OPINION

Second nature

The advertisement, commissioned by the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change, lasts about 25 seconds. The harsh sound of an electric shaver, the scalp gradually revealed under a young girl’s blond hair and then the punchline: «If they told you that it would take 30 years to grow back, wouldn’t you think twice?» As the trimming continues, there comes a second comment: «A burnt pine forest requires 30 years to grow back, a fir forest, 80.» The figures are clear and inexorable. But would an arsonist be discouraged? The minister hopes that the first forest maps – maps that delineate the boundaries of the country’s forests and are thus intended to dissuade would-be arsonists and land-grabbers – will be approved by the end of 2010. Already 35 years have passed since the Constitution first foresaw the creation of forest maps and 12 years since the first law was passed to establish a land registry, known here as the «Ktimatologio.» Over that period, less than 10 percent of the country has been registered. Every summer comes with lamentation for the lost forests. But in August 2007, the magnitude of the disaster left us speechless: 4.5 million olive trees, 268,834 hectares of forestland, 63 people and 60,000 animals were all lost in the fires. Then came the mourning, the outrage, the silence. As for the illegal houses built within forest areas: «The cycle of lawlessness will be broken once the first forest map is approved,» said Environment Minister Tina Birbili. So let’s take a fresh look at things. There are laws but they are not implemented, no one is held accountable, no one is punished for failure to implement the law. The extended land-grabbing, illegal construction and law-breaking are the manifestation of a fully organized state: a state with structure, hierarchy, services, principles and pressure mechanisms. A state that is swift and efficient. Entire forests are classified as farmland overnight before they are sold for construction. Meanwhile, it takes 35 years to approve a forest map. The much-debated question of whether we belong to the East or the West still remains. Meanwhile, a new question has arisen: Are we for a legal or an illegal state? For illegality has come to be recognized as our second nature. Not razed by fire, in this case, but lush and well-protected.