Bollocks to Austerity: Greece and The Reasons It Will Be Just Fine

It seems all the news we hear about Greece these days is dire. There are reports and stories abound about the plight of the Greek people and the total collapse of their economy. One would think that the entire future of the EU hinges on the recovery and successful bailout of the Greek economy.

 

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Time to save the money!  Photo courtesy of Flickr

 

This pessimistic and negative view of Greece and its future affects the attitudes of travelers as well as the travel and tourism industry of the country. There are many fears and concerns, some valid, some not that would be travelers express when planning their vacation or Greece holidays abroad.

 

Some travelers express concern over the continual protests in some of the larger cities. I have read opinions and stories about the hesitancy of others who believe that the breakdown of basic necessities such as electricity, transportation and emergency services are inevitable. While it is always in ones best interest to be a thoughtful and educated traveler, looking at things through both an honest perspective and a positive light is equally important.

 

A Positive Light

 

Greece and its people will probably end up just fine. They are by the way, one of the worlds most ancient and greatest civilizations. There are boundless positive and encouraging traditions and ideas that Greece has, which go unrecognized in the flurry of panic and crisis that our media creates. It is in this light, that those who pause to take in an honest assessment of a place and people, that I wish to cast a glance on Greece right now.

 

Strong Barter Traditions

 

Greece has always had a strong barter economy that survived in parallel to its main economy. While mostly dominate in the rural town and villages, it is now making its way into the larger cities of the country.

 

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Greek market.  Photo courtesy of Flickr

 

This is a return to more traditional practices and costumes where you exchange good and services locally instead of using paper or coin currency. This helps support local economies of small businesses and individual family households.

 

Much of the Greek economy and society is based around the family and what is produced by the household. Embracing this heritage which has survived despite modernization of much of the economy since joining the EU provides a buffer zone to sustain it through the tough times and contractions of larger economic system.

 

This thriving barter economy is getting an added boost though an alternative local currency that is used with a certain degree of success.

 

Local Currency

 

The TEM, which is a Greek alternative currency used by members of the network for the exchange of good and services. Usually these alternative currencies are setup within a network of local businesses, boosting their value as a means of exchange, promoting a local sustainable economy.

 

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The TEM, a local Greek voucher currency.  Photo courtesty of WorldNews

 

These have become ever more popular in the United States, England and many other nations since the global financial collapse of 2008. I talk a little about these in this article I wrote on my visit to Transition Town Totnes. Another, yet very similar form of a barter/local sustainable economic model is the Time Banking movement, which has spread wide and far from Scotland and England to the United States and Australia.

 

Revitalization of Villages and Towns

 

The lack of jobs available in the major cities of Greece has been the impetus for the rebirth of small villages and towns. Traditionally the youth moved away from their places of birth in search of higher paying jobs which were found in the more robust economies and production areas of major metropolitan areas.

 

The tables have been turning with the recent economic hardships befalling the country, causing a cultural shift where these young adults are moving back into the more rural and less populated areas. Here they settle down into an older tradition of joining the smaller economy of the family home farm, selling homemade goods or starting small businesses to provide needed services for the local economy.

 

With strong, albeit dwindling traditions of rural agriculture, frugality and resourcefulness coupled with abundant housing, available land and strong support of community a new sense of social well being and personal happiness are becoming the benchmarks for this new (old) way of life. While some see this return to the past as a way backwards, some acknowledge this return as a way to guide them forward down a new path.

 

Investing in a Sustainable Economy

 

Promoting and investing in local sustainable food and agriculture further strengthens the local economy and provides secutiy and growth for these smaller rural areas. This is some of the ideas behind the Slow Food Movement which promotes locally sourced food, traded at fair prices for the farmers and enriches the consumer – producer relationship.

 

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Photo courtesty of Flickr

 

It seems Greece has not lost entirely, this traditional model of small scale farms that we have gotten away from in much of the western world.

 

While not as aggressive as its western and central European counterparts in developing an alternative energy economy there have been signs recently that Greece is looking to become a serious power as a European alternative energy producer. It announced Project Helios, which seeks to increase Greece's solar power production from its 206 megawatts (MW) in 2010 to 10 GW by 2050.

 

With this investment the country hopes to provide much needed revitalization of the economy through service jobs and production capabilities. They further hope to highlight the near market competitive potential of photovoltaics in coming months and years, in a market where traditional sources such as nuclear, coal and gas are highly subsidized by governments.

 

The Bottom Line

 

Although austerity and hard times have hit the country of Greece and its people there is still much to be celebrated and plenty of reasons for the traveler to visit. There are even more ways to help the country as it explores this new path to a better Greece while also enjoying what it has to offer as a tourist destination.

 

The more you travel as an educated and informed tourist/traveler the greater opportunities you have to explore the cultures and unique experiences available in any destination.

About Author

Post by Kurt Trumble
The Low Down:

Kurt grew up on Long Island in New York. He spends his time learning emerging open source technologies and social media. He runs Travel With Drupal, focused on Drupal webdesign and blogging. (http://www.travelwithdrupal.info). Beatnik literature and The Beatles top his list of interests when not backpacking around.