Mayor of Tilos island, Greece, interviewed

This is an 18 October 2016 Greek language video of an interview with Ms Maria Kamma. She has been mayor of Tilos island in Greece since 2012, succeeding her predecessor Tasos Aliferis. She had become a local councillor in 2010.

On 9 May 2019, I did an interview with Ms Kamma in the town hall in Megalo Chorio. With a translator translating my questions into Greek, and her answers into English.

Before proceeding to the interview proper, I first will explain some of the context of the environmental and refugee issues, which play a role both in Tilos and worldwide.

Tilos is exceptional, being the only Greek island running on sustainable energy. And also with a much better situation for refugees than in other places elsewhere in Greece, in Europe, in the USA etc.

Both Tilos’ pro-environment, anti-global warming policies, and its pro-refugee policies happen in an international political context where unfortunately, there are moves in opposite directions.

According to the United Nations, Greece is one of eighteen countries in the world where global warming might cause most damage: sea level rise, more flooding, more wildfires … But Donald Trump, the most powerful politician in the world, claims that global warming is supposedly a Chinese communist hoax. Like Trump, far-right politicians in other countries, like in the Netherlands, help Big Oil against anti-global warming and anti-drilling earthquakes activism. In Greece, the extreme right Golden Dawn party wants drilling in the Aegean sea, maybe close to Tilos.

And then, there are ‘center right’ parties in many countries. Often, they are scared of losing votes to Donald Trump-style far rightists. Usually, they don’t say that global warming is a hoax. But they say: don’t pay too much for solving this problem; don’t make corporations like Shell or Exxon pay; make poor people pay; etc. And don’t go any further than the Paris climate agreement (which is not enough according to most scientists). In the USA, left-wing Senator Sanders says that ‘centrist’ Democrat Biden’s ‘middle ground’ approach to the climate crisis would ‘doom future generations’.

And then, there’s ‘center left’ politicians. Who in theory have better climate policies. But who say: we are in a coalition government with the center right. And continuing to be ministers is more important than stopping global warming disasters.

Finally, there is a big movement which says governments are not doing enough. That what happens on energy in Tilos now should happen everywhere as soon as possible.

Similarly, on refugees, Tilos is doing better than many other places. Similarly, there are forces pulling in various different directions in international politics.

This 2 October 2015 video says about itself:

A network of volunteers on the Greek island of Tilos reach a beach that is inaccessible by road, to rescue a group of Syrian refugees who were dropped off by Turkish smugglers. The Pappas Post is raising funds for the volunteer network to create a permanent refugee welcome center.

Many refugees who had arrived in Tilos have left, as there are only jobs for them in the summer tourist season. In winter, also some Tilos natives leave, as there is not much work outside the tourist season.

Ms Kamma said she did not feel that she had the right to express strong political opinions on the Greek and international force field: being not a member of any political party, and with Tilos local councillors being independents, not party representatives.

How about the Tilos paleontological museum, about dwarf elephants living on the island until a few thousand years ago? Ms Kamma said that what I had heard earlier on Tilos about the museum being closed because ´free market´ ideologists wanted to enforce entrance fees was not true. As the museum would open in the end of June 2019. The elephant fossil boxes, studied by Athens palaeontologists, still had to be unpacked. The electricity still had to be installed. After that, the museum will be open.

Ms Kamma said there were not yet real facilities for birdwatchers on the island. But Tilos does want to attract them. We are only just starting. We are starting with repairing footpaths. And having benches along these paths.

There is plastic waste on Tilos beaches. Ms Kamma said it was overwhelmingly not from Tilos, but from Turkey, from elsewhere in Greece, or other countries. We don’t know. Sea currents are unpredictable. Some time ago, someone drowned off Kos island. And the dead body washed up in Tilos. We regularly clean up plastic from beaches. Though it is disheartening to see that two days later, the waves already will have brought much new waste.

According to a new WWF report, most plastic pollution in the Mediterranean is from tourist beaches. About 20% is from fishing and other ships.

Plastic pollution in the Mediterranean

What will happen in the future on Tilos? Ms Kamma: we will start to recycle all waste. Meaning separate dustbins for plastic, paper, etc. It will start in early 2020.

Also, an electric bus and electric trucks will arrive on Tilos at the end of 2019. The present driver of the gasoline bus, Pavlos, will drive the electric bus.

At the moment, there are no refugees on Tilos. We have submitted a plan to the Greek government to have them coming again this year. And then, with better job prospects.

We thank Mayor Kamma and her translator for this interview.

Don’t worry, the regular Tilos blog posts on 8 May 2019 and further chronologically will resume. So, stay tuned!


6 thoughts on “Mayor of Tilos island, Greece, interviewed

  1. Sign my petition: Tell Congress no more subsidies to the fossil fuel companies who lied to the American people and are destroying our planet for profit.


    Linda –

    We are custodians of the earth, and it would be a moral disgrace if we left to future generations a planet that was unhealthy, unsafe, and uninhabitable.

    Last night I joined my friend Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others to speak about climate change at an event sponsored by the Sunrise Movement.

    And what I told the crowd was that climate change is an existential threat to our country, to the entire world, and that if we do not act boldly and aggressively to transform our global energy system away from fossil fuels within the next few years, there will be irreparable harm done to the planet.

    What significant temperature increases will mean is more drought, more crop failures, and more famine. Drinking water, already a precious commodity in many areas, will become even scarcer. Millions of people will be displaced by rising sea levels, extreme weather events, and flooding. Tropical diseases like malaria, dengue, and yellow fever will spread into parts of the world where they don’t currently exist.

    All of this will likely lead to increased human suffering and death, but the results will be even more dire than that. The growing scarcity of basic human needs could well lead to perpetual warfare in regions around the world, as people fight over limited supplies of water, farmland, and other natural resources.

    I want to stress something I was laughed at for saying during the 2016 campaign, and that is that climate change is the greatest national security threat facing our country today.

    And if we are going to be honest about combating climate change, it is necessary for us to understand that we have an economy that is rigged and a political system that is profoundly corrupt.

    In other words, we have a small number of incredibly powerful billionaires who exercise enormous influence over the economic and political life of the country.

    There are a lot of parallels between what the fossil fuel industry is doing today and the tobacco industry of 50 years ago. Decades ago, large profitable corporations denied that cigarette smoking causes cancer and other diseases. Today, the fossil fuel industry, making billions every year, denies what carbon emissions are doing to our planet. They lie, lie and lie, and spend hundreds of millions of dollars to buy politicians who echo their lies.

    In the last decade alone, the oil and gas industry has pumped more than $700 million worth of campaign contributions into federal, state and local elections. In that same time, they spent more than $1.5 billion lobbying in Washington, D.C.

    The fossil fuel industry has been well rewarded for their spending. An IMF report found that direct and indirect subsidies for coal, oil and gas in the U.S. reached $649 billion in 2015.

    Maybe providing massive support to an industry that is destroying our planet makes sense to some people, but it damn well does not make sense to me.

    And here is even more. As a result of Trump’s tax cuts, nearly half of the Fortune 500 companies that paid zero in taxes last year were in the fossil fuel and utility industry.

    Let’s be clear: it is time to end all subsidies and tax breaks for the oil and gas companies.

    These companies lied to the American people about the very existence of climate change and committed one of the greatest frauds in the history of our country.

    Add your name if you agree: Congress should no longer provide subsidies to the fossil fuel companies who lied to the American people and are destroying our planet for profit.

    And just as the tobacco industry was ultimately forced to pay for the fraud they committed – the fossil fuel industry must be forced to do the same.

    They cannot destroy this planet with impunity.

    So here is the major question that we must answer: How do we take on an industry with unlimited power and resources?

    And here in my view, is the answer.

    We need a political revolution. We need millions of people from one end of this country to the other to stand up and fight back to create environmental policy that works for all of us and not just the one percent.

    We have got an enormous amount of work in front of us. We’ve got to educate. We’ve got to organize. And we’ve got to fight for political power.

    The one percent has unlimited wealth and influence, but at the end of the day they are just one percent. And if my arithmetic is right, there are a lot more people in the 99 percent than in the one percent.

    Let’s bring our people together. Let’s transform our energy system and let’s save the planet.

    In solidarity,

    Bernie Sanders


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