NEWS

Blogging becomes force for changing cityscape

By Yvette Varvaressou - Kathimerini English Edition

Blogs and social networking sites, such as Facebook, are not to be taken lightly as forces for change, judging from a September rally in Syntagma Square to protest against the widespread destruction of forests by fires this last summer. About 10,000 people, mostly dressed in black, met in front of Parliament in response to a call over the Internet and by word of mouth. One relatively new blog which is encouraging people concerned about the lack of greenery in Athens to take matters into their own hands is makeathensgreen.gr, set up by Stefanos Kofopoulos aka «Titanas.» Kofopoulos studied information technology but soon decided to pursue his dream of blogging full time. «The time was right and here I am, the first Greek blogger who tries to make his living out of... oh well, blogging!» he says on his site, pestaola.gr, where he first got the idea for makeathensgreen.gr. Also the co-host of a daily radio show, he talked to Kathimerini English Edition about how the idea has developed. «I was reading an article about Live Earth and it annoyed me, as I thought a few concerts weren't enough to say you were doing something for the environment. It's not doing anything practical,» he explained. «I thought we needed to do something for Greece. I set up the site a couple of months before the summer fires. I felt I had to do something myself, at least,» he said. With little support at first, he focused on reforestation and on how to use a blog as a means of communicating. As the reforestation idea came up against obstacles, such as bureaucracy, Kofopoulos then decided to look closer to home. «Each of us can do something on our own balconies to make a difference. Not just for more oxygen but to create a microclimate as well as improve the look of the place.» Balconies, roofs What the group does is encourage people to put more plants on their own balconies and to give plants as gifts to their friends. Kofopoulos practices what he preaches by giving out plants in response to e-mail requests, acting as a kind of go-between. He asks what sort of plant is needed, goes out and buys it and arranges to bring it to the purchaser. The site has also received a number of inquiries about green roofs, which are the subject of a conference that began last night at the Athens University of Economics and Business (see box). The blog also encourages people to recycle. Kofopoulos is working with the humanitarian group Klimaka, a non-governmental organization that helps the homeless and psychiatric patients who collect paper for recycling and sell it to cover their basic needs. Makeathensgreen acts as an intermediary between Klimaka and firms with large volumes of waste paper to dispose of. «I told the head of Klimaka that I could find the paper for him if he could provide the manpower. Now I have found two bars looking to dispose of their glass bottles. We are now dealing with the logistics of collecting them.» Facebook Social networking sites such as Facebook have also entered the fray with several groups of people in Greece concerned about the destruction of their environment. Facebook member Ioanna Mentzou has set up a Make Athens Green group which this week had over 3,800 members who can share tips on how to green the city and photographs of their balconies and neighborhood. «The reason I got involved is that I hate waking up in the morning, opening my window and breathing traffic fumes instead of fresh air,» Mentzou told Kathimerini English Edition. «I also want to live away from Athens for the rest of my life, with better environmental conditions, but since I cannot do it yet, because of my job, I'll try to bring fresh air here.» «Generally there is a growing interest in improving the environment and this is the message we want to get across in makeathensgreen,» said Kofopoulos. «All of us who are interested in the environment are not 'eco-freaks,' but ordinary people who go to work, go out for drinks, have relationships. Something is changing, that's why we want to do something that doesn't cost much - and do it now.» Events this week in Athens - As the United Nations Climate Change Conference proceeds in Bali, Indonesia, this week, hundreds of Greece's environmental organizations, unions, student and citizens' groups concerned about the future of the planet have planned a rally in Syntagma Square for this Saturday, December 8, at 1 p. m. to mark International Day against Climate Change. - «Green Roofs for a Sustainable Attica» is the subject of a conference that began yesterday evening and is to continue until Saturday afternoon at the Athens University of Economics and Business. Info: 210.820.3585, pj@aueb. gr. - A workshop on «Wildfire Management and Economic Development in Greece» is currently under way (until today) at Zappeion Hall, organized by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, along with Simon Fraser University and its professor, Andre Gerolymatos, as well as the president of the Greek Organization for the Development of Beneficial Causes, Leonidas Cambanis. The workshop's aims include damage assessment, the provision of advice on reforestation and restoration of the devastated areas, programs to quickly redevelop the settlements to prevent erosion, the recommendation of fire-prevention and management techniques, fire suppression technology, land management and land-use practices and policies. Info: 210.877.8357.

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