Good morning in hell…
The huge wildfire just north of Athens that started yesterday is covering the whole city with smoke and ashes this morning. And outside it is 45 degrees…
And for the first time, at last, a governmental warning has been issued to ask citizens to stay hermetically closed in their houses in Athens to avoid breathing the city’s toxic air due to wood smoke.
I have been writing again and again about the dangers of Air Pollution, but people in Greece are still trying to ignore the thought of yet another serious issue affecting our health just because air pollution is invisible to the eye.
The smoke of today is not invisible. We have all seen photos or videos of it. We now can’t avoid the thought that if we breathe it in, our health can get in trouble.
Yet, in winter, huge amounts of smoke from the same source – wood burning is the same, be it in the original forest or in our fireplace – are produced every day in Greece, and we all have to breathe it in for more than 5 months a year.
Purple Air screenshot of Athens’ Air Quality today:
Purple Air screenshot of Athens’ Air Quality on the first of January 2021:
See the similarities? The first Purple Air screenshot above is from this morning. The second is from the first of January 2021. Both show a highly toxic air, full of Particulate Matter PM2,5 (Mikrosomatidia in Greek). The difference is only in the numbers which are higher today, but the purple color of the sensors means that the air was very toxic in January too. And this has been happening every night in winter… But no one was talking about it then… No official warning to remain closed inside our houses was ever released neither this past winter, nor all the previous winters since the fireplace and wood stove mania started around 2009-2010.
The economic crisis that started in Greece in 2009 is a major responsible of this wood burning crisis because heating oil was taxed and its price more than doubled while wood remained a cheap source of heating. Electricity in Greece also became the most expensive in Europe! So, as a result, the winter air quality in the whole of Greece has degraded very much. But the problem has not been addressed by any government yet. Everyone does as if there were no problem at all. No one in power dares opening up yet another Pandora’s box. Because it would mean taking unpopular measures that would cost lots of votes.
The burning of wood produces highly toxic smoke and humanity has been paying the price for it with health deterioration and reduced lifespan since the very beginning of our fire-addiction history.
It’s time we recognize it and stop burning stuff altogether. And of course we should stop allowing wild forests to be burnt down to the ground for short-term economic interests.
And my wish now is that the government is going to issue the same warning in winter when the city will be again covered in the smoke from our fireplaces…
It’s about time we take seriously the quality of the air we breathe in daily.
The photo of the fire is by Kosmas Koumianos