Attention and optimism |

Do places change following major disasters? And how do residents put the pieces back together and find the strength to move forward, to start their lives over from the beginning?

“The people are in front of us,” says Stavros Benos, the topographic engineer and former politician who was commissioned by the government to develop a plan for the economic regeneration of the island of Evia after the devastating forest fires in the region. ‘summer.

“They want to fight, as long as we give them the tools to do so. As long as we provide institutions and citizens with the tools [they need],” he says.

The images of scorched earth in northern Evia are shocking. As winter approaches, the more than 50,000 hectares of desert landscapes blackened by forest fires are now also a threat. The island risks new problems. The teams set up by Benos work 24 hours a day to install wooden flood barriers.

This is what the state authorities are doing for the next day. But what about the company, and us? What can we do to help, each according to their abilities?

Donations, public-private partnerships, individual initiatives, contribution from print and online media (like the special feature of Gastronomos magazine in Kathimerini this Sunday), even a road trip in the region or a brief visit is a valuable sign of interest and care: Every little count counts in the aftermath of a disaster that has taken such a toll on the natural environment and people’s daily lives. Showing that you care, being there in any way you can, can help relieve pain, anger, and hopelessness.

Listening to Benos lay out his plans for resin collectors and beekeepers in Evia, his vision of making the coastal town of Edipsos a prime destination for spa tourism, on the need to bring nature and culture together, you suggests that, yes, a place can really be transformed. A catastrophe can contain the seeds of salvation. The city of Kalamata in the Peloponnese, which was redesigned by Benos, then mayor of the city, after the violent earthquake of 1986, is one example.

On the other hand, you can’t help but think of the seeing as romantic.

“Only dreamers and romantics have the passion to make their dreams come true,” says Benos. After all, his motto has been the same for years: Utopia is a premature truth.

And the truth is, volunteer work and personal commitment are not some kind of utopia.