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.
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!