Green Greece

For my first blog entry, I am posting an op-ed I submitted to a Greek-American publication ahead of Earth Day this year.  For whatever reason, it was not published, and in fact, no article about environmental issues was published in that week’s edition of this publication.  There are some interesting things happening in Greece at the local and national level in an effort to live in a more environmentally sustainable way.  This is worth sharing and discussing, whether it is Earth Day or any other day of the year.  After all, Earth Day should not be the only day of the year we discuss environmental issues, but it gives us a good reason to have a collective conversation and exchange notes on what we are doing and how it is working.

So here is my belated-yet-ever-pertinent attempt to encourage more ‘green’ dialogue between Greek-America and Greece:

This Earth Day, Act!  But Also Talk.

I recently told a friend in Greece that I was in the process of replacing the light bulbs around my house with energy efficient CFL light bulbs. My friend, who lives in a small town in the mountains of Epirus, responded, “That’s great, almost all of ours are already energy efficient.”  Looks like she could have taught me a thing or two! This was great to hear, especially after another conversation with a Greek-American friend that involved a tone of disbelief and the words “they recycle in Greece?”  As a matter of fact, some do.

So with Earth Day coming up on April 22, I plan to do some more talking.  As a Greek-American, I am talking to friends and family in Greece and sharing stories of what I am doing, what others around me are doing and what my community is doing to live in a healthy and sustainable manner, and asking them to share what they are doing or seeing in their communities. As the news on Greece is preoccupied with the economic crisis, Earth Day gives us a reason to talk about positive experiences with our friends, relatives and peers in Greece.

It is no mystery that there is a growing movement towards sustainable living and renewable energy in the U.S, but we do not hear as much about the organizations, groups, businesses and agencies promoting these issues in Greece, from the community to the policy level. There are increasing initiatives and programs in Greece that we can learn about and support.  In one initiative, Greek and international non-government organizations are inviting students to form cross-sector teams to design sustainable proposals for the re-design of Antonis Tritsis Park, a wildlife reserve in Athens that conducts environmental awareness programs for visitors. Various municipalities are launching new programs and promoting environmentally-friendly ways of living.  For example, Amfikleia began a recycling program, with which people are really getting involved, and Trikala approved plans to put solar panels on the roof of a high school.

Dialogue and action on sustainability in Greece is increasing at the national level as well. The Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change, formed last year, has been in the news regularly and has maintained a spotlight on environmental issues through its promising efforts at both the community and national level under the leadership of Tina Birbili.  At the community level, the Ministry will revitalize public squares and create parks in Athens. At the national level it is revising and drafting legislation and has posted four draft laws on opengov.gr for public input.  The Minister also welcomed the input of Greek NGOs that collaborated and submitted a proposal for a comprehensive institutional framework for protecting biodiversity.

As Greek-Americans, we have relationships and connections to people in Greece that serve as a foundation for exchanging ideas, solutions and encouragement on issues such as the environment. This exchange will allow us to increase our impact in both countries and inspire more people to live in an earth-friendly and healthy way. We should certainly act and invite others to act, but let’s make a concerted effort to talk about it so that we can adopt and spread ideas that work and continue coming up with creative solutions to environmental challenges, because, in the words of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who is known as the Green Patriarch for his efforts to work with religious leaders around the world to protect the environment, “If life is sacred, so is the entire web that sustains it.”

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5 Responses to Green Greece

  1. JoAnn Bouikidis says:

    I’m glad you posted on this topic, you really don’t hear too much about Greece’s Green Movement. I can definitely see this catching on though, and it should. Greece is a beautiful country, we should work to preserve it.

  2. Athan Manuel says:

    Great post. A few of us are discussing setting up a new Hellenic American environmental organization/foundation/whatever to get Greeks of the diaspora involved in helping Greeks in Greece save the motherland. It’s embryonic, but would love to get folks’ help in getting this effort off the ground.

    • That sounds really interesting Athan. I’d love to hear more about it, and it would be great to highlight such collaboration as it develops.

    • Andreas Akaras says:

      Athan I just read an article in The Economist Magazine that 84% of Greeks believe that global warming is a big problem, the highest number in the EU I believe. There are now many high profile Greeks around the world promoting the environmental cause and I think your idea is spot on. I think the GAPNet is a natural to help you with your efforts on this topic.

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