Going to the newspaper offices on Friday, I noticed in the area of Engomi some workers picking olives on a remaining parcel of land in the area.
Immediately, images of the time when my family was also starting to organize olive harvesting at this very time came to mind, on fields that belonged to the family grandfather-to-grandfather or had been acquired more recently.
I remembered my grandmother who always said that there was no better job than picking olives, a phrase I never understood, since I did not like this process at all.
Watching the workers, I remembered conversations at home in the village, with words that I struggled to understand when I was a child: vendema, debbla, paletzes, fabrica, grease, mulberries, lyophytes, and many more, which I learned over time, because they began to have a substance in my reality, however occasional. But that's another chapter from the one I want to touch on in this column.
Nostalgic thoughts, then, that came to me as I watched some farm workers picking olives just outside of town. The images, while familiar to me, at the same time seemed so foreign to me, partly because I too had lost touch with such processes, partly because I had become accustomed to the grayness of cities.
It was gaining ground in my mind that this image was foreign, that such an image did not fit in a modern city. And in the second year it bothered me that I started to get used to the grey, and to the idea of anarchic development. Surely we can't go back to the times when cities were surrounded by orchards, but I wonder how much concrete is still needed in our cities?
How are the suburbs of each city planned? Is a few square metres of green space enough, in parks that are such in name only? Is it enough to have stunted trees on our sidewalks or beds of wilted flowers stunted on our streets?
Why don't we have green, manicured squares, but instead have paved open spaces, with greenery as an added touch? Why do we insist on building without meaningful urban planning, unaware that in a few years towers, monstrous buildings, absence of greenery around and within our cities will create a suffocating environment in which we can barely survive?
Why do no municipal authorities, especially in big cities, have concrete plans for public gardens? Why is it that they too need development - as one understands it - and not just their landscaping and promotion as a point of reference, socialisation and promenade? Why should greenery be alien to our cities today?
I wonder if there is a way to have sustainable cities in 20-30 years? I wonder if there is a plan to save what still survives in Akamas, in Troodos? Can we hope that the Pentadaktylos will be green in the next five to ten years? Because, anarchic development is not only a phenomenon of Trikoumos, but also on the northern slopes of the mountain range (see for example the Kyrenia basilica).
So one thing that should be cultivated, among other things, is environmental culture, because it is not enough to talk about the value of the environment if we cannot ultimately appreciate it in its depth. It is with concern that I read about glamorous glamping. I shudder at the idea of such development in, or near, areas of outstanding natural beauty.
The Akamas, the Troodos, the Pentadaktylos, public green spaces in cities are our image, we may need cultural structures, we may need artistic creation, we may need events of all kinds, but it is in nature that we leave our indelible imprint and so far we are not doing a very good job.
Environmental culture is of course not only green in cities, but also our respect for biodiversity, how we exploit nature, where and how we set up renewable energy plants. How we view and use the primary sector and how we value the land that feeds us.
We are therefore grateful to the land that, even in the midst of high-rise buildings, manages to bear fruit and reminds us that it nourishes us.
[This article was translated from its Greek original]