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Desert, Athens!
by Thanos Kalamidas
2007-01-31 09:29:37
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People often ask me if I miss Greece and how could I ever leave a country with sunshine throughout the year and temperatures well above 15 degrees, to come and live in a country that is dark, with snow, short summers and dark winters. Usually I escape with humor, but the truth is that I could not survive a summer in Greece and I have avoided being there during the summer months of July and August since 1980.

When I was a child, Greece was totally different to what it has become today. I’m referring to a place when the autumn was beautiful, with refreshing rains and brown-orange leaves everywhere. Summer was warm and the sea temperature was just above 20 degrees Celsius, people went to the seaside to get a suntan and the kids used to play in the sand for hours. The spring was wonderful, with flowers blooming on the sides of the mountain Hymettus on the east side of Athens, while the winter was smooth with a bit of snow, but in general had temperatures above zero.

That was then. Forty years after it seems that everything has changed. In the late-80s a large number of people died from the heat in the summer and things have been getting worse. Nowadays the temperature in the summer reaches 45 degrees in the shade and there is no way to stay in the sun for more than half-an-hour…and that's having all kinds of protective lotions on your body.

The kids today don’t have summer, winter and mid-season clothes; they have only summer and winter clothes. The state, every so often, asks people to be careful with the use of water since water levels have often reached dangerous limits over the last few years, which was something I never heard in my childhood. Imagine a country surrounded by water lacking water!

Many are responsible for that. Many blame the state, but we forget that we are part of this state, we are the ones who are responsible to what happened to Earth and we are the ones who elected the people who govern us. First came the urbanism, with Athens changing from a city of two million into a metropolis of nearly seven million, including all the immigrants, in only two decades. This has meant the demand of housing and the expansion of the city against the nature has been relentless.

Where there were forests and parks came concrete building and highways. Where there was wildlife became video shops and takeaway restaurants. Then the factories gradually moved from being outside of the city to become part of the city - the industrial zone was now in the suburbs. The pollution became part of the Athenian’s life, while the governments were looking at everything happening without being able to react, just watching.

The Athens of my childhood has become an ugly, smelly and dirty monster I don’t recognize. All my life I used to say that nothing compared to autumn in Athens, walking in the small streets under the Acropolis and enjoying the sunset from Sounio. When I say the same nowadays they think I’m crazy!

Now I live in Finland and I have enjoyed for years real winters and smooth summers, and, despite what the Finns believe, my biggest love in this country is the winter. I love the snow and, most of all, I love the feeling of clean air. Yet this year something was different. It didn’t snow until now. We had a mild Christmas with a lot of sunshine days and I found myself wearing a t-shirt till the beginning of December.

Climate scientists are issuing a report that warns of a slowly rising sea level and higher temperatures for the next decade. The recent UN report warns that the danger is here and is no longer a warning, with countries like Spain, Greece and Portugal facing major changes over the next decade, such as transforming into deserts.

Scarier still is the fact that scientists from all around the world have complained that both reports are too ‘rosy’ explaining that the calculations are missing the latest events, including wars and radical changes in the world's temperature. As a result, many scientists reject these results demanding the truth. And what would that truth be? The warning of the ‘rosy’ edition is that in ten years Athens will be like the Sahara and Helsinki, despite being a few hundred kilometers from the North Pole, will have a mild climate. What could be worst?

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Gerassimos2007-02-01 02:25:04
I think Athens has always been like that and you are just looking back at yr youth as we all do...
What are you doing in Finland???

Thanos2007-02-02 19:36:56
Hello Gerassimos, Athens was so beautiful back in 70s!!! And this is not just a romantic memeory, if you see pictures from that period you will see streets with rocks, and kids playing football to what we used to call alanes!

In Finland I live the last 10 years hapily I have to admit. Having family and nowadays even though I often miss Athens I cannot say that I would easily change my life here!

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