Dear Editor,
Though my article about the Torrente is only about Soller, I expect that the question it raises is much the same throughout the island. All this summer I have been glorying in the beauty of the torrente: the one that runs parallel to the calle de Luna before it branches off towards Fornalutx. It was not just the dense copses of cane rustling like rain that captivated me, nor the clumps of papyrus, nor the two fig trees laden with wild figs, nor the bristly tufts of wild olive, nor the trailing glossy leaves of Smilax aspera, known as devil's ivy, nor the tall rudbeckia (first cousin of the root artichoke) getting ready in August to blaze with its egg-yellow rosettes, nor finally the robust strongholds of esparto grass, the envy of every rockery grower. It was not just all this that I thanked God for, but the life that went with it: the rich ecological life of mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian, and insect -for yes, even the despised wasp has its place in the animal chain, carrying away fly after fly as meat for its brood.

And I thought too of the bats at dusk, especially the Lesser Pipistrelle, no bigger that a girl's thumb, zigzagging over the torrente in stammering flight and clearing the air of gnats and other nuisances. Meanwhile I knew that down in the puddles lived two kinds of frog, handsome in their green and gold markings, who did us the inestimable service of gobbling up mosquito lava -- as did the two varieties of newt. Then there were the rodents, especially the dapper Rata cellada with its white waistcoat and chestnut eyebrows, which with the two varieties of shrew -- the shrew, by the way, is not a rodent -- helped to keep down plagues of slugs and snails.

All this life of variety and interest was never far from the back of my mind every time I went careering past it on my bicycle. Then, on one horrendous day, July 29, 2001, I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw, in the very heart of this wonderland, a bulldozer. Like a monstrous praying mantis from outer space it was plunging its giant beak into everything around, tearing and strewing and leaving mangled heaps. In a matter of minutes it was all over. What was left of the beautiful torrente was a sterile ditch asking to be filled with plastic bags, rusty saucepans, indestructible containers, and the odd bicyce tyre. What can I say? What can I write? I am so full of rage that I can hardly hold a pen in my fingers. It is not just the ruthlessness of the act but its stupidity: a stupidity based on what I call “the in case fallacy”. “In case there is flooding we must clear the torrente.” “In case someone gets drunk we'd better abolish wine.” “In case you drown, you'd better not drink that glass of water.” “In case you get run over by a car, it would be best if you had never been born.” As to flooding, not in three hundred years has there been any record of flooding in the torrente running parallel to the calle de Luna. The force of water clears away a too dense growth of vegetation, and that which is left not only slows down the current but acts like a kind of blotting paper. The paving of the far bigger torrente that leads into the sea by the puerto was a work of supererogation of contrived shrewdness when cupidity leapt into bed with stupidity, making sure that several billion pesetas were spent pouring concrete into an impeccable terrain. The names of the contractors should have been made public. And who were the ones who added to their pocket-money by destroying the magnificent avenue of plane trees which, I am told, once lined the road on the way to the port?

At the end of the day what can one say to the perpetrators of these “improvements”? For myself, I would call to them and say: Hey, you're falling down on the job: you haven't straightened the calle de Luna by knocking down the houses. Oh, and there's the orange grove on the way to Biniaraitx, you haven't made a car park there yet. And why haven't you made sure that more plastic bags are carried down to the ocean? The turtles are not quite extinct.* And there's the racket of motorbikes. Quite a lot of people aren't deaf yet, and some of the motorbikes actually have their silencers on. Oh, and I was forgetting: there are still one or two people who don't drive around in those giant and pretentious four-by-fours. Can you do something about that? After all, the streets could do with quite a bit more congestion. Finally, there's the poligono you've been talking about: are you making quite sure that it's in the choicest part of Soller and, above all, much uglier than the one in Palma?

One last point, what are you going to do when you've outraged the better kind of tourist, the discriminating ones with money, and they start going to Greece and Turkey. Will you go back to walking barefoot in the mountains with your donkey? *Turtles mistake plastic bags for jellyfish, try to swallow them and suffocate. The extinction of the turtle, of course, means the proliferation of jellyfish.

Yours sincerely,

Paul Roche. Soller.

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