I am writing these lines as a wildfire rages through a nature reserve on the island of Evia, north of Athens. It’s impossible not to think about climate change. Not the one which will happen at some future point in time (as some people tend to believe out of optimism or denial), but the one whose consequences are already in full swing, as temperatures around the planet are rising fast, as the polar ice caps are melting, as Alaska’s temperatures are off the charts, hitting an all-time record of 32 degrees Celsius, as heat waves are engulfing parts of Central Europe, and as Siberian forests are razed by fire.
Greece, a country where summer temperatures are among the highest in Europe, with its swaths of pine forests and the lax demeanor of the majority of government officials and citizens, is naturally no exception to the trend.
There is so far no evidence as to what caused the disastrous blaze on Evia. However, we do know that the recent fire on Elafonisos broke out at a landfill on the Peloponnese islet, while the one in Paiania, which raced up the slopes of Mount Hymettus near Athens, was caused by a short circuit in Public Power Corporation cables.
In other words, the human factor was directly involved in both fires. And even if PPC cannot be expected to be constantly monitoring its power cables across the country and even if high temperatures put an extra strain on cables (supposedly causing them to spark more easily), there can simply be no excuse for the foot-dragging, the ineptitude and the indifference that the state, the municipalities and citizens have displayed over the issue of waste management.
Greece is perhaps the only country in Europe to have been proven to be totally unwilling and incapable of managing its waste and landfills problem. The problem has been around for ages despite abundant funding provided by the European Union to fix it, as well as sanctions over failing to do so. Stubborn Greeks simply refuse to make decisions and act accordingly to, first, cut down on waste, second, pick up their garbage and, third, adopt the available technology in the sector.
Greek municipalities are champions in ineptness, irresponsibility and denial, and so are their citizens. The chickens are coming home to roost and the consequences will be disastrous.