Greece is no longer a poor country, the Greek deputy prime minister told a journalist recently. Since joining the European Economic Community (later the European Union) in 1980, it has developed a wide middle class. Car ownership, the deputy prime minister said proudly and choosing a clear indicator of middle class living, has gone from one car for every ten households, to one and a half cars per household now. Greece will emerge from the current crisis within a couple of years, he asserted, meaning that the country would ostensibly return to its previous path of economic development. More cars, more roads and sprawl, more greenhouse gas emissions, more consumption and materialism, more of the same.
What if the deputy Greek prime minister had said, Athens was a polluted and congested city thirty years ago, but now it’s a pleasant place walk and ride a bicycle? Or our educational system was in inferior thirty years ago, but now we have world-class schools? Or, our most talented young people were forced to immigrate abroad back in 1980, but we now offer them a bright future right here in Greece?