Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Caring for the Environment: A rich man's cause?

It looks as though close neighbours Turkey and Greece share a lot more in common than great beaches, zither music and late nights. It appears that they are both placing care for the environment in the back seat of priorities. A recent study regarding forests in both Greece and Turkey shows that:
"As in all Mediterranean coastal areas dense human population, extensive settlements, and agricultural activities have largely destroyed the natural habitat. Urbanization, conversion to agriculture, overgrazing and illegal logging are the principal causes of destruction."
(Read article here)
It's no secret that the economies of both countries are hugely dependent on the Tourism industry. I would unscientifically deduce that therefore there is also a correlation between the destruction of one for the perceived benefit of the other.

In speaking to locals here in Greece, there is an attitude that it's OK for me to say things like 'respect the environment' because I was raised in Australia, a wealthy country that could afford to look after the environment. But Greece is too poor to afford to look after the environment and that people's needs, creating employment and money must take precedence over trees etc.

Sustainable development - development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Advocates a middle road for development where the environment is not sacrificed on the altar of economic growth. That growth can occur that respects both people and the environment. This has been around for a long time and received prominence in the 1980s. Most EU countries now have a Sustainable development policy and is seriously discussed at the community level.

Croatia is on the receiving end of a boom in environmental tourism. Tourists are paying big bucks to flock to see untouched beaches and forests surrounded by traditional buildings. Greece is suffering the effects of cheap drunken package tours who behave worse that soccer hooligans and leave little money in the local economy.

Both Greece and Turkey however, lag far behind their neighbours in this respect.
Why is this so?
Don't either countries respect their environment? I don't think so. I believe it's more a matter about leadership, which has obviously been missing. It takes leadership to look at the big picture, to sacrifice the easy short term gains in exchange for greater benefits for all in the future. There are also the power structures in place now that benefit from the current situation. They play a big role in the political process. It's no surprise that where democracy is stronger and corruption weakest, the environment takes a more prominent role in the people's minds and in the political process.
Perhaps the best thing the average consumer can do is to choose to holiday at some of the few destination spots that show consideration for the environment. They exist in both Greece and Turkey. This way we reward good behaviour and punish those who destroy every one's inheritance, the environment.


Hans said...

Great post Vassili.
It is culture relativisme that makes people inactive.
In countries where religions e.g. the Greek Orthodox Church and the Muslim faith plays a signifiant role in daily life, people can not work from 'existence' points of view. Often ' its Insjallah'....
While we are dying the nature of countries are NOT dying...

Tufan said...

Interesting post my friend.
We have to take care what is left, but we are not aware what we have wasted. Can I explain it more?
Keep going on the good work.
Regards from the USA.

Vassili said...

Tufan: Are you asking if you can explain more? If so, go ahead.
I really want to hear other peoples points of view. If i am wrong tell me, because i am still trying to get my head around these issues.
Hans: Re religion, it does and doesnt have that big an impact, if it were Greek orthodox would listen to the PAtriarch when he talks about caring for the environment. Greeks are very religious as long as we can ignore the parts we disagree with :)