ECONOMY

The natural landscape is this country’s real wealth

A watchful, scientific eye on environmental and political issues will be provided by the new Chamber of Environment and Sustainable Development under its president and founder, Michalis Dekleris, honorary vice president of the Council of State and president of its Fifth Section. Ten years after the Rio Earth Summit on sustainable development, the ecologically minded Michalis Dekleris was interviewed by Kathimerini on the occasion of the Chamber’s inauguration. From Rio onward, it was officially established that our goal was not an affluent society but a sustainable society, in which development and conservation of the environment and the planet coexist harmoniously. This society is not a dream, it is realizable, and this is what the Chamber will try to prove, he said. Dekleris delineated the role of the Chamber as a scientific center which will monitor the environment and supply reliable information, and at the same time disseminate solid facts on the environment and sustainability. Strange though it may seem, there is solid expertise in Greece, as the Fifth Section of the Council of State has accumulated a massive wealth of experience in the 10 years of its operation. Moreover, Greeks helped with their attitude, because they question public policy, which continues to be growth-orientated. Greeks, Dekleris continued, responded to and embraced the idea of sustainability in a very short period of time. As for ecologists, he went on, I believe that they are the most progressive section in Greek society and the most faithful to Greek values. Greek values By Greek values, he means none other than the classical Greek principles: moderation, austerity, justice, order and the respect for nature. The philosophy of growth is a Western product. That’s where the idea of the acquisition of endless wealth through the systematic application of technology was conceived. Nature, he continued, was seen as a natural resource, but it slipped the West’s attention that it was a living organism. Western models of growth resulted in the ecological crisis that was denounced at Rio. Greece has always held to a number of timeless values, the values of life. The West has distanced itself from these. The West has no moderation; it wants wealth; it aims for power rather than justice; it is not interested in nature but in machines. Dead things have been elevated to things of value. Rio, he felt, justified Greece and Greek education. It is the responsibility of Greeks to be pioneers in sustainable development, as it is the fruit of their education. The government, of course, does not honor these values. Because Greece’s development lagged, it is not interested in the environment. The rulers’ only concern is how to reach the levels of other European countries, but what level are we talking about? Doesn’t the destruction of nature, which was the price those countries paid, count? This was one of the mooted programs of the Chamber, he said, to show that this system is false and deceptive, because it does not add up to a picture of Greece’s wealth. Greece’s wealth does not reside in its foreign exchange reserves, but in its coast, mountains, its splendid landscape, its climate and the sea. This is its real wealth, which can be valued in economic terms. If people realized this, they would stop imitating others like poor relatives. Modernization During the 1960s debate on moderation, it was taken for granted that Western could be equated with modern. Now, however, that the failure of the West has been officially confirmed, what price has modernization now? At Rio, it was concluded that each country should develop according to its internal system, and that no foreign country could be taken as a yardstick of progress. Huge opportunities now exist for small countries to safeguard their wealth and progress. Sweden for example, or New Zealand, which from being an appendage of the global economy has attained sustainability. Greece cannot only become one of these countries, it owes it to itself to become one. What politicians have not understood, Dekleris feels, is that it is no longer a question of right versus left but of rampant growth versus sustainability. And they are wholly ignorant of the latter’s language. Take, for example, the bill on the coast, which is discussed in 1940s terms. Today, we cannot talk about the littoral and shores; we should be talking about the sustainable management of the coast. The government approached the issue from the wrong end at the outset. For one, a bill on environmental issues should not have been drawn up by the Ministry of the Economy. That just shows that these people, when they see a stretch of coastline, instead of admiring it, think about how to exploit it. The bill’s purpose is the economic exploitation of the coastline and not its management, he declared. Dekleris denied that the importance of sustainability has not sunk into the general consciousness. Moves to that end, such as the Kyoto Protocol, are willfully sabotaged for reasons of vested interests. Rio was not an ordinary summit meeting on the environment; it decided a civic U-turn which marked the failure of growth-orientated policies. We can’t expect tangible results in such a short space of time. What’s important is that no one can imagine questioning the concept of sustainability. They have invented a new slogan, ‘globalization,’ which in essence is empty of meaning, dreamt up by circles interested in the resurrection of unchecked growth. Globalization, however, means that every civilization is universal, which is already the case. Since 1945, he pointed out, when the UN was founded, there has been a global political system, while communications have long been globalized. When they say globalization, they mean market globalization. They want the market to rule humanity, which should immediately be rejected by every logical human being. These people have great power and want everything to be decided by multinationals, but nobody is inclined to gratify their wish. But he remained optimistic. I believe life is stronger than death, and that these people represent death and destruction, in contrast to sustainable development, which is so termed because it ensures the continuation of life.