In July 2022, Greece experienced a heatwave that led to several wildfires in the nation. The impacts of wildfires in Greece go beyond the destruction of the environment — these wildfires impact livelihoods, destroy homes and push people further into poverty. According to the World Bank, in 2019, 17.7% of Greece’s population lived under the national poverty line.
Increasing Incidents of Wildfires in Greece
Beginning on July 23, 2022, Greece endured a heatwave predicted to span at least 10 days with temperatures expected to hit about 107 degrees Fahrenheit in some areas. The same day, Greece endured four wildfires, which led to emergency evacuations of hundreds of citizens. The wildfires led to the destruction of homes, businesses and hotels. Several other wildfires preceded these wildfires in multiple areas of the country.
Greece saw 30 wildfires in the first quarter of the year, a massive uptick from the nation’s average of four in the same number of months. These wildfires led to the damage of almost 2,500 acres of land compared to Greece’s average of about 92 acres. Many people have also faced hospitalizations as a result of the fires.
Impact on Poverty
The wildfires in Greece have affected the entire population in one way or another and the poorer population face disproportionate impacts. Impoverished people do not have sufficient resources to easily rebuild their lives after losing their homes and possessions to wildfires.
Wildfires in Greece also impact the livelihoods of people, which further increases the risk of poverty. For example, in 2021, the Greek area of Evia experienced wildfires that destroyed the pine trees that people relied on for their livelihoods.
Giorgos Anagnostou provides a first-hand account of this to NPR. He is a pine resin producer and lives in a village where the majority of people survive by collecting pine resin, which they later sell for use “in everything from paint to pharmaceuticals.” In the aftermath of the wildfires, pine resin producer Thanasis Agiasofitis told NPR that he and others “will likely have to move to find work.” A 70-year-old farmer, Kostas Christodoulou, lost 400 sheep in wildfires last year. He survived by hiding in a small cave.
To address the wildfires occurring in 2021, in the first week of August 2021, Greece along with several other Mediterranean countries requested help from the European Union (EU) to assist with the rampant forest fires. The European Union deployed nine airplanes, almost 1,000 firefighters and 200 vehicles to provide assistance to Greece.
In 2022, the EU set up a response “designed to lead to a permanent Europe-wide cooperation program,” according to Bloomberg. The aim is to scale-up efforts to address wildfire seasons in Europe overall. On July 2, 2022, the EU sent more than 200 firefighters from six European countries to Greece to assist with controlling the fires.
Aside from the impacts on the well-being of Greek citizens, wildfires in Greece are causing the country and the country’s people severe economic losses. Through the support of the EU, firefighters from across Europe are stepping in to assist Greek firefighters on the frontlines to prevent further losses.
– Alex Peterson
Photo: Wikimedia Commons