The anger of those who froze in their cars or were left without power during last week’s snowstorm is perfectly justified, but a few thousand frustrated citizens, regardless of how unpleasant their experience, does not make a national crisis. On the scale of natural disasters, last week’s events rank quite low. They don’t compare to the loss of life and destruction from the Mandra floods and the Mati blaze, nor to the ecological devastation of last summer’s wildfires in Attica and Evia. The snow melted and life eventually got back to normal, without leaving irreparable damage in its wake. So what’s all the fuss about?
I can think of two reasons why this small-scale crisis had such a big impact. One is the way the snowbound cars were depicted on television, with broadcasters having a field day with every tale of woe. Let’s not blame them, though: This is their job and this was definitely a story. Yet the tone was constantly critical, which brings us to the second reason. The problems caused by the snow in the capital and their being aired live to the rest of the country was a godsend to the opposition – and even more so as the government spent so much time reassuring us that it had everything under control. It was also an opportunity for everyone disappointed by or angry at the government to lash out. And now the authorities, national and local, are carrying on the drama by passing the blame onto each other. Then we were informed that meetings will be held and committees formed to improve crisis management in the future. I certainly hope it works, though I tend to be skeptical when I hear of meetings and committees.
The Chinese say that every crisis is an opportunity. In this particular case, we can view the snowstorm as a relatively successful dress rehearsal because the losses were, luckily, minor. It will also be successful if by bringing the problems to the surface, these are addressed and fixed. And these can be fixed only if we take a good hard look in the mirror. It is imperative that we learn how to deal with every crisis correctly and calmly, not just because the climate is changing but also because some of the other big challenges we face are not.