Summer is in full swing and with it the country’s tourism season, which, boosted by European demand and a huge increase in travel from the US as a result of strong US-Greek relations, is set to see arrivals and revenue meet or exceed 2019 levels, in a boon to the economy. Yet despite strong tourism growth, this summer’s rising temperatures come with rising concerns about what ongoing developments might mean for us in the near future.
Unrelenting heatwaves and raging wildfires have made climate change a burning issue. And while Greece is once again being ravaged by fires, this year its tragic fate isn’t just shared by other Mediterranean lands but also places as far, and as unlikely, as the UK and Alaska. Climate change is undeniable, and it is happening much more rapidly than models predicted and with consequences—on the environment, societies, economies and our lives—that cannot be overstated. Measures must be immediate and radical if we are to avoid the worst, but for this, we must first do away with the culture of bureaucracy and unaccountability and the labyrinthine dispersion of powers that have long stymied progress. Preventing progress on another front, Russia’s war on Ukraine continues to push up energy and food prices, driving record inflation rates, slowing economic growth and intensifying the cost of living crisis that threatens to undermine social cohesion at the national and supranational level at a time when political developments across Europe are contributing to uncertainty and difficulty in defining common policies toward key issues.
Greece’s fast growing energy sector and limited dependence on Russian gas mean our country is in a better position than most to withstand the bitter energy crisis Europe is set to face this winter, but soaring energy bills will nonetheless put suffocating pressure on families and businesses. The government was quick to step in with a reported-income–based financial aid plan that will certainly help many who genuinely qualify but will also be abused by undeserving beneficiaries, drawing attention to the country’s ongoing struggle with tax evasion. Crucially, Greece is facing another major struggle: a rapidly aging population and declining birth rate. Frequently discussed but little addressed, this demographic problem is a keystone to Greece’s future plans; after all, without sufficient population to support them, sustainable growth and development can never be more than a pipe dream.
Drawing attention to these issues as we all prepare for our holidays might seem gloomy, but it isn’t. Looking the other way is defeatism, not optimism. Optimism is about facing reality head on and meeting difficulties with humanity and determination to achieve results. Optimism, in other words, is a commitment to the future.
And with that in mind, I wish you all a wonderful summer—full of rest, joy and plenty of optimism.