Thursday, May 12, 2011

Cavo Sidero Activism

Thanks to Nassos Papalexandrou for highlighting a recent moment of archaeological activism. I quote below an email sent to the entire international community that rallied behind the site of Cavo Sidero in Crete. Jennifer Moody and Oliver Rackham spearheaded the successive campaign:

April 9, 2011
Dear Signer of the Cavo Sidero Petition,
Thank you! You really did make a difference! On December 3, 2010 the Council of State, Greece's Supreme Administrative Court, found in our favor and canceled approval of the Cavo Sidero Golf Resort. Copies of the petition, including comments, were placed before the judges and formed an important part of the evidence.
This has been a long, hard fought battle by thousands of people but especially a core of some 300 local citizens who took on big business and big government and against incredible odds won this court case.
Your support bolstered morale and demonstrated that this was not merely a local affair; that the world does indeed care about the future of this remote corner of Crete. People from 88 countries all over the world signed the Cavo Sidero Petition: 40% from Greece; 16% from France; 13% from the UK; 8% from the USA; 5% from Belgium; 4% from Germany; 2% from Italy; and 1% from Switzerland, Canada, The Netherlands, Spain, Austria and Cyprus. We are delighted that so many people, according to their comments, have been all the way to the north-east tip of Crete and know and appreciate its beauty and its wildlife.
Sadly, the landscape is not entirely secure. The land remains in the hands of Moní Toploú which continues to allow serious overgrazing and the bulldozing of antiquities. Cultivation of the Itanos basin is still leaking agro-chemicals into the Vaï palm-wood. Most alarmingly, we hear that the palms have now been attacked by the Red Palm Weevil, an insect that has decimated many kinds of palm trees from India to California and is now ravaging Crete!
Also, Minoan Group/Loyalward have openly declared their intention to return with a new plan, hoping to have it speedily passed through a recently enacted "fast-track" procedure aimed at assisting such projects by bypassing legitimate objections from private citizens and government departments. While the legitimacy of such efforts is questionable, we must remain vigilant.
Whether by Minoan Group/Loyalward or some other organization, a new development proposal for Cavo Sidero will be submitted. It is important to be prepared with a plan that works with, not against, the special character of the area. To this end an international conference on the future of this area is planned to be hosted by the provincial government of Lasithi.
Thus, the battle to save the Cavo Sidero landscape continues on several different fronts, including a criminal trial set to begin in Khania on April 15, 2011 against the Abbot and seven government expert witnesses. They are accused of fraudulently leading the court into a 1999 decision which secured the Monastery's ownership of the land against claims by the Greek State.
As part of the effort to protect Cavo Sidero and other sensitive areas from unsustainable development, an international team (who worked selflessly for over three years with little or no pay) filmed a documentary: A Thousand Lost Golf Balls. A film about development (copyright Real-Life Documentaries 2010, directed by Vangelis Kalaitzis). It presents the full spectrum of opinion about this landmark case; the history of the development; and possible futures for this and other undeveloped areas, exploring proposals for sustainable ways of managing the land for generations to come using its natural assets. It is also a record of the landscape as it is today - undeveloped. The film has now been shown at Ecoweek 2010 and the 2011 Thessaloniki Film Festival; a shorter version is to be aired on Greek TV. If you wish to purchase the film or contribute to its expenses please contact Cliff Cook (writer and narrator)
If you have any further questions about the Cavo Sidero area please do not hesitate to email one or both of us at the addresses below.
And so with this letter we officially close this Cavo Sidero petition. We are extremely grateful to all 11, 014 of you for signing it and helping preserve this landscape from catastrophic development; it was a magnificent response. Thank you so very much.

Jennifer Moody
Environmental Archaeologist
MacArthur Fellow 1989-1994
Research Fellow, Department of Classics
University of Texas at Austin

Oliver Rackham
OBE, Fellow of the British Academy
Honorary Professor of Historical Ecology
Former Master of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge

Authors of The making of the Cretan landscape, 1996, 2004

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