Posts Tagged 'kalyteri zoi'

WWF seeks to forge new, sustainable narrative for crisis-wracked citizens


By Harry van Versendaal

The Greek branch of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has presented its first progress report on a groundbreaking sustainability campaign that activists hope could inspire a new lifestyle narrative for crisis-hit Greeks.

Dubbed “Kalyteri Zoi” (Better Life), the initiative is part of the environmental organization’s efforts to expand its reach, influence and agenda in the country as a severe financial crisis has brought people to their knees and put environmental issues on the back burner.

At a press conference in Athens on Wednesday, WWF officials suggested that while emptying people’s pockets – also a key source of funding for the organization – the stubborn recession has also brought about a quasi-existential shift in individual and social attitudes.

“One can be fatalistic about it, or seek to build a new narrative instead,” Achilleas Plitharas, who is head of the campaign, told Kathimerini English Edition on the sidelines of the briefing.

According to a recent Public Issue poll commissioned by WWF, 42 percent of Greeks are willing to volunteer for social-minded causes and 31 percent to campaigns aimed at improving quality of life in cities.

The overall objective of the campaign – which is fully subsidized by the Stavros S. Niarchos Foundation, an international philanthropic organization – Plitharas said, is to “break with a habit of finger-wagging and improve people’s daily lives on the basis of a win-win model.”

“We need to learn how to coexist as citizens, how to work together, how to care about our public spaces, adopting a culture that is friendlier toward the environment and, by extension, friendlier to man,” said Plitharas, an expert on energy and climate change.

Engaging the grass roots

Kalyteri Zoi marks a move away from high-level, behind-the-scenes lobbying to a more interactive, grassroots approach that aims to promote a greener, more frugal and participatory lifestyle. To achieve this, WWF policymakers have wedded traditional public awareness campaigns with a wide range of on-the-ground activities that engage individuals, local communities and schools. The project, which is scheduled to run until July 2015, is made possible through a smart website and wide use of social media tools.

Following in the footsteps of its counterparts around the world, WWF Greece appears to hereby move beyond familiar eco-centric territory, adopting a more holistic understanding of sustainability. The campaign’s agenda addresses issues such as energy conservation, sustainable consumption, urban living, and balanced nutrition – along the lines of WWF’s “Livewell” program for a healthy and sustainable diet.

So far more than 1,300 people and 85 schools have signed up with the program, which has occasionally joined forces with other, more niche platforms such as the Boroume (We Can) initiative against food waste, and the City of Errors network for civic engagement. More than 1,000 people took part in a festival against food waste organized together with Boroume in Athens earlier this year.

Plitharas is confident that making small changes in our personal lives can have a substantial cumulative effect.

“It doesn’t have to be hard and it does not need to happen all at once. But it is by all means possible,” he said.

“Starting from the really simple things: from making small changes to our habits, to the creation of urban garden collectives, and from taking part in bartering markets and time banks, to the development of collective action aimed at reducing food waste for the good of the environment and the more vulnerable members of society,” he said.

WWF experts estimate that by applying 75 percent of the tips listed on the Kalyteri Zoi website, households can save 300 euros or more per year.

‘We are not the same’

WWF officials on Wednesday also reacted to recent fraud allegations involving several Greek nongovernmental organizations that have triggered a probe by financial investigators into more than 6,000 groups.

Speaking to Kathimerini English Edition, WWF Greece CEO Dimitris Karavellas said it was extremely unfair to lump all groups together.

“We are not all the same. Yes, there are NGOs that have been operating with a lack of transparency, supported by government funding for many, many years, but there are also a number of NGOs that have been working with very clear rules of transparency and accountability and have a lot to show for their actions over the last 20 years,” said Karavellas, calling for more transparency and accountability.

“Let’s be clear about who the real NGOs in this country are and let’s weed out the ones that do not deserve this title,” he said.

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WWF Greece unveils five-year plan for ‘living economy’


By Harry van Versendaal

Environmental campaigners WWF Greece on Wednesday unveiled a series of ambitious policy proposals aimed at providing the debt-hit country’s economy with a green kick-start.

The five-year road map, which was drawn up by a group of more than a dozen WWF experts and independent scientists, contains a wide range of institutional, financial and educational measures for a more workable and sustainable economy.

“The crisis signals the need for change. Greece has to change,” WWF Greece CEO Demetres Karavellas told journalists at the organization’s Athens headquarters during a presentation of WWF’s 90-page blueprint that was published under the title “A Living Economy for Greece.”

“Environmental protection is unfortunately still treated here as an unnecessary luxury, as a stumbling block to growth, or as an expendable product in the efforts to recoup the country’s debt,” Karavellas said.

Stuck in a six-year recession, Greece is eager to attract investment to generate growth and jobs in its depressed economy. NGOs have repeatedly warned of an environmental rollback in the country and accused authorities of using the financial crisis as a pretext for easing laws and regulations designed to safeguard the natural environment.

Recent legislation tabled by the Environment Ministry relaxes the restrictions on building in public and private forests, even if they are considered protected areas. The draft law was slammed by a number of local NGOs, including WWF, who refused to take part in the public consultation process.

The WWF proposals call for greater transparency, the scrapping of tailor-made regulations and the simplification of Greece’s notoriously nebulous legislation.

“Laws must be clear and well understood by everyone whether they are citizens, businesses or societies at large,” said Theodota Nantsou, environmental policy coordinator for WWF Greece, also calling for less bureaucracy and more financial incentives for green companies.

The organization put forward a number of far-reaching interventions in Greece’s primary production – agriculture, livestock farming, forestry and fisheries – as well as directions for sustainable reforms in secondary production, i.e. industrial and manufacturing activity.

Greek industries must substitute fossil fuels with renewable energy sources, promote energy efficiency and adopt resource efficient productive processes (like organic farming, recycling and sustainable waste management), said the report. WWF officials however warned that little will be achieved without a strong inspection system, while also calling for the introduction of the “polluter pays” principle.

“We want Greece to become the testing ground for this policy,” said Nantsou.

Tourism, which is Greece’s biggest industry accounting for about 16 percent of GDP and one in five jobs in 2011, is also addressed in the report. The sector must maximize economic gains with the minimum possible level of damage to the natural habitat and cultural heritage, WWF officials said, warning against unchecked construction.

“We must promote investment in areas where construction has already taken place rather than build new facilities all over the country,” said Nantsou, emphasizing the need for innovative ideas.

The WWF official proposed the revival of deserted villages that could be put to use for tourism while ensuring that their historic character is preserved and with the lowest possible footprint. She offered the example of Gavros, a village of adobe (sun-dried clay) houses in the Western Macedonia region of Kastoria.

According to a recent Eurobarometer survey quoted in the press conference, the natural environment is the key factor in picking a tourism destination. Cultural heritage ranks second.

Training and education also feature high on the agenda of the conservation group, which recently announced a new interactive, grassroots campaign to promote a more sustainable lifestyle. The WWF’s Kalyteri Zoi (Better Life) campaign, which is subsidized by the Stavros S. Niarchos Foundation, will debut on Thursday.

WWF said the report has already been made available to several Greek ministries and government agencies.

“We are not deluding ourselves. We just want to provide a framework and pursue anything that is possible for us to pursue,” Nantsou said.

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