Rooms, maybe?

It’s Sunday evening, somewhere between Rethymnon and Hania, on the way back to Athens. We’ve had a two-week vacation in one of the quietest corners of the Libyan Sea, with deep, crystal-clear water, countless gorges, abundant and delicious fish, unique wild flowers and surreal porphyry moons. Our first reconnection with what is conventionally termed civilization is a timely program about the Johannesburg Earth Summit on an Athens radio station. We listen to it, immobilized in the right lane of the highway, along with dozens of other cars that are waiting for a violent storm to pass. This veritable typhoon uproots trees, overflows streams and floods villages – on the first day of September. Crete probably got off lightly. Some 25 million people in the northern hemisphere were made homeless in midsummer by the catastrophic floods of the past few weeks. These are «extreme phenomena» that have been getting less unusual in recent years, as profiteering development destroys forests, pollutes and overheats the planet, just as the experts have been warning us for years. That’s the kind of thing we were listening to in our stationary car, and wondering what sustainable development might mean to the city of Iraklion, which decided to build a road into the magical Aghiofarango gorge; to the politicians who are promising a great southern road from Ierapetra to Palaiohora, that will cut across many superb gorges in the area; to the businessmen who want to turn Gavdopoula into a tanker refueling depot; to the would-be investors who want to buck the archaeological service’s restrictions so they can construct bungalows on the beach. And for those elderly women in the still-beautiful gulf of Lenta who pursued us with the standard modern Greek greeting: «Eh, Mister… rooms, maybe?»

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