“Coastal plots, complete with building permits and with full access to water, electricity and phone lines!”  It reminded me of some realtor’s ad. From the 1st of July. “Act now!”

The search for oil and natural gas in our seas is the next ‘Megali Idea’ of the nation.  So why does it seem to me to be like case of the Bank of Anatolia, that fraud which relied on a crisis-spawned sense of desperation, but also on the deeply rooted sense that many have that, as the exceptional people we are, always at the last moment the deus ex machina will perform its miracle and save us from economic distress?

The Ionian and Libyan Sea. Let us put our minds to work a little bit. The Ionian islands, the western coastline, Epirus,  the western coast of the Peloponnese, the south of Crete. Several of the most beautiful and biggest tourist draws in the country are being prepared to be subjected to the risks of drilling. And if the much advertised oil fields are discovered, then please imagine drilling platforms, tankers, oil spills and industrial waste.

Alright, in Middle-Eastern countries they may not have such a big problem. The majority of the oil wells are in the middle of the desert. But desertification is what I fear for our pristine beaches, the islands and seas. This is the Mediterranean, a closed sea, even more closed bays, there isn’t even the openness of the North Sea and the Atlantic.

Our government has made our ears ring about the imminent arrivals, hotel stays, the cruise ships and the tourist miracle that is underway. The are strutting like peacocks as if they were personally responsible for picking up the tourists themselves and bringing them here. The truth is that personally I disagree with this national vision, of tourists with all inclusive bracelets who stay in huge complexes, who pile into coaches and buy trinkets and imitations of ancient statues made in China, who swim in swimming pools or bottled beaches, who watch the World Cup and eat fish and chips just as in every other cheap tourist destination in the world, a manufactured tourism which undermines natural beauty and which degrades history and tradition.

But even as such, you cannot support both tourism development and the conversion of the Greek seas into huge oil fields at the same time. You cannot propose both, you have to choose one or the other. These two industries do not fit together on the small parcel of land known as Greece.

Personally I choose a clean environment, mild activities, small, high quality tourist developments which respect the scale of the place and the land, free and clean beaches and a long-term strategy to showcase the country’s strengths: the sun, the sea, the monuments, the principles of hospitality, the culture, the Mediterranean diet.

I am not a geologist, but neither is the Environment Minister Yiannis Maniatis, that crusader for the country’s oil producing potential. Politically and strategically thinking, I personally choose sustainability. And sustainability is simply at odds with exploiting undersea reserves of oil and gas.

And that isn’t even the biggest problem. The biggest problem, apart from the degradation of the natural environment, and indeed of the sea – the most valuable natural resource we have as a country – are the national risks which will follow. Already concerns are being expressed that there will be friction with neighboring countries in relation to the Exclusive Economic Zone. Tomorrow – if and when exploitable deposits are found – there will be major aspirations on the part of big companies and countries. Few of the oil-producing countries – and as a rule only the very strong – have avoided wars, foreign interference and pressures, the geopolitical games on the backs of their peoples.  And even fewer, of course, have escaped the enormous social inequalities, the over exploitation of the subsoil, the one-sided economic growth. I don’t know what vision this is that they are peddling for our country and how they are thinking that now they will turn it into something that it never was, and something that no one would dream of even in their worst nightmares.

I hope that the Left, which is rightly aiming for power, will see to it to make clear its views on this crucial issue, ending this dangerous and risky prospect that would only benefit international cartels while leading the country on a path of degradation that will prove fatal.