Monday, 6 August 2007
Fire and water
For weeks Greece was plagued by wild fires. Some days there were hundreds of fires all over the country. Kozani, Ioannina, Peloponesus, Kastoria, Athens, Crete, Kefalonia, Chios and Samos are just some of the familiar names from the long list of places where fires left catastrophic damage.
Indeed it was pretty hot with two heat waves in one month. The weather had never been better for arsonists. Not only nature came under fire, but also the Greek government. The two biggest parties, PASOK and Nea Demokratika, never stopped blaming each other: they weren't organised enough to control the fires and the government never did enough to stop real estate developers building on burnt areas. The majority of Greeks don't believe the burned down forests will be replanted, as premier Karamanlis has pledged.
While in some places there are still fires, in many places people have to get used to the destruction made by the fires and the government hopes that it didn't lose too much goodwill. But the next disaster is already here: drought. Especially on the Cycladic Islands, there is a water shortage, which will only get worse, because not only is the number of foreign tourists increasing, the Greeks also now come in large numbers to the islands, in order to cool off a little and for the celebration of the Ascension of Maria on the 15th of August.
Due to the very dry winter the shortage was predicted by everybody. And of course the two heat waves only made matters worse. Some islands even have money to build water reservoirs and desalination installations. But Greek bureaucracy is so slow that most of the plans still have to reach the design stage.
Lesvos did pretty well in the fiery month of July. We just had some small fires and Lesvos was barely mentioned in the long lists published in the papers daily of the places ravaged by fire. Lesvos is not a part of the thirsty Cycladic Islands, it is part of the North Aegean islands. That doesn't mean we can be careless with the water. Plomari in the south has for weeks had twice daily water cuts and the inhabitants are not allowed to water their plants anymore.
Of course the scientists keep saying: the climate's warming up! The Greeks accuse their government of not taking enough action for a better climate. The ancient Greeks used to blame the Gods on Mount Olympus for such disasters and tried to sweeten them into doing something by making sacrifices.
Nowadays the Greeks can endlessly debate politics and pray to the saints in the thousands of little churches that are built everywhere. The temples of the gods have disappeared, or are in ruins and only serve as moneymakers, thanks to the tourists. No soul looks up to heaven any more, to beg Zeus for a fresh summer rain.
Zeus is mainly responsible for the weather. The god of fire is his son Hephaestos. When Zeus' wife Hera delivered Hephaestus he was so ugly that Hera immediately threw him off Mount Olympus. Hephaestus fell into the sea and came ashore on the island of Limnos. There he built his forge and became best known for making beautiful weaponry.
Then it was Prometheus who stole the fire to bring it to the people on earth. Prometheus was punished for this by being attached to a rock on a mountain, where a vulture came to eat his liver each day, then each night the liver grew again. But the people now had fire. They could warm themselves and they could also use it for destruction.
That's how the fire came to earth. There were no gods on Mount Olympus responsible for extinguishing the fires, it was Zeus who had to decide upon the rains. So would it be smart to ask Zeus again to improve the climate? Governments promise a lot, but seldom do what they promise. We could start with rebuilding some of the temples dedicated to Zeus. On Lesvos you won't find temples anymore. But we could start by piecing together the remains of the Ionian temple at Klopedi near Agia Paraskevi, which was dedicated to Zeus, Hera and Dionysus.
We should also build a temple for Hephaestus. He might be responsible for the fact that his neighbouring island (Lesvos is below Limnos) was spared the summer flames. Look, it isn't thanks to the government that the North of Greece has had rain showers these past few days. Maybe Zeus took pity on the few fire fighters that still have to bring fires under control. And by sending rain to the North of Greece he could've been making clear that he still runs the show.
As usual Lesvos is only getting a few spots of rain. But seeing the dark clouds gathering above Lepetimnos, is a refreshing change from the constant blue heaven.
Copyright © Smitaki 2007