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Mediterranean Environment and Human Error

Mediterranean Region Needs A Strong, Vibrant Movement To Mitigate Environmental Risk

The Easter holidays have certainly been eventful, if nothing else. Friday saw the sinking of the Sea Diamond off the coast of the popular Santorini coast, and with that, grave concerns about the potential ecological impact of pollution from leaking fuel, hydraulic liquids, dry cleaning fluids, chlorine, and other cleaning products.

"The oil is continuing to leak from the vessel. ... The situation is being contained in the present conditions,"-CNN

There are some interesting and hopeful signs however that things may be developing in favor of the environment, in an unexpected way. Almost as soon as the 10 deck, 140 meter long, 570 cabin vessel met her watery grave, local and national authorities were up in arms about the possible repercussions of the accident. Lawyers geared up for legal action for any damage done to the local ecosystem, tourism officials buckled down for potential tourism-loss feed-back (which might be added is not likely to happen), and newspapers around the world – from Toronto to Hong Kong – rallied to the support of quick and meticulous clean-up efforts. Nothing new about this one, only nowadays - with Gore’s ‘look-at-me-I’m-still-alive’ documentary about the effects of human activity and inserts about why his growing up on a farm made him so sensitive to the needs of…yada yada yada. (Gore likes to travel btw, and last time I checked airplanes caused heaps of pollution) - the political and social climate for anything environmentally destuctive is equally as volatile as it should be.

My favorite is the anonymous commentary in Kathimerini, which sounds almost the same as the Greenpeace excerpt from another report of the accident.

the state must focus on other priorities and, above all, try to contain the environmental damage from the recent accident, particularly the danger from the remaining oil on board the ship.

For that reason, Greek authorities must make use of the most advanced technology – Greek as well as foreign. There must be a full mobilization of the state apparatus and possibly also of the private sector.

The environment, tradition and tourism constitute national treasures that must be safeguarded at all costs. In tackling the ecological disaster off Santorini, there is no room for makeshift measures.”- Kathimerini

So are Greeks really paying attention? It might make a difference that tourism in Greece accounts for about 18% of GDP and it is nearing the beginning of the tourism season boom.

Tourism in the Mediterranean is big business in general, and a business that is expected to grow enormously over the next years. The European Environment Agency predicts that the Mediterranean alone can expect to see approximately 300 million tourists in 2025, compared to 135 million in 1990. This influx brings with it not only massive amounts of money to the region, but also the increased pressures of accommodating the population surges – not to mention increased risk of potentially disastrous environmental accidents. With the added crowds of tourists that will be rushing to soak up the wonderful Mediterranean sun will be the escalating populations of coastal, urban dwellers vying for effective pollution control and city management.

That's a lot of density for a region with little or -NO- sanitation infrastructure. Point being, that if Mediterraneans intend on staving off an ecological ****storm in the future, they are going to have to really buckle down. The situation in the Mediterranean and Black Seas has the striking similarities of the accident at Santorini – unintended and fueled by human error and more concern for profit than the environment. The slow going attitude of the southern Europeans is quaint, but in my opinion there should be some heads rolling over the lack of preparation and innovation in what looks to be a very rough road ahead.