On November 28th, The Guardian published a brief article under the headline "Greeks turn to the forests for fuel as winter nears" [http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/nov/28/greeks-forests-fuel-winter-nears]. The author discusses the current phenomena [now there's a great Greek word for you!] of even upper middle-class people trekking into the bush to illegally cut firewood, to reduce their dependence on costly oil or electric heat this Winter. But the worst is yet to come: in the same article the author quotes an economist:
"Greece is being taken back to the 1970s," said Gikas Hardouvelis, chief economist at Eurobank. "People are desperate. The recession has affected every home with the drop in living standards not being distributed equally. People who once lived decently have seen their wages drop by 80%."
I always like to take a longer historical look at current events, to see if they have some basis in earlier history, to better understand their origins and potential [another superb Greek word!]. While it may be difficult for us to view Greece as a land carpeted with dense forests on its hills, that was once the case. Until local populations grew past the numbers their environment could sustain, most of Greece was blessed with a protective forest canopy of mixed conifers and broadleaf deciduous trees. The lower slopes and plains were settled first, about 10,000 BC; they gradually were turned to agrarian uses.
The Greeks have always been people of the sea, and they used the forest for two primary ends: boat- and land-building, and as fuel. This bounty allowed them to prosper and rise to prominence. However, the wars they engaged in and the ceaseless demand for more fuel and building materials soon caused serious shortfalls. Several large forest fires made matters worse, so by 2000 BC they were forced to depart for more Northerly lands, such as Macedonia. In time the forests recovered --although not to their original extant-- so people once more drifted back and took up residence again.
By 500 BC Greece was a major land and sea power in the Mediterranean, and its people multiplied as befit their new status. But this led to exactly the same end as earlier, and because the quality of the forest was not pristine nor as great a mass as it once was, the nation once again fell short of ship-building material and fuel, to say nothing of wood for housing, etc.
It was the case that every temple was formerly set in a sylvan glade, surrounded by forest. Today the same temples stand as ruins in great open spaces, bare of all significant trees, and certainly not surrounded by forest. The nation has endured two deforestations; this third one will be even more slow to recover, and of course it will be nowhere near the quality of what it was 5000 years before.
If the stupidity of the banksters and their economist henchmen is not prevented from decimating what remains of this sad economy, matters will turn down far more quickly and deeply than before, for the population has far overshot the land's carrying capacity. Yet a desperate people will live in denial of even the most basic truths, and hope for that which cannot be. As Yiannis Chadziathanasiou, a clothing designer, remarked, "Greece is a beautiful country even if our politicians have destroyed it. Come back in a year and see if we have survived."
What a stunning blindness is expressed here! Yes, the great majority will survive, but the quality of their lives will be so diminished that few will accept what the nation's done to itself: a slow collective ecocide that suffocates the humans living within it. As I wrote in a poem almost forty years ago, "the woods are their own revenge."
My primary source is "A Forest Journey", a modern classic by John Perlin, one of Harvard's "One-Hundred Great Books."