Greece: From Burning to a Green Future

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Fires in Rhodes, Greece, July 19, 2023. Red depicts the fires at the edge of a gigantic cloud of smoke. NASA Earth Observatory. Lauren Dauphin using Landsat data from the US Geological Survey.

The enemies of Greece, local developers, and foreign agents, use fire as a weapon. Greece after the destructive fires of 2007 and 2009 did not have the dangerous luxury of business as usual. Yet the deplorable and humiliating conditions of foreign debt since 2010 crippled the country. The European Union and America’s International Monetary Fund demanded obedience to a starving diet of working for the profit of the lenders. Necessities like firefighting technologies were ignored.

The result more fierce fires engulfed Greece in 2023. In late July 2023, fires spread all over the country. “Relentless wildfires in Greece are forcing tens of thousands of people to evacuate from the islands of Rhodes and Corfu [Kerkyra].”[1] Theophanis Skembris, deputy mayor of northern Kerkyra, told the BBC that arsonists were responsible for the fires.[2]

A green future is still possible for Greece

Greece will have a secure future by becoming a green country. Put an end and ditch industrialized versions of farming while renovating ancient traditional ways of raising food in the country’s thousands of villages. Rapidly invest in green energy by manufacturing solar panels for the roof of every house, building, parking lot, church, school — all over Greece.

Manufacture electric cars, but, above all, electric buses and trams and trains going everywhere in the country. Such a rapid transition to a livable future would be in accord with its ancient traditions of protecting human health and venerating nature. This would demand a gentle footprint on its devastated landscape. Abolishing hunting, giving a chance to wildlife to recoup, is a top priority. In addition, forests are essential in a green Greece. They produce oxygen and sequester greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide; they are also nurseries of life. Pay citizens living near forests to become forest guardians, protecting them from fires, loggers, and developers or, as the Greeks call them, “real estate eaters.”

The Greek government has also to deport all illegal immigrants, especially those who are Moslem who may be working for Turkey tasked to cause as much destruction on the country as they can. Fires are their secret weapon. Greece has to fund a fire prevention infrastructure that would complement citizen initiatives.

Keep rural people in their villages, helping them to grow food and take care of their flocks. However, nothing will ultimately matter if the Greeks fail to assume responsibility for nature, which was divine among their ancient ancestors. This fountain of ecological consciousness is part of Greek culture, the gods, the myths, the writings of the ancient Greeks.

Divine ecological traditions

The epic poet Hesiod hymns the deathless gods while pleading with the peasants to work the land. He tells them to be just to each other in order to enjoy good harvests; their sheep weighed down with wool; the top of their oak trees teaming with acorns and the middle with honeybees: a vision of eudaimonia or living in joyful and friendly relations among citizens.

Goddess Artemis protected nature; Demeter was the goddess of wheat, Dionysos introduced the grapevine and sweet wine and Pan protected flocks. Aristaios, son of Apollo, took care of beekeeping, olive gathering, and cheesemaking. Athena gave the olive tree to the Athenians who named their city after her. She was the virgin daughter of Zeus, the supreme god among the Hellenes. Zeus was a weather god, the cloud-gatherer, the master of thunder and thunderbolts. Zeus preserved nature and life by sending rains to the Earth.

These gods were at the heart of Greek agrarian culture, which was at the heart of Hellenic culture. The Eleusinian mysteries, the Greeks’ most sacred celebration, honored the reunification of Demeter with her daughter Persephone as well as Dionysos, powerful gods all who blessed the sowing of crops.

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Plaque of the Eleusinian mysteries depicting the reunification of goddess Demeter with her daughter Persephone from Hades. Fourth century BCE. National Archaeological Museum, Athens. Photo George E. Koronaios. Wikipedia.

A desired Greek model

In addition, Greece is beautiful; attraction to nature being one of the country’s great assets. The Greek government should bring this nature and wisdom into the schools. Such an immersion in ecological wisdom and Greek studies would be certain to bear fruits of Hellenic solidarity, responsibility for each other, and love for wilderness and reverence for the natural world.

Who knows, such behavior might become the model for the transformation of Europe and the world. The raging temperatures of climate change demand no less.

NOTES

1. Rachel Treisman, “Wildfires in Greece prompt massive evacuations,” NPR, July 24, 2023.

2. Ross McGuinness, “Greece: Wildfires on Corfu [Kerkyra] Started by arsonists,” Yahoo News, July 24, 2023.

Evaggelos Vallianatos is a historian and environmental strategist, who worked at the US Environmental Protection Agency for 25 years. He is the author of seven books, including the latest book, The Antikythera Mechanism.