Emir of Qatar's superyacht in Palma. | MDB


"More tourism does not mean better living." So said Aina Cassanyes of environmentalists GOB last weekend.

A familiar enough mantra for GOB, and looking back at 2023, more tourism has meant an extraordinary increase in the number of tourists. Good, some will say, but then how much do they think about the capability of these islands to cope with such numbers? Where is their vision for what these islands should be?

The year end is a time of reflection, and while 2023 has unquestionably been a fine one in economic terms, has it represented a crossing of the rubicon to a state of uncontrolled growth? Over one million more visitors, an advance that is unprecedented.

Aina Cassanyes added that sustainable growth is an "oxymoron". She might have added that no one really seems to know what it means, but at present the only sustaining that is happening appears to be an assault on resources. And yet when GOB call for initiative to address issues such as limits, restrictions and degrowth, they themselves fail to define.

This is especially so with degrowth, a concept which is from (though far from exclusively) an anarchist manual. GOB wouldn't see themselves as anarchists, much though they rubbed shoulders with anarchists in defending Dragonera from development in 1977. Instead, one's inclined to feel, it is an attempt at pointing to a 'model' without ever truly assessing what this model is supposed to look like.

Well, we do of course know about expansion of the primary sector plus the vagueness that surrounds diversification into the likes of the blue economy. But that's about all we do know. Which isn't very much, and certainly not enough to hang one's post-tourism economic hat on, unless one really is a rabid anarchist.

Everyone in Mallorca seems to love a model, and I'm not referring to the type which supplies idle clickbait. No, it's the desire to parade a model of the economy, somehow alternative or amended, but always bereft of true vision because so many competing forces make this impossible, assuming that there is even the intellect or will to enunciate it.

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There most definitely will not be any of the vision thing - a meaningful, thoughtful, sustainable vision thing - from the new government. Inherently weak, enfeebled by election, President Prohens wishes us to believe that things are so good that she couldn't be "more satisfied" with the 2024 budget. Finding themselves down a dead end confronted by Vox with their sleeves rolled up, the PP had nowhere to hide or to go. Come on, Marga, don't try and kid us.

The missing vision, according to GOB, includes the government's housing decree. This, says GOB president Margalida Ramis, is a decree to solve the housing problem through the market without framing it in a social approach. Maybe it is, but GOB needn't worry themselves too much. The decree isn't going to solve anything, whether the market is involved or not. Visionary? Of course not. It was an exercise in coming up with something before one hundred days of government were up in order to try and convince us of new government dynamism.

GOB cop for a good deal of criticism. This can be understandable. Aina Cassanyes speaks of an "eco-social transition", but then they don't always have their antennae adjusted to a social dimension. Defenders of law (fair enough), this can lead them to scenarios such as the demolition of the El Bungalow restaurant in Ciudad Jardin. Socially there is huge support for the restaurant. Rejection of GOB on this issue has led to withdrawal of membership.

I disagree with them, such as with El Bungalow, but I find myself in agreement on many other issues. And the apparently insatiable growth is one of them. It is eating Mallorca, and tourism politicians seem intent on inviting ever more exotic guests to dine out. With what end? To a further inflationary dynamic, to more attractiveness to a real-estate market eyeing up vast commissions, to more devouring of the countryside by isolated palacetes with pools?

A global market views Mallorca through a bejewelled prism reflected equally as globally by a very different social dimension - that of social media. At least some of the celebrities - Michael Douglas, Annie Lennox, for example - get it in terms of sustainability. But too often there is the sense in which this island is on the catwalk, a fashion item to be ogled at in the accompaniment of a fleet of superyachts and their just as super occupants. It feeds itself, or rather it feeds an image irrevocably divorced from the realities of the ordinary man, woman and child.

GOB have spent fifty years defending the territory. They helped to prevent Dragonera, a success that has rarely been repeated. They speak of this eco-social transition, whatever this means, and question an economic model that consumes resources with such an insatiable appetite. They are part island conscience, but at the same time they can seem just as divorced from the realities.

The vision, where is it? I know. Just hold still one moment. Click, click, click.