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Wildfires devastate Greece: Do you have a fire in your neighborhood?

August 26, 2007


I emailed this simple question to an old friend of mine in Athens. With some degree of black humor and mostly silent unuttered pain, I have become witness during the last days -through the media- of the ongoing apocalyptic devastation by fires of my other home-country Greece.

Satellite picture by NASA showing the fires in south Greece © Assoc.Press

The extreme heatwave, strong winds and arsonists are blamed. Over fifty people have died, several villages were burnt or keep burning, many other ones are evacuated. Some of the rarest virgin forests in Europe have disappeared for ever and even the ancient city of Olympia, the world’s cultural heritage, is threatened. The Olympia Museum is on fire at this moment, though other updated news say it was finally saved…

Multiple fire fronts across the country, over 100 at some point, have stretched the ability of the authorities to react effectively, whereas many blame it for a spasmodic and delayed reaction. A nationalwide state of emergency is declared. Help from other EU countries, such as France and Italy, is arriving. Anger, fear and tears. Nothing will be the same when this summer and the thick black smoke is gone.

Red sky and smoke over Athens © Associated Press

The unprecedented ecological, cultural and economic devastation might be captured in the photos by the Athens News Agency and the Associated Press, such as this above with Athens’s red smoky sky, or the dramatic pictures which follow below. But how can you capture the effect on people who lost their own people, or all of their livelihood, the consequences for all of us in general? Do we really understand what all this means… My thoughts slowly travel not only to those who were tragically trapped by the fire, but also to some of the perished victims, who as it is said, they had refused to move and abandon their beloved houses, their gardens and animals…

Greece fire 2007 Zaharo © Athens News Agency


Greece fire 2007 Artemida village © Associated Press


Greece fire 2007 © Athens News Agency

Greece fire 2007 Taygetos © Eurokinissi


Greece fire 2007 Kaletsi Corinth © Athens News Agency

And the battle goes on…


5 Comments leave one →
  1. August 26, 2007 5:35 pm

    Thoughtful post, well said. This is a horrible tragedy.

  2. photis permalink
    August 27, 2007 12:09 pm

    It is indeed a horrible tragedy, even more so if one is to consider that it is – once again – inflicted upon our own people by greedy short-sighted ego-centric Greeks. When will we come to our senses and realize that we share this paradise-like world with others, that our actions have consequences for others, that the world does not revolve about ME! ME! ME! ME!

    Utterly sad.

  3. thinkinpictures permalink*
    August 28, 2007 1:04 pm

    Hi Photis,
    It is a terrble tragedy indeed. Of course, ‘greedy short-sighted ego-centric’ people exist everywhere in all the countries. The point is, what was the plan of protection against such risk and threats…

  4. photis permalink
    August 31, 2007 2:22 pm

    I’m very sorry but I have to disagree with you. I’ve lived in 3 other European countries for extended periods of time and I have had frequent and intensive contacts/visits with at least 3 other. Nowhere have I experienced this “après moi le déluge” mentality as we exhibit here. We throw our wrappers and empty plastic bottles out of the car window, we park our cars left and right where it suits us without the slightest concern for other users of the same road, we dump our garbage in the most pristine nature reserves, we think that if we shout harder we have more rights, we don’t trust anybody and hence are not trusted by anybody, we destroy our own environment with loads of concrete and burn down the world we live in for a short-term profit, we vote for the politician that promises us personal gain, and then we complain that we have a rotten, corrupt and incompetent government. We are, my friend, the most ego-centric people in the world. I’m not talking about a few unfortunate exceptions. I’m talking about us as a people, in general, across the board. Neither am I saying that we only possess those negative traits, we don’t, we have fantastic qualities, we are optimistic, upbeat in general, charming, warm, compassionate (sometimes), we know how to enjoy life, a lot of things other people in the world envy us for. But ego-centric, irresponsible, short-sighted, profiteering we are. This will only change once we stop denying it.

    You refer to “the plan of protection”, laying the responsibility with the government. Our government is just a cross-selection of our people. Tell me what you think of our government and I know what you think of our people.

  5. thinkinpictures permalink*
    August 31, 2007 8:44 pm

    Dear Photis,
    Although I can see your frustration with many selfish and other negative traits in rising in modern Greek society (which by the way exist in other societies too), and although I would agree that general social change of attitudes and behaviours would be very welcoming, I’m not sure what exactly is your point…

    Is it that responsibility does not lie in the realm of the government, authority and political power, but with some subjective and generalised idea of the ‘bad nature’ of modern greeks?

    That would be totally absurd!.. And it is a very weak attempt to diffuse the idea of political power and responsibility with some vague philosophising about kinds of ‘human nature’ and ‘social psyche’. I would leave these two, (political responsibility and general philosophising), aside.

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