Crime by majority vote

An exhortation by European Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas that Greeks should vote in October’s local elections for mayors who have «worked for the environment» may be correct, but it is also outrageously utopian. It is right in a formal sense because it shows that the heart of the country’s environmental problems lies in local government and the way it operates. Yet it is unrealistic because it is almost impossible to find – and even more difficult to elect – mayors who have actually worked for the environment. Speaking in an interview in Sunday’s Kathimerini, Dimas said Greece is almost at the bottom of the list of European countries with regard to observing fundamental environmental regulations and protecting its ecological system. Unfortunately, the problem cannot be solved by enacting more laws or imposing heavier penalties on infringers. What is lacking in Greece is a deeper environmental awareness. The greatest damage to the environment in this country has not been done by «ravenous» industrial interests or «unprincipled» business owners. It has been done at the bidding of local societies, either to advance «development» or to enable members of the local electorate to better exploit their property assets. Locals themselves are not to blame; they are simply uninformed. People must be taught from early on the value of the environment and the need to protect it, to evaluate human needs in relation to land use and the exploitation of natural resources. If that is not done, then our environment will continue to be destroyed in the most democratic way possible: by local majorities in the name of unrestricted development and the exploitation of property assets by a minority. No local electorate will choose a mayor who promises to expropriate land in order to expand green areas or to impose stricter regulations preserving traditional architecture.