Makeshift solutions perpetuate our ills

If we want to get to the root of all the ills of the past few days, we need only consider our national maxim: «Something will get us out of this mess.» This is what goes through our minds every time we are faced with seemingly impossible situations, whether these relate to the economy or the deteriorating quality of life in the capital. It seems that life in Athens is only bearable if it does not rain or snow, if it is not too hot nor too humid. Some 4 million Athenians can only function if temperatures range between 20 and 27 degrees Celsius. Anything outside this range appears to provoke a crisis. Of course the real problem has nothing to do with the heat, nor the rain or snow. When half the population of a country is squeezed into its capital city, which is badly lacking in adequate infrastructure, it is only natural that extreme weather conditions will create problems. The electricity network only operates normally when conditions are ideal for the Public Power Cooperation (PPC). Even adverse developments in neighboring countries affect our domestic power supply. It is not easy to see how a fire in Skopje can trigger a power cut in the northern Athens district of Menidi. But this is exactly what happened at the peak of this week’s heat wave. The consumption of some 9,600 to 10,500 megawatts of energy, which is quite normal for summer, is now being described as a crisis. When the country experiences a state of emergency for three months in summer and for two months in winter, when the predictable and normal is seen as a crisis, then something must be very wrong with our energy system. We will never know if there were any smog-related deaths during this summer’s two heat waves. Unfortunately, it is impossible to measure with any certainty the impact of atmospheric pollution on mortality. But the fact remains that half of the Greek population is living in asphyxiating conditions, with all the consequences this has for public health and productivity. Moreover, there is a concentration of risk. If we consider that Attica is home to some 40.25 percent of the active population, which generates 37.3 percent of gross domestic product, then it is clear that a chance phenomenon can cause much greater damage, relatively, than in countries with a more even distribution of the population. Greece has been operating «in the red» for years now. The ailments that we hid behind hastily conducted repair work for so many years are beginning to swell dangerously. Temporary solutions are ineffective and the old problems re-emerge, like potholes covered by a thin layer of asphalt in the summer, only to crack open with the first rain.

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