden, Denmark, Austria, and Ireland. 

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasts a growth in the Portuguese economy of 2.6% this year and stabilization at around 2% in the medium term, with a fall in inflation to 5.6%. Earlier this year, the IMF had predicted a growth of just 1%. The above-expected growth is mainly attributed to an increase in tourism – after the coronavirus pandemic – and the export of goods.

According to the Portuguese Government, export is increasing and represents 40% of its GDP. Cork is the most exported product – sold to 133 countries – reaching a record of 1.2 billion euros in 2021.

The quality newspaper Expresso disclosed that wine exportations last year  – especially to the US, the UK, Canada, and Brazil – amounted to almost 1 billion euros. Portuguese wine is popular in every continent especially because of its original products like Green Wine, Port, and Madeira Wine.

Moreover, the country is the 4th biggest exporter of olive oil in the world and exports plenty of shoes, clothing, vegetables, and bicycles.

Last year a downward trend in debt and deficit was common in the Eurozone where public debt stood at 92% of GPD – four percentage points lower than at the end of 2021.Eurostat revealed that Portugal was able to register an even more pronounced reduction (eleven percentage points) in 2022, putting its actual public debt at 114%.

Even so, the Portuguese debt remains one of the highest of the 27 member states, just behind Greece and Italy.

The financial rating agency Fitch recently reaffirmed the assessment of the Portuguese debt at BBB+.
The robust reduction in public debt was also highlighted by the US agency, which forecasts that the Portuguese debt will further decrease to 105% next year. 

Even though Portugal’s economy has grown above the EU average this year, it still has one of the lowest growth rates in the world.

According to the newspaper Expresso, the GDP in the country has grown at a mean rate of only 1.2% per year since 1999 and is unlikely to change its course by 2028.

Enjoy the week            Aproveite a semana                                     (pic Público/Sapo)

His works are considered ‘trash art’

‘I’ am part of a very consumerist and materialistic generation.
The education we receive is directed towards overconsumption, with excessive production of stuff, especially technology.’

Big Trash Animals (Grandes Animais do Lixo) is a series of artworks aimed to draw attention to waste production and pollution and its effect on the planet.
The idea is to depict nature itself – in this case animals – out of materials that are responsible for its destruction.

‘The works are built from scrap.’
The majority are found in wastelands or abandoned factories; damaged bumpers, burnt garbage cans, plastic stuff, and old tires.
They are camouflaging the result of our greedy habits with little ecological and social awareness.

Artur Bordalo (Lisbon, 1987) uses his artist name Bordalo II (‘the second’) as a tribute to his grandfather in order to promote continuity and reinvention of his artistic legacy.
At first sight, you might associate his name with the famous plastic artist Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro. In fact, it is an allusion to his grandfather Real Bordalo, a painter of watercolors.

In his youth, he lived between two artistic worlds; in one he watched his grandfather painting landscapes and typical scenes of the city and in the other, he dedicated his time to producing illegal graffiti in Lisbon.
This practice helped him to get comfortable with big dimensions and work on the street.

In 2007 he enrolled at the Fine Arts Faculty of Lisbon in painting. He attended school for three years without ever completing it. Those years, however, allowed him to discover sculpture, and ceramics, and to experiment with materials that distanced him from painting, which had taken him there in the first place.

The public space would become the canvas for his creative expressions of color and scale and the platform where he gradually transformed his work, which is focused on questioning the materialistic society of which he is also part.

Since 2012 Artur Bordalo – who calls himself an artivist –  has created over 200 animal sculptures using more than 60 tons of reused materials.
He is also famous for his Railway Series in Portugal in which he uses train tracks to make art.
His 3-dimensional installations can be found all over the world.

His consciousness and concern for the environment have always been there. I
n 2013 he presented his first art piece made out of garbage at the festival Walk & Talk in the Azores.
When he is not traveling abroad, Bordalo continues collecting street trash for his sculptures in his studio in northern Lisbon.

Enjoy the week                                                 Aproveite a semana

Many people will be familiar with the Carnation Revolution in Portugal that on April 25, 1974, overthrew the authoritarian Estado Novo (New State) regime, established by fascist leader António de Oliveira Salazar.
Last month its 49th anniversary – a national holiday coined as Dia de Liberdade (Freedom Day) – was celebrated all over the country.

But how became the carnation the symbol of the military coup organized by military officers of the Armed Forces Movement (Movimento das Forças Armadas, MFA), that opposed the brutal regime and the ongoing war in Portugal’s African colonies (i.e. Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and Saõ Tomé and Principe)?

An explanation is, that almost no shots were fired during the peaceful takeover of the military and that when the population took to the streets to celebrate the end of the dictatorship and the colonial wars in Africa, carnations were put into the silent muzzles of the rifles of the armed forces.

However, an alternative interpretation is related to a special woman named Celeste de Caeiros. On April 25, 1974, she was 40 years old and a waitress at the Franjinhas restaurant, on Braamcamp street, next to the Marquis of Pombal square.

That date happened to be the restaurant’s 1st anniversary and red carnations were purchased to hand out to the customers. When Celeste arrived, she was told to go home because a revolution was underway and the restaurant closed. She ended up taking the flowers home when she ran straight into Portuguese soldiers and tanks making their way to the government buildings.

One of the soldiers asked her for the cigarette but as Celeste didn’t smoke, she offered him a red carnation instead which he put into the barrel of his shotgun. In no time his fellow soldiers started doing the same. Photographs capturing the occasion and images of soldiers with carnations in their guns became the symbol of Portugal’s revolution.

Although the Carnation Revolution was peaceful and within hours brought an end to the oppressive regime  – at the same time opening the door for the independence of the African colonies – the transition to a stable democratic government was delayed until 1986, when Portugal entered the European Union.

In honour of the revolution, Lisbon’s ionic suspension bridge (a lookalike of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge) formerly known as the Ponto Salazar ( Salazar Bridge), was renamed Ponte 25 de Abril (April 25 Bridge).

Enjoy the week            Aproveite a semana                (pic Público/Ptnews)