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[ Athens Streetscape in 2011]
As more rural Greeks find themselves unable to afford heating oil, they are turning to the forests for fuel. From the Guardian:
Things are getting desperate,” says Chadziathanasiou, who clothed Greek celebrities before he moved to the countryside. “You hear all the time of people illegally clearing forests for firewood. It’s horrible if you’re a green like me.”
Because city life is no longer affordable for many in Greece, young professionals are leaving and going back to rural communities where they can try to get by on much less money:
“…although we were both earning good salaries, taking home around €3,500 a month, we were really squeezed. There was never a euro left over. Our heating bill alone cost €3,000 and that was before the €500 we spent on petrol and all the new taxes. We were stressed and really anxious and didn’t think we could afford to go through another winter in Athens.”
For many years, mainstream energy arguments have been about which fuel type or portfolio can sustain civilization. While we argued about biomass, oil, uranium and natural gas, the Earth’s population hit 7 billion. If the global economy collapses in a way that mimic’s the collapse of Greece, billions of humans will strip the remaining biocapacity, perhaps even faster than if we just used oil.
In environmental economics there is an idea called the Environmental Kuznets Curve (EKC), this theory says that as GDP goes up, pollution goes up for a certain amount of time during the process of industrialization. After a tertiary or service economy develops, the EKC suggests that pollution goes down. This might have worked in the US post 1970 if you didn’t account for all the manufacturing pollution that’s been outsourced to China and elsewhere.
As overdeveloped nations go through the process in reverse, they may find that all the pollution outsourced to the developed world will return and fast. As the pollution comes back from overseas, it may happen at a rate much faster than it was exported. Air pollution in Thessaloniki, Greece increased 17% in 2011 despite much less vehicle traffic. It turns out that all the particulates are coming from increased used of wood burning stoves.
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