OPINION

Environment woes need action today

Much has been written on the dire state of the environment in Greece. Unfortunately, that’s not going to change since the situation is deteriorating even further. The constant pleas of scientists, politicians, activists and others appear to have no effect on us. Uncontrolled garbage dumps stand like gaping wounds near towns and villages, rubbish litters the coastline, plastic bags are used in almost every store around the country and energy consumption is immeasurable. Those are just a few problems. The responsibility for this sorry affair certainly lies in part with the state, but the citizen is not immune from blame either. Even though Greeks like to say at almost every opportunity that they are sensitive to the environment, at least for the opinion polls, they still throw their garbage onto the streets without thought instead of recycling and use destroyed catalytic converters instead of changing them. Meanwhile, local interests resist the construction of modern waste disposal units and wind parks. Greece is a champion of words and a laggard in recycling, first in environmental sensitivity and last in exploiting renewable energy sources. The 300 European Union directives that have been embodied in the Greek legislature have helped, but they have not curbed the trend toward every kind of pollution. In fact, Greek households produced 4.5 percent more refuse from 1995 to 2002. Under these circumstances the proposal made by the executive director of the European Environmental Agency to tax polluters is of great value. What it says in short is that those who harm the environment must pay for its rehabilitation, be they industries or simple households. This ranges from taxing the production of non-recyclable goods to extracting an environmental tax from high-powered vehicles and levying households according to rubbish production. The technology exists and it is already in use in some countries in the West. The proposal by Jacqueline McGlade, executive director of the European Environmental Agency, is risk-proof. It is well worth looking at the ways in which it can be implemented.