OXI (NO) – Three letters to kick-start your respect for the environment on Ikaria

OXI (NO) – Three letters to kick-start your respect for the environment on Ikaria

Those who already followed me a bit  on this blog know what Ikaria means to me : above all, wonderful nature that is healing my soul, comforting me in difficult times, teaching me respect and caring for its treasures. It is a big present that I receive with much gratitude and – as in real life, when someone is doing good to you – I am trying to give back, trying to take good care of this beautiful nature, its rocks, its sea, its beaches, its natural springs and trees. In my own way it means leaving no traces, trying to be thoughtful about what and how I am buying on the island, considering that whatever I leave behind has to be absorbed on Ikaria, has to be dealt with by the Ikarians. This is not a new attitude, this is something I have already been doing for years in all the different places I lived or I travelled to. But on Ikaria it became more intense and more challenging.On this island you don’t have to go far to realise that there is a serious problem with garbage management and that the idea of environmental protection needs to be intensified. And this summer  2021 has just been a profound example of the consequences of a disrespectful behaviour towards the environment of this beautiful island. Tons of garbage could not be managed, because the volume was obviously too unexpected to plan ahead. Countless plastic mugs for « a nescafé freddo », plastic straws, plastic bottles and facemasks are flying across the beaches in the wind. Glass splinters are shimmering in the dry grass, being a permanent threat for forest fires. Free gazing goats are looking for ‘goodies’ on the open landfill at Fytema, enjoying the leftovers of good meals. The examples are endless and you can certainly spend hours in the kafenio to talk about who is responsible for this and who should do something.

But I am not that kind of person. Talking is good to analyze the situation and to search for a solution, followed by action… small actions, little steps, which may have a bigger impact. So my solution is: „OXI“ (NO) – three simple letters, a small word that is my answer to the sad situation around me. „OXI“ is my way to care for this place. « OXI » is my attempt to protect the island from those violent onslaughts of disrespectful behaviour towards its beauty and its vulnerability.  And « OXI » is a big and powerful word in Greece, as the « OXI –day » is still celebrated with pride on 28 October to commemorate the resistance of  the Greek people to allow the Allies forces to enter Greece in 1940.

« OXI » became my resistance to accept the situation around me and these 3 letters kicked me off my comfort zone. » OXI » now represents a kind of red line that guides me through my day. When I am ordering a coffee, I say « OXI » to a plastic-coffee mug and a plastic straw, because I either prefer to sit down for my coffee or if have to have a « take-away » I am presenting my reusable cup to the barrista. I say « OXI » to plastic bags in the supermarket, because I bring my own re-usable bag, which is always tugged into my bag anyway. I say « OXI » to water in plastic bottles when I go on a hike in the mountains. Little things, common little actions, but actions that need to be sustained  so that they become second nature without giving them a second thought.  And starting with these little things I am learning that my tiny personal actions can have an even bigger impact. By refusing to eat goat meat from free gazing goats on Ikaria and explaining my reasons, I realise that I can raise awareness in my surroundings for the fact that there is a problem: free gazing goats are a big danger for the vulnerable environment of this island: when trees and green are destroyed, this causes erosion, destroying the natural eco system, infrastructure, waterpipe systems, even houses. And this is just a tiny snapshot in a bigger environmental context.  So one action is linked to multiple effects and these effects may come back to me in one way or another … it is as simple as that. So if I have a chance to interrupt this chain of bad effects on my everyday environment, I just do. I am not dogmatic, I am not imposing. I believe that convincing arguments and a “personal trigger” are leading to changes.

My personal trigger, my game changer? It was a sunny day at my favorite place by the sea.  My favourite rock was surrounded by left-overs from a party : empty bottles, metal boxes, plastic mugs. And on top of it: that very day a huge wave of shit (yes: shit as in ‚poop‘!) was floating on the sea so it was impossible to get into the water.  I was in tears, I was angry, I was sad …. because I could see my beloved island suffering. Silently it was crying out to me, telling me that it is near collapse, feeling badly neglected, having no means any longer to resist these intense attacks of ignorance and care-free attitude. It felt as if a big giant was stumbling down to its knees, losing all its strength… all of a sudden weakness and vulnerability were visible, where I took endless strength and beauty for granted. This was my “OXI”-moment, my moment of refusal and counter-attack.

So if you see me around, saying constantly “OXI” to certain offers or even collecting garbage, don’t smile at me or whisper to your neighbour: ‘Oh, look at this opinionated  German again trying to teach us what we should do.’ Think twice, about the power of “OXI” and what a game-changer it could be to kick-off respect for the environment on this wonderful island.