Life

The Dark Side of Southern Europe’s Summer Paradise

With over 200 days of clear skies annually, coupled with pleasant climes, southern European countries like Greece, Italy, and Spain have become favored summer retreats for Western society over the past century. Verily, in certain locales along the Mediterranean seaboard, amid sandy beaches and buildings with graceful lines, together with a storied history, it resembles a terrestrial paradise.

However, in recent years, record-shattering high temperatures, compounded by arid air and robust winds, have transmuted Corfu, Sicily, and Rhodes—Mediterranean attractions that habitually welcome throngs of tourists in summer—into seas of flames.

Even sans wildfires, many nations in southern Europe have weathered extreme heatwaves, with thermometer readings in Italy, Spain, Greece, and Croatia soaring above 40 degrees Celsius. Per Chris Hewitt, director of climate services at the World Meteorological Society, July 2023 could rank as the hottest month since modern thermometry commenced in 1850.

When it comes to Greek isle tours, Rhodes Island numbers among the top ten tourist destinations. Rhodes Island, situated in the eastern Aegean Sea, not only possesses sandy beaches and vineyards prevalent among Mediterranean isles, but also relatively intactly preserves the fortresses and castles of the Knights who took part in the “Crusades” in medieval times, enticing many tourists. One can experience the mien of a medieval Mediterranean town here.

In addition to the natives on the island, “explorable” islands like Rhodes Island with both beaches and historical sites, despite their petite size, can lure many foreign tourists and generate prodigious foreign exchange income for Greece. In 2019, the year before the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, over 2 million tourists visited Rhode Island, an unprecedented figure.

The 15-day heatwave is the longest on record for the country, per Meteo.gr, the weather website of the National Astronomical Observatory of Athens. That’s when the Rhode Island tourist paradise metamorphosed into a fiery vista during the nearly two-week heatwave. Owing to dry, torrid weather, wildfires blazed on Rhode Island for almost a week, triggering the most expansive rescue operation ever in Greece.

On just petite Rhode Island, 19,000 people were evacuated, encompassing hordes of tourists. Kathimeri, a local English-language medium in Greece, promulgated several aerial photographs of Rhodes Island, including wildfires nearing the beach where tourists usually congregate. Numerous news agencies also photographed the dense smoke adjoining hotels and passengers absconding Rhode Island on a ship. For Greece, which depends heavily on tourism, this spectacle of tourists rapidly fleeing for their lives as the wildfire encroached has truly inflicted a forceful blow at the public relations level.

Greek officials have itemized several areas potentially susceptible to widespread wildfires resembling Rhode Island this year. On July 27, a photograph of an explosion in a field and permeated with black smoke materialized on the front pages of countless news websites in Greece. The explosive picture in the image is not a battle scene, but a wildfire igniting a munitions depot at a Greek air force base, precipitating a blast there. This air force base is not in Rhode Island, but rather the province of Volos in central Greece.

Greek tourism agencies frequently harness “over 200 days of clear skies a year” as an advertising ploy, yet they are oblivious that this sunny, arid weather is ideal for the dissemination of wildfires. Amid the heatwave, up to 50 wildfires erupted across Greece within 24 hours.

Widespread wildfires are nothing new in Greece. However, this year’s record-shattering high temperatures have also inflicted misery on many southern European denizens.

Greek meteorologist Christopher Zarevos told the British “Guardian” that over the next 30 years, average annual temperatures along the Mediterranean littoral will surge by 2 degrees Celsius, and temperature shifts in winter will also catalyze a chain reaction in summer.

Take this year for instance. Europe first heralded a relatively balmy winter, and the soil forfeited copious moisture. In summer, the parched soil was more conducive to the diffusion of wildfires.

A high temperature of 35 degrees Celsius for over 15 consecutive days can be deemed an “extreme heat wave” under the current European clime. For Europeans unaccustomed to torrid environments, “heat death” induced by extremely hot conditions has evolved into a phenomenon of profound concern in recent years. There is another impetus for “heat death”. The cooling facilities of some private abodes or venues cannot keep pace with the contemporary climate change.

For example, I once sojourned in Croatia, a southern European nation, and discerned that only one room in a hotel had air conditioning. On the most sweltering nights, all the lodgers congregated in the lobby and carped that it was too hot to sleep. In that air-conditioned room, the split air conditioner was installed utterly unreasonably: the outdoor unit of this split air conditioner was actually positioned inside the room. Consequently, the air conditioner cooled the room while the outdoor unit in the room re-heated the air. Re-arrange yourself back into the room.

When the red high temperature warning is reached, one can envisage the repercussions of this kind of living environment. As global temperatures persist in ascending, people’s capacity to withstand torrid weather will also be sternly tested over the next few years.

The demise of a tourist paradise

In 2019, the southern European nation welcomed more global tourists than ever before. The emergence of the novel coronavirus pandemic functioned as a regulator for a spell, halting low-cost flights in a globalized environment. After the pandemic, luxury cruise liners and budget airlines that can accommodate thousands of passengers returned. The term “overtourism” has inaugurated employment in southern European countries like Italy, Spain, Greece, and Croatia.

The so-termed “overtourism” denotes “overtourism” that materializes when the tourist count renders the tourism management of an attraction unsustainable. Excessive tourists will escalate local prices, diminish the quality of life of the local community, negatively influence the surrounding natural environment, and ultimately decrease the caliber of the tourist experience as well. For instance, in Venice, a favored tourist destination in southern Europe, there is a social tendency against “over-tourism”.

“Venice is over!” “Venice has become a theme park!” “A moment of silence for Venice!” Adjacent to a massive luxury cruise liner docked, some Venetian citizens abruptly dropped their pants and aimed their derrieres at these tourists who had journeyed from afar.

Disappointing tourists has evolved into a technique for locals in Venice to resist “overtourism”.

In Venice, local anti-tourism denizens instituted a “Venice Death Countdown”: on this electronic timer, “Venice Local Population” was inscribed. Per statistics, the number of permanent residents dwelling in downtown Venice has plunged to around 60,000. In the eyes of local citizens who oppose “over-tourism”, Venice’s over-reliance on tourism is slowly murdering the city. Many local citizens opt to depart. Apart from the city becoming congested, noisy, and unclean, a cardinal reason is that the infrastructure of civic services has also commenced overcrowding by tourism.

In the documentary “I Love Venice”, clusters of local Venetian residents participated in protests against the local government’s closure of a community hospital. This community infirmary was potentially purchased by some hotel chain brands and transformed into a hotel. For Venetians, what evaporates today is the hospital, tomorrow it may be the produce market, and in a few days it could be their own house.

However, in the eyes of Venetians, the most blatant thorn in their side is a luxury cruise liner. In an era when luxury cruise ships have ripened into a ubiquitous mode of transport for touring the Mediterranean coast, Venice is the front line frequently visited by these behemoths. The luxury cruise vessel, which is taller than the hallmark of Venice, St. Mark’s Square, materializes on Venice’s main channel and occupies the entire skyline of Venice. For people on the shore, it is visually oppressive.

For Venice, a “maritime city” whose entire foundation is inserted into the seabed silt with wooden stakes, the shockwaves generated by the incessant visits of cruise ships will convulse the foundation of the entire city. The waste discharged by luxury cruise liners in the lagoon where Venice is situated has also critically impacted the ecological surroundings of the lagoon.

In addition to instigating environmental quandaries, what irritates Venetians is that tourists on luxury cruise ships do not spend the night there. They typically disembark from the vessel early in the morning, meander around the city for about 10 hours, then retreat to the boat to sleep. Compared with lodgers who reside locally for a few days, passengers on luxury cruise ships not only contribute a small proportion of tax revenue, but also render the entire city more congested. Per statistics, in tourist season, Venice may receive over 400,000 tourists daily from luxury cruise ships.

In July 2021, the Venice City Council finally took action and passed a bill proscribing large luxury cruise liners from entering Venice’s main channel. These steel behemoths that induced a robust sense of oppression on the Venetian skyline and main

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