Greeks Raid Forests in Search of Wood to Heat Homes

What are Non-English speaking countries doing to stop air pollution?

Greeks Raid Forests in Search of Wood to Heat Homes

Postby Wilberforce » Fri Jan 11, 2013 10:03 pm

EUROPE NEWS
January 11, 2013, 8:51 p.m. ET

Greeks Raid Forests in Search of Wood to Heat Homes
By NEKTARIA STAMOULI and STELIOS BOURAS

Image
Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
Illegal logging has surged in Greece as households suffering through three years of recession
hoard wood to burn during cold winter days.


EGALEO, Greece—While patrolling on a recent cold night, environmentalist Grigoris Gourdomichalis caught a young man illegally chopping down a tree on public land in the mountains above Athens.

When confronted, the man broke down in tears, saying he was unemployed and needed the wood to warm the home he shares with his wife and four small children, because he could no longer afford heating oil.

"It was a tough choice, but I decided just to let him go" with the wood, said Mr. Gourdomichalis, head of the locally financed Environmental Association of Municipalities of Athens, which works to protect forests around Egaleo, a western suburb of the capital.

Tens of thousands of trees have disappeared from parks and woodlands this winter across Greece, authorities said, in a worsening problem that has had tragic consequences as the crisis-hit country's impoverished residents, too broke to pay for electricity or fuel, turn to fireplaces and wood stoves for heat.

As winter temperatures bite, that trend is dealing a serious blow to the environment, as hillsides are denuded of timber and smog from fires clouds the air in Athens and other cities, posing risks to public health.

The number of illegal logging cases jumped in 2012, said forestry groups, while the environment ministry has lodged more than 3,000 lawsuits and seized more than 13,000 tons of illegally cut trees.

Such woodcutting was last common in Greece during Germany's brutal occupation in the 1940s, underscoring how five years of recession and waves of austerity measures have spawned drastic measures.

Smog, on some days visible to the naked eye and carrying the distinct smell of burning wood, has prompted local officials in Athens to discuss mitigation strategies, including proposals to restore heating-oil subsidies.

On Christmas Day, Greece's environment ministry said, particulate in the air over one of Athens's biggest suburbs, Maroussi, was so bad that it was more than two times the European Union's acceptable air-pollution standards.

"The average Greek will throw anything into the fireplace that can be burned, ranging from old furniture with lacquer, to old books with ink, in order to get warm," said Stefanos Sapatakis, an environmental-health officer at the Hellenic Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

He said the smog could affect vulnerable groups, including the elderly, children and people with asthma. He likened the air conditions in Athens to an instance in postwar London where smog from wood fires blanketed the city for five days in December 1953, contributing to the deaths of more than 4,000 people and leading British authorities to ban the use of fireplaces in the city.

In northern Greece, where climatic conditions in winter are closer to those in continental Europe than the Mediterranean, the struggle to stay warm amid government cutbacks is forcing tough choices on local municipalities. In late December, one of Greece's teachers' associations warned that many schools, particularly in the north, could soon be forced to suspend lessons because there was no money to heat classrooms.

In Orestiada, a town located along the shared Greek, Turkish and Bulgarian border, the local swimming team travels two or three times a week to neighboring Turkey to train, after the town's mayor had to choose between heating local schools or the swimming pool. In a sign of solidarity with their fellow athletes, the Turkish swimming club of nearby Edirne invited the Orestiada youth to practice at its installations free of charge.

The struggle to stay warm has also had tragic consequences. In early December, in the northern Greek village of Mesoropi, three siblings age 5, 7 and 15 were found dead after a fire broke out from a wood stove their family was using to heat the house. The fire had spread quickly during the night, causing parts of the house to collapse and trapping the children as they slept. The family had 10 children.

The incident shocked Greece and was quickly latched on to by the opposition Syriza party, which opposes the country's austerity program that has led to higher costs for heating fuel and increased electricity tariffs.

Syriza spokesman Panos Skourlitis said the austerity program is forcing Greece and Greeks to choose among "either getting burned by wood stoves, or destroying the forests, or living in a cloud of smog."

Write to Nektaria Stamouli at nektaria.stamouli@dowjones.com and Stelios Bouras at stelios.bouras@dowjones.com

source
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142 ... 69300.html
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Re: Greeks Raid Forests in Search of Wood to Heat Homes

Postby Wilberforce » Mon Jan 21, 2013 10:44 pm

Monday, January 21, 2013
The Troika's Smog

Athens has been covered on and off these past couple of months by a thick smog produced by smoke from fireplaces and wood stoves. This is not strictly of course an Athenian phenomenon: all over Greece (and especially Northern Greece) towns and cities are enveloped this winter by an acrid smelling smog consisting of burning wood fumes and ashes, mingled with all sorts of toxic substances. As with most of the societal plagues brought on Greece these past few years, this too is a direct result of troikan austerity gone wild and a Greek government unable to protect its citizens.
The troika demanded and the Greek government acquiesced to, a tax increase on heating oil, the stuff that powers most central heating in Greek buildings, bringing its price at the same level as transportation gas. Already the price of a litre of gas at the pump in Greece was the highest in the EU, thanks to previous rounds of taxes on gas mandated by the troika. Gas prices went up by over 50% in Greece since 2009, mostly due to excise taxes. This, combined with a decline in real average income in the country of around 40-50%, led to a decrease in tax receipts from gas taxes of the order of 1.5 billion Euros.
Now apparently as heating oil has become a luxury that most people cannot afford (and with most of the population living in apartment buildings, if one resident in a block of flats cannot afford it, this means that the whole building does not buy heating oil and everyone is on their own to figure out a way to keep warm) consumption has reportedly dropped by as much as 80%. This means that alternatives to central heating must be found. Thus a lot of people turn to electric, grid powered heaters (your's truly included), that are now cheaper than oil and as many use fireplaces, and old wood stoves, occasionally with tragic consequences.
We are now discovering that picturesque and traditional methods of heating seen in villages don't scale. In fact I just realized how darn environmentally friendly heating oil is compared to burning things in a fireplace or a stove. And I do mean things: "People are burning furniture, plastic, construction materials and even their slippers" to heat themselves when it does get cold. This makes the toxic mix of deleterious fumes covering major cities, even more unhealthy:

"A group of scientists from seven research centres are taking smog readings in several cities through February 10th to assess the environmental impact from the increased use of fireplaces and wood-burning stoves, the Athens network SKAI TV reported.
The scientists, together with the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, have warned that burning wood in the home releases 30 times more air pollution than using a well-maintained heating oil or gas-burning boiler.
They found that concentrations of particulates in the atmosphere from wood smoke increased 200 percent from December 2010 to the same period in 2012, stressing that the problem is especially acute at night, when demand for heating increases. The centre warned an increase in air pollution can lead to respiratory problems as well as aggravating allergies and disturb the neurological and reproductive systems.


The price of firewood has, naturally, doubled since last year, so the incentive to chop down trees in forests and parks is great. In fact both parks and national forests have suffered great losses:


As winter temperatures bite, that trend is dealing a serious blow to the environment, as hillsides are denuded of timber and smog from fires clouds the air in Athens and other cities, posing risks to public health.
The number of illegal logging cases jumped in 2012, said forestry groups, while the environment ministry has lodged more than 3,000 lawsuits and seized more than 13,000 tons of illegally cut trees.
Such woodcutting was last common in Greece during Germany's brutal occupation in the 1940s, underscoring how five years of recession and waves of austerity measures have spawned drastic measures

As one could have easily imagined in the first place, the measure flopped revenue-wise:

Oil suppliers claim of a 75-80% sales decrease for the period October-November-December 2012, when compared to the same period of 2011. Greek Fuel Suppliers Association estimates that the black hole in the state pockets are 400 million euro due to the sharp decrease in heating oil sales.

The Finance Minister, Yiannis Stournaras, an Economics Professor, Banker and former head of the Greek Industrialists' Economic Think Tank IOBE, was however adamant, having the perfect economics background to help him deny what is palpably (indeed chillingly) evident to every bloody citizen in the country: He has refused any extra aid to poor families, advising the freezing to "to be patient for another year" and wait out the cold. Really. And he also attributed the collapse of heating-oil revenues to "people having stockpiled heating oil from last year" despite the fact that it is consumption of heating oil that has declined by 80%. Obviously the economic cult he belongs to is loathe to price-in "externalities" such as health effects, fire hazards and illegal wood-cutting. The troika however seems happy with the results - and who are the victims of its policies to disagree? (although allegedly the troika demanded leveling the tax on heating and transport oil, to fight smuggling, but didn't state to what level - it was Stournaras who chose the highest of the two prices). Since people are turning to the power grid for heating BTW, a pinch of "energy liberalization" will see that this too becomes untenable, as electricity consumers will see a 9% hike on their bills (higher for smaller consumptions, smaller for larger ones!), pending a rumoured 20% increase spread over 2013. Already the Public Power Corporation is cutting off power to customers that can't pay at a rate of 30.000 connections a month! This means that ~300-500.000 households in Greece are living without electricity - literally powerless. Truly an achievement worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize...

The heating debacle is the perfect example of austerian madness as misanthrope feast. It has no point, it doesn't achieve its stated goals, and it has tremendously disastrous side-effects. It adds one more in the troika's long list of crimes against humanity in the European South and serves to demonstrate the imbecility of the current government and its experts...

source
http://histologion.blogspot.com/2013/01 ... -smog.html
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Re: Greeks Raid Forests in Search of Wood to Heat Homes

Postby Wilberforce » Tue Jan 22, 2013 10:28 pm

High Oil Prices Drive Greeks to Burn Wood
By Andy Dabilis on January 22, 2013 in Health Care, News, Politics

Greeks cutting back on household expenses are turning from oil to wood to heat their homes, but in turn are filling the night air with potentially hazardous pollutants, health care officials have warned.

The coalition government, under pressure from the EU-IMF-ECB Troika to impose more austerity measures, has pushed the price of heating oil to about 1.50 euros per liter by raising the tax on heating oil by 40 percent. Besides being a revenue-raiser, the government said the tax was meant to deter people from putting the oil in their cars instead of more expensive diesel.

That has caused a drop of a reported 80 percent in demand and forced many Greeks to forego buying oil and find other means to keep warm, using fireplaces, stoves, oil-filled radiators and halogen heaters. Some are chopping down trees in the woods and city parks.

A group of scientists from seven research centers are taking smog readings in several cities through February 10th to assess the environmental impact from the increased use of fireplaces and wood-burning stoves, the Athens network SKAI TV reported. The scientists, together with the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, have warned that burning wood in the home releases 30 times more air pollution than using a well-maintained heating oil or gas-burning boiler.

They found that concentrations of particulates in the atmosphere from wood smoke increased 200 percent from December 2010 to the same period in 2012, stressing that the problem is especially acute at night, when demand for heating increases. The center warned an increase in air pollution can lead to respiratory problems as well as aggravating allergies and disturb the neurological and reproductive systems.

“More people are going to have breathing problems and go to hospitals and doctors and we might in the long term have serious problems and even be losing people,” Athanassios Vozikis, a lecturer in Health Economics at the University of Piraeus told SETimes.

People who venture out at night soon find they are covered with a sooty smell on their hair and clothes, as if they’ve been near a fire, especially in Athens and the country’s second-largest city, Thessaloniki, with the largest concentrations of the country’s population.

“It’s not just the wood. People are burning furniture, plastic, construction materials and even their slippers,” Giorgos Daskalakis, 48, who runs a wood-selling business, told SETimes. He said he sells hard wood from olive trees that burn cleaner but that makeshift stores have opened and are selling cheap wood that pollutes.

As he spoke, two customers, Christos Betsis, 30, and his brother Costas, 35, were filling their car trunk with wood. They said 50 euros worth would last 25 days in the fireplace in the family house they share with their parents. Using heating oil can cost up to 2 euros or more per hour. “The government has to reduce the price of the oil,” Costas told SETimes. His brother added: “We didn’t buy oil this year. It’s too expensive. It’s up almost 50 percent since last year.”

The problem has become so bad that the wood smog has been detected outside the main cities, including the western city of Patras and in northern suburbs of Athens. The national union of forestry workers has criticized the growing use of wood for fuel.

The government provides subsidies to help those who can’t afford heating oil, but Finance Minister Yiannis Stournaras said many who are eligible haven’t applied and that the government doesn’t have the money to do more. “I wish there was fiscal capacity do to so but there isn’t,” he said, adding that those who need help should “be patient for another year” and wait out the cold.

Takis Grigoriou, the climate change and energy campaigner for Greenpeace in Athens, said the wood smog phenomenon highlights the need to move away from both oil and wood as fuel and heat sources. “The idea behind heating oil subsidies is wrong,” he told SETimes. “We need to stop making people using oil.”

(Reprinted by permission of Southeast European Times, http://www.setimes.com)

source
http://greece.greekreporter.com/2013/01 ... burn-wood/
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Re: Greeks Raid Forests in Search of Wood to Heat Homes

Postby Wilberforce » Thu Jan 31, 2013 10:18 pm

This smoke cloud Is the ultimate symbol of Greece’s depression
By Commentary | Quartz – 7 hrs ago

A specter is haunting Greece. It leers over rooftops, invades lungs, and nearly glows in the night. It’s smoke. Smoke from fire used to warm the homes of Greek families too poor to afford heat any other way. Cut from the mountains surrounding Athens, charred in the stoves and fireplaces of middle class homes, and blown through their chimneys, the unnatural cloud hovering over the capital city has become a bleak metaphor for one of the worst economic depressions in modern European history.

It is the smog of austerity. Greece is literally breathing in the fumes of its recession.

When the country discovered soon after the global financial crisis that it would not be able to pay back its debts, Greece threw itself at the mercy of Europe. In exchange for bailouts, the country agreed to cut its deficit from both ends. Government spending went down. And taxes went up — on income, on property, and on utilities. Combined with the higher cost of oil, these tax hikes pushed up heating costs by more than 40 percent at the start of Greece’s coldest month.

Greek unemployment is the highest in the developed world. The country’s GDP faces the worst peacetime contraction of any non-communist European country since the 19th century. Even workers with jobs often have to deal with delayed payments, furloughs, and lower take-home pay due to higher taxes. So, many families have made an understandable calculus: From now on, we’ll make out our own heat with wood, a match, and a fireplace.

A breath of austerity

A cloud of smoke looms over Athens with the Olympic stadium (R) as seen from northern suburbs (Reuters)

Summer smog is common in Athens, when vehicle fumes collect in the hot, still air over the city. But this is the first incidence in recent memory of “winter smog” from families lighting fires to keep warm in January, when the temperature at night can drop into the low 40s.

“It is present everywhere in the wider area of Athens,” said Alexia Tsaroucha, an English teacher in Athens, in an email exchange. “The problem became particularly evident this year, since the number of people using stoves has increased dramatically.”

The phenomenon is reportedly worst in big cities like Athens, with more than four million inhabitants, and Thessaloniki to the North. But the “smog phenomenon,” as they’re calling it, has been also recorded in smaller Greek cities, as austerity has enacted its revenge on every corner of the country.

“The atmosphere has never been worse,” said Marianna Filipopoulou, a social-anthropologist who has lived in Athens for four years. “It’s getting more and more difficult to breathe. Even our eyes hurt because of the smog.” She said the blame lies, not with families, but with their deplorable circumstances: “There is no other way given the scarcity of money.”

A blogger for the site KeepTalkingGreece.com, who asked to remain anonymous, described to me the sensation of breathing in the smoke this way:

First time, the penetrating smell hit me right in the face was late November 2012. I had just opened the balcony door in the evening when I felt thousands of unknown and invisible particles entering my nostrils and my lungs. An unpleasant smell of gasoline and something else. A pressure on my chest…

Since the start of the phenomenon, there have been times that I could not open the balcony door at night even to bring my own firewood inside. Worst was the smog over the city, during the holiday season, when families and friends got together to celebrate Christmas and New Year, when temperatures were low and fireplaces and stoves were working in full power. I personally had felt like I was having a stone sitting on my chest and gauze was blocking my nose.

Burn Everything

The Greek environmental ministry has warned families to not use their fireplaces as furnaces, but “families have lost workers and can barely make ends meet,” said Tsaroucha, who has lived in Athens since she was born. “The increase in the price of heating oil … and the increased amount of taxes that each household has to pay” have contributed to families’ decision to heat their homes with old-fashioned fire from practically anything that will burn — not only wood, but also lacquered furniture and old doors.

The second symbol of the economic crisis in Greece, after the smog, might be the denuded forests. Greece’s environmental ministry estimates more than 13,000 tons of wood was harvested illegally in 2012. The environment ministry has reportedly seized “more than 13,000 tons of illegally cut trees” as families scramble to find something, anything, that will make a fire and heat a room.

“This new plague appears to be democratic,” Greek commenter Nikos Konstandaras wrote, “but the veneer of universality is thin — again it is the poor who suffer most: They live on lower floors, where the toxins congregate, they are forced to burn whatever they find, huddling around open fires and buckets of embers.”

Perhaps you’ve heard of the “Environmental Kuznets Curve.” It’s the basic theory that, although the initial burst of industrialization often degrades the environment (look at Beijing), the wealthiest societies tend to have the healthiest environments, as they develop sustainable living and cleaner, more expensive technologies (look at San Francisco).

But “Greece is regressing,” said Iain Murray, vice president for strategy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. “As it becomes poorer, its environment suffers more.” Between 1961 and 1998, the concentration of particulates in London fell from an average of 160 micrograms per cubic meter to less than 20. That’s what coming down the curve looks like. “The current levels in Greece are reaching 300 micrograms per cubic meter,” Murray wrote. That’s what going back up the curve looks like.

One Greek blogger compared the scene in Athens to a passage from Charles Dickens’ Bleak House, dramatizing the fact that Greece faces a truly pre-industrial crisis in post-industrial country: “Smoke lowering down from chimney-pots, making a soft black drizzle, with flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown snow-flakes — gone into mourning, one might imagine, for the death of the sun … Fog everywhere …”

Tsaroucha says families feel they have no choice but to harvest trees, tear wood from their walls, and throw furniture into their fires to burn it into the sky. They face the dilemma of “either saving the environment or keeping their households warm,” she said.

In January, the Wall Street Journal reported a familiar scene in the woods surrounding the Greek capital. An environmentalist named Grigoris Gourdomichalis had caught an unemployed father of four illegally hacking away at a tree in the mountains. They had a confrontation. The property was government-owned, as Gourdomichalis told reporters Nektaria Stamouli and Stelios Bouras. But finally, the environmentalist relented. After the father began to cry, he let him walk back to his house to burn the wood from the tree.
This post originally appeared on The Atlantic. More from our sister site:

source
http://news.yahoo.com/smoke-cloud-ultim ... 14302.html

Austerity Brings Back Wood-Burning and Toxic Smog

http://www.greekinsight.com/article.php?id=34521
• The Surgeon General has determined that there is no safe level of exposure to ambient smoke!

• If you smell even a subtle odor of smoke, you are being exposed to poisonous and carcinogenic chemical compounds!

• Even a brief exposure to smoke raises blood pressure, (no matter what your state of health) and can cause blood clotting, stroke, or heart attack in vulnerable people. Even children experience elevated blood pressure when exposed to smoke!

• Since smoke drastically weakens the lungs' immune system, avoiding smoke is one of the best ways to prevent colds, flu, bronchitis, or risk of an even more serious respiratory illness, such as pneumonia or tuberculosis! Does your child have the flu? Chances are they have been exposed to ambient smoke!
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Re: Greeks Raid Forests in Search of Wood to Heat Homes

Postby Wilberforce » Sun Feb 03, 2013 10:22 pm

Image
Workers cutting and stacking firewood for sale in Halandri, north of Athens. Demand has caused
an increase in illegal logging, and trees have been reported stolen from parks in Athens.


Rise in Oil Tax Forces Greeks to Face Cold as Ancients Did

By SUZANNE DALEY
Published: February 3, 2013

ATHENS — Even in the leafy northern stretches of this city, home to luxury apartment buildings, mansions with swimming pools and tennis clubs, the smell of wood smoke lingers everywhere at night.

In her fourth-floor apartment here, Valy Pantelemidou, 37, a speech therapist, is, like many other Greeks, trying to save money on heating oil by using her fireplace to stay warm.

Unemployment is at a record high of 26.8 percent in Greece, and many people have had their salaries and pensions cut, but those are not the main reasons so few residents here can afford heating oil. In the fall, the Greek government raised the taxes on heating oil by 450 percent.

Overnight, the price of heating a small apartment for the winter shot up to about $1,900 from $1,300. “At the beginning of autumn, it was the biggest topic with all my friends: How are we going to heat our places?” said Ms. Pantelemidou, who has had to lower her fees to keep clients. “Now, when I am out walking the dog, I see people with bags picking up sticks. In this neighborhood, really.”

In raising the taxes, government officials hoped not just to increase revenue but also to equalize taxes on heating oil and diesel, to cut down on the illegal practice of selling cheaper heating oil as diesel fuel. But the effort, which many Greeks dismiss as a cruel stupidity, appears to have backfired in more than one way.

For one thing, the government seems to be losing money on the measure. Many Greeks, like Ms. Pantelemidou, are simply not buying any heating oil this year. Sales in the last quarter of 2012 plunged 70 percent from a year earlier, according to official figures.

So while the government has collected more than $63 million in new tax revenue, it appears to have lost far more — about $190 million, according to an association of Greek oil suppliers — in revenue from sales taxes on the oil.

Meanwhile, many Greeks are suffering from the cold. In one recent survey by Epaminondas Panas, who leads the statistics department at the Athens University of Economics and Business, nearly 80 percent of respondents in northern Greece said they could not afford to heat their homes properly.

The return to wood burning is also taking a toll on the environment. Illegal logging in national parks is on the rise, and there are reports of late-night thefts of trees and limbs from city parks in Athens, including the disappearance of the olive tree planted where Plato is said to have gone to study in the shade.

At the same time, the smoke from the burning of wood — and often just about anything else that will catch fire — has caused spikes in air pollution that worry health officials. On some nights, the smog is clearly visible above Thessaloniki, Greece’s second-largest city, and in Athens, where particulate matter has been measured at three times the normal levels.

“Places that in 2008 wouldn’t even think about using their fireplaces for heating, now they are obliged to do so,” said Stefanos Sabatakakis, a health supervisor with the Hellenic Center for Disease Control and Prevention. He said the rise in pollution could cause eye irritation and headaches in the short term and far more serious problems in the long term. The air is particularly bad for asthma sufferers.

The agency has asked that anyone who is lighting living-room fires just for the aesthetics give them up. It has also uploaded information on its Web site about what not to burn — anything that is painted or lacquered, for instance. But in these times, Mr. Sabatakakis acknowledged, people are not that picky.

Government officials say it is too early to judge the new tax. The winter is not yet over. It has not been particularly cold, they say, and many people may have stocked up on fuel oil last season. In the north of Greece, temperatures often dip to freezing at night, while in Athens they are more likely to stay in the low 40s.

“This is a very complex environment,” said Harry Theoharis, the secretary general of the Ministry of Finance, adding that many factors were affecting people’s behavior. “It is not easy to isolate and say: ‘O.K., this tax, this is the effect it had.’ ”

He said there were no clear indications yet that the tax had discouraged illicit sales of heating oil as diesel, though he had detected a slight change in buying patterns that might indicate some change.

It is impossible not to notice the stacks of wood for sale all over Athens this year. Not far from Ms. Pantelemidou’s place is a wood lot run by Valantis Topalis, 44, who used to own an interior design company. He started selling wood last year, eager to have a business that was not reliant on people paying their bills.

Last year, he made some money. But this year, he said, everybody is selling wood — some of it stolen from national parks — and business is not so good. Even in this wealthy area, a lot of the customers come in for only 20 euros, or $27, worth of wood on colder days.

“The worst part is not the lack of money,” Mr. Topalis said of his life today. “The worst part today is the mood that people are in.”

Those who can afford to, like Ms. Pantelemidou, are using a combination of their fireplaces and electric heaters, unsure what this will do to their electric bills. But that is likely to bring some unpleasant surprises, as the government recently announced an increase in the cost of electricity that, depending on consumption, could be as much as 20 percent.

Still, oil suppliers are glum about their prospects. Elias Bekkas, who provides oil to 65 buildings around the city, said that many of his clients had not ordered any oil, and that some who had could not pay the bill. Last winter, he said, his company sold a little more than a million gallons. This season, it has sold only about 65,000 gallons, and he doubted the total would get to 225,000.

Tenant meetings to decide whether to buy oil, he said, have gotten ugly. A year ago, two buildings covered the costs for people who could not pay. But this year there is only bickering.

“There is anger, bitterness between neighbors who can afford oil and those that cannot,” Mr. Bekkas said. “That is what Greece is like now.”

Hes said he had detected a third class of people as well this winter. “There are those who are just making a political statement,” he said. “They are just angry about the taxes.”

Ms. Pantelemidou, like many others in newer buildings, has a fireplace that was designed largely for decorative purposes. It hardly heats her living room, let alone the rest of her apartment. She has pulled a chair close to it so she can stay warm.

In a working-class area of town, Aggeliki and Christos Makris are also making do without heating oil. They bought their three-bedroom apartment in 2009, when they had a combined income of $63,400 for a family of five.

Since then, the salary of Mrs. Makris, 45, who works as a cleaner for the government has been cut to about $1,100 a month from $1,750 a month. Mr. Makris, 42, who runs heavy machinery at a mining company, lost all of his overtime. They are behind on their taxes and, after mortgage payments, living on less than $340 a week. To cut down on the electric bill, Mrs. Makris has even reduced the ironing she does.

Paying for heating oil was out of the question. This year, Mr. Makris went north to his village to cut firewood himself. He said no one in his building wanted to buy heating oil. “The super did not even bother to ask,” said Mr. Makris. “We are all in debt.”

The Makrises said they were at least lucky that they had made a good choice in upgrading the fireplace when they bought the apartment. It burns efficiently and warms much of their living space.

Mr. Makris said it was far worse for the pensioners he saw, who really need central heating and do not have the strength, the energy or the money to get good firewood. Instead, they pick up scraps of wood left on the street, whether it is painted or not.

source
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/04/world ... -fire.html
• The Surgeon General has determined that there is no safe level of exposure to ambient smoke!

• If you smell even a subtle odor of smoke, you are being exposed to poisonous and carcinogenic chemical compounds!

• Even a brief exposure to smoke raises blood pressure, (no matter what your state of health) and can cause blood clotting, stroke, or heart attack in vulnerable people. Even children experience elevated blood pressure when exposed to smoke!

• Since smoke drastically weakens the lungs' immune system, avoiding smoke is one of the best ways to prevent colds, flu, bronchitis, or risk of an even more serious respiratory illness, such as pneumonia or tuberculosis! Does your child have the flu? Chances are they have been exposed to ambient smoke!
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