Backfire: Constitutional Forest Protection in Greece May Promote Arson to Abet Land Developers (or "Forests Don't Vote")


While the Greek Church may be home to one of the greenest religious leaders, forest conservation measures provided for in the Greek Constitution may be backfiring. Earlier this month, before last weekend's fires in Greece threatened to engulf the ancient stadium of Olympia (birthplace of the Olympic Games), a senior researcher with Greece's Forest Research Institute explained to Spiegel Online that forest management policies in the country may actually promote arson since "forests don't vote." Forest protection is written into Greece's constitution, making it almost impossible for forest land to be re-zoned for development. But because there are no official maps delineating the boundaries of the forest areas, land at the edges of burned out forests are often claimed by developers after fires. "This is the heart of the problem," the researcher told Spiegel Online which notes that Athenians "have traditionally never been much moved by tree-hugger sensibilities."My father, who grew up in Athens under Nazi occupation, once told me a modern Greek myth: After God finished creating the countries of the world, he was left with a bag of rocks, and that's what he used to create Greece. Such ostensible self-deprecation is meant to lament the rugged, barren and often woefully untraversable terrain of the Greek countryside, but the narrative also slyly points to Greek pride in hardscrabble existence -- on some level Greeks wouldn't have it any other way finding core pleasures in life's simple offerings such as the enjoyment of food, family, earth and sea. The same competing sensibilities, which are perhaps to some degree the result of an unresolved masochism, hold true for the impulses to develop or to preserve land. On one level, the land's scarcity is a slight (God created Greece as an afterthought) which is to be reconciled by the blood lust of conquest and a punishing destruction. Opposing that is a feeling of gratitude for what has been given, no matter how limited, and a respect for the powers that guide our fate. To experience the former, the longing for more or the feeling that one is "coming up short," should be no more shameful than experiencing lack of breath or momentary hunger. However choosing to act on such feelings which do not speak on behalf of needs that must be met for one to survive, will inevitably backfire. Via:: Spiegel Online

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