As firefighters combat the blazes, waging an unequal battle on many still uncontrolled fronts, we all face the same challenge.
Sure, there is a political dimension to every issue. And there will be a time for partisan confrontation. But this is not the right moment for this. Extreme weather phenomena and disasters of such magnitude should not become the subject of political exploitation – and this is true for all parties, and for past, present and future actions. On the contrary, they mandate a responsible and restrained attitude.
That said, one should welcome the fact that the overwhelming majority of politicians across the ideological spectrum have so far kept a restrained tone.
Everyone’s behavior, whether they are in government or in the ranks of the opposition, will be judged. Those who have made mistakes, oversights or omissions will be held accountable. But this is not the time.
In his comments, the Greek prime minister acknowledged that there will be criticism and self-criticism, when the time is right.
It goes without saying that the emergency crews on the frontline – firefighters, volunteers, police officers, even army personnel – deserve our full backing and gratitude. The question is whether they have the necessary means to undertake this daunting task and if they are operating on the basis of a coordinated plan.
The operation of the 112 emergency communications service is a very important and useful step. Its contribution has to be acknowledged by every well-meaning citizen regardless of political affiliation.
When it comes to fire prevention and control in a country like Greece, we cannot afford the slightest foot-dragging. All of us – society, parties, local government, ordinary citizens – have to be informed and proactive, and, above all, realize that we are all in the same boat.
The sensibility and mobilization of private individuals and organizations (a good example here is the assistance provided to the fire service by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation) are not enough. We must also make sure that the responsible agencies (the fire service, forest rangers and so on) have adequate funds and operate along meritocratic lines.
We have to learn from past disasters, some of which came with a hefty death toll. It does not matter if the man or the woman in charge belongs to this party or to that party; what is important is that they know their job. It’s as simple as that.
And, finally, we cannot expect everything from the state. To a large degree, what is happening now is also our fault. And we are paying the price for our behavior, from greenhouse gas emissions and climate change to unruly town planning and illegal construction over the decades. Our choices have come back to haunt us.