Tiny Tilos, in the Dodecanese, is a pioneering nature reserve. Now, Greeces green island is set to be powered by renewable energy
Youre more likely to run into friendly partridges, rare orchids and endangered eagles than people as you trek around Tilos. The entire Dodecanese island is a nature reserve, with more than 150 species of resident and migratory birds, over 650 plant varieties, and a permanent population hovering around 500. Tilos owes its extraordinary biodiversity to a network of underground springs that feed five wetlands but also to the late mayor, Tassos Aliferis, a committed environmentalist who earned Tilos its reputation as Greeces green island.
Aliferis banned hunting in 1993. (He also conducted the first same-sex marriages in Greece in 2008 long before they became legal in 2015.) The current mayor, Maria Kamma, continues to champion sustainable development, and human rights. She has extended an open invitation to refugee families to settle on Tilos, working with the NGO SolidarityNow and the UNHCR to establish sheltered accommodation, language classes and mentoring schemes to help asylum-seekers set up organic farming businesses in partnership with locals.
We want to revive traditions that were dying out due to a dwindling population, like making cheese and gathering medicinal herbs, says Kamma. By integrating refugees, we can boost the local economy and encourage eco-tourism.
Soon Tilos could become even greener: its set to be the first island in the Mediterranean powered by wind and solar energy. The island currently relies on oil-based electricity from neighbouring Kos, via a submarine cable that is vulnerable to faults. Power cuts are frequent. By installing a single wind turbine and small photovoltaic park, Tilos is creating a hybrid micro-grid that will generate and store energy. Installation is under way and an 18-month pilot begins in September, as part of a 15m project largely funded by the European commission. Eventually, Tilos could export excess power to Kos, and the goal is to roll out similar projects on other small islands in Europe.
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Panoramic view of the ancient theatre of Epidaurus. The theatre continues to be used for staging performances, including ancient Greek plays. Photo by Hansueli Krapf.
As one of the gateways to mainland Europe, Greece may be home to thousands of immigrants — but at the moment, it’s not a particularly happy one. Many spend their days trying to escape the xenophobia and erratic immigration policies that characterise Greece at a time of deep financial crisis. More often than not, the migrants look to the West — to countries like the UK or Germany — where they feel they will be able to lead richer, happier lives.
However, even if certain sections of Greek society would rather rid their country of immigrants, EU law means that’s easier said than done. What do you do when you’re trapped in a country that doesn’t want you?
VICE discovered that, for some, the latest route to a better life was on foot — on an increasingly well-worn path from Greece into Macedonia, Serbia and on into Hungary.