As the summer is slowly coming to an end, the various governmental agencies will gather up data to judge whether or not the tourist season of 2017 can be characterized as a successful one or not. Greece is blessed with thousands of kilometers of beautiful beaches and islands that yearly attract a phenomenal number of visitors, thereby supporting the ailing economy.
By all accounts it seems like a particularly successful season, taking into consideration the two massive earthquakes that hit the Eastern Aegean, the raging fires all over the country and the never ending migratory influxes. However, before rushing to conclusions it is important to look into a largely ignored aspect of the tourism industry, which is the environmental impact.
Despite the widely implemented recycling programs and the mass promotion by the media, each year the Mediterranean is flooded by tons of garbage, that end up there whether by individual negligence or by intention. It has been estimated by the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research that by 2050 the Mediterranean will accommodate more garbage than fish, which is rather shocking, considering that the fishing industry is one of the traditional pillars of the Greek economy.
The Mediterranean Sea has always played an integral part to our culture and our history, as, since ancient times, the Greek people were a seafaring nation, always willing to travel where the sky meets the sea, something that is true even today, as Greece has one of the largest commercial fleets in the world. The Greek people come from the sea and are of the sea, choosing to intertwine their fate with such a powerful force of nature.
This is why we should care. Not because a scientist insists that our shores and seabed are so polluted, that will soon pose a great health risk to us and the future generations, but because it is part of our heritage. From Odysseus to Alexander the Great and his mermaid sister, that sunk ships when the sailors gave her bad news about her brother, the sea is ever present, shaping our future. How can we condemn our future by being so naïve to think that we are more powerful than nature itself?
Nobody can deny that the great seas that surround us are directly linked to the well-being of our economy, as they support both the tourism and the fishing industries. Clean beaches, sapphire waters and a thriving seabed guarantee food on our table, if only we finally learn how to harness this power.
The environmental problem we are bound to face in the very near future is not someone else’s concern, but our own. As JFK put it “we are tied to the sea. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch – we are going back from whence we came”.