OPINION

One minute’s shameful silence

In yet another eminently surreal moment, Greece’s Parliament last week held a minute’s silence in memory of the trees and wildlife lost in a massive blaze on Mount Parnitha. The move was proposed by main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou and readily accepted by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis. The incident could be seen as a rather tasteless attempt to display ecological sensitivity with the aim of placating an exceptionally angry segment of the population. But it can be interpreted in other ways too. The individual, or individuals, who came up with the idea undoubtedly evaluate the environment using human yardsticks, according to the culture of the dominant species, the conqueror of the earth, the race that considers itself to have been born to enjoy and exploit the fruits of the earth. And it is precisely this warped relationship between modern man and his environment that has caused the problem of global warming. So, instead of observing a minute’s silence for something which has not actually died yet, perhaps we should spend some time considering that our environment – the flora and fauna around us – will continue their lives on this planet irrespective of us. The truth is that it is our own existence as a species that we are threatening. So let’s respect the laws of our habitat, albeit for reasons of self-preservation. Instead of wandering the earth like arrogant, foolish beings, wielding our technology like an ax, let us continue our exciting journey through life by finally assimilating some of the lost wisdom of our forefathers, who were conscious, grateful and humble toward the galaxy that accommodated them and refrained from abusing its many riches. Perhaps it would be more appropriate to observe a minute’s shamed silence to mark the gloomy future that with sheer recklessness we are bequeathing to our children and our grandchildren through our actions, omissions and shortcomings. The trees do not need us. The same trees, or similar ones, will grow back in this eternal game of natural selection and growth. Let us be silent for a moment out of shame for what we have done to Athens and other large cities, for the monstrous construction that has made our lives unbearable, for having some of the most polluted air in Europe, for our rivers full of toxic waste. If we want a different, better life, we can have it. It is a matter of policies, a matter of priorities. The Greece that hosted a successful Olympiad in 2004 can enjoy the quality of life that it deserves – parks and forests and better, cleaner cities. The question is: Do we want it enough?