Alyki, the coastal town near to where my house is located is developing fast. Fifty years ago, it had very few houses, two or three picturesque small tavernas, a grape factory and some fisherman's cabins. This year they are building a marina in order to take yachts. I'm really hoping the fishing village charm that has enchanted myself and others since first setting eyes on the south coast of Paros island is somehow retained - but I fear it won't be for long.
With a new larger airport opened a couple of years ago, Iit is surely only a matter of time until a handful of international flights start arriving and who knows what might happen from that point. Since neighbouring Mykonos and Santorini opened their airports to Easyjet and the like, the islands have been transformed, but mostly not in a good way. Whilst it's good for the Greek economy that tourism here is truly back on the agenda, both islands are bulging at the seams, overrun with tourists, very short on taxis and very expensive. I now pass through Mykonos as quickly as possible and try to get out on the first available ferry, which has to wend its way between several cruise ship monstrosities as it heads into open seas.
Those Aegean seas are still mercifully clean and clear compared to many in Europe but there is still a big issue with rubbish and recycling, with plastic water bottles the largest issue as so little water is consumed from the taps in Greece.
Tourism in Paros will grow, and needs too - it's how it grows that matters and already some original initiatives are gathering pace which can have influence.
There is an awakening in progress. Sustainable Living Paros, set up by Stella Cervello are sending teams out to pick up every single piece of garbage picked the day before. We are talking about lots of plastic bottles, cans, shoes, fishing gear, tyres, plastic coffee cups, lighters, sponges and styrofoam, much of the lighter rubbish blown onto the islands from the sea by the meltemi north winds. Stella has received much resistance and cynicism to the idea of recycling on Paros, but undeterred, she is stepping up initiatives along with efforts from bars such as Nemobar, who introduced vegan food, rejected plastic straws and introduced a smoking ban too.
Stella is currently volunteering on two day long events in Antiparos, organised by Aegean Rebreath with the collaboration of Cyclades Preservation Fund, Plasticfreegreece, BlueIsland-Divers, Antiparos, Greece, Artemis Triantafillos and the Municipality of Antiparos. One team went to dive again to clean other areas and to localise fishing nets for future actions. On my visit to Antiparos this week I couldn't believe the amount of litter strewn at the roadside, as we headed to the south end of the island, passing the house owned by film star Tom Hanks.
Stella says "The plan is to send one part of it to Paros for recycling another part to private companies that can upcycle it! I will give you more details as soon as I know more!
♻️ My thoughts about all this is that this is very very important work that has to be done, but it has to be followed by the realisation that the solution has to come upstream by refusing plastic in the first place and taking responsibility for our garbage! Of course the ideal would also be if big companies and governments become more proactive but meanwhile, let’s not wait.
Collecting all this garbage and getting it to be recycled it’s a huge huge huge effort and it also requires lots of resources. Also think that plastic can be recycled only once most of the time! So yes for the moment what we can do is refuse to participate in this and vote by choosing to refuse or to use alternatives to single use."
With a week-long Paros Campfire retreat in the planning stages for September 2019, we will look at some of the issues affecting the island and focus on the ways that people are ringing the changes that we need to make both individually and collectively. I was lucky enough to discover Tassos Yoga at Magaya and ended up attending classes most days through September. Tassos is an inspiring teacher, who seems equally at home with advanced practitioners and relative newcomers like me. He is skilled and experienced in Iyengar practice but his teaching has a broad appeal and his interest in meditation and Eastern philosophy ties in with the complete science of yoga.
Tao's meditation, well-being and self-development centre near Ambelas has been open for some years now and other new initiatives are taking place too. Self-sufficiency, permaculture and upcycling were all words I heard mentioned many times by both Parians and the growing international community who spend much of their time on the island.
All in all, September was a wonderful month, part work, part thinking time and part holiday. Paros brings me back again and again and am truly grateful for being able to spend several weeks of the year is such an inspiring environment.
I will never grow tired of Paros' magic, its clear seas and wonderful beaches and its natural delights, especially the sunsets.