Tuesday, 20 November 2007

"The entire state, local governments, scientific community and social bodies have for years being trying to hide behind their finger"

Dora Bakoyannis (Athens News Agency 19:11:07), ex-mayor of Athens and now Foreign Minister of Greece, gave the finishing speech to the Central Union of Municipalities and Communities of Greece (KEDKE) conference in Ileia last Friday. She underlined the work done by the government and the interior ministry to strengthen and support local authorities since 2004.
They have acted to boost local government developmentally and institutionally through the Thiseas programme [this link - para C - shows where DB is coming from. Thiseas* is referred to halfway through] and by revising the Municipalities and Communities Code.
Bakoyannis stressed the role of local government in the protection of the environment, saying that they should be at the forefront of this struggle:
Development cannot exist unless it is combined with organised environmental actions. Urban waste management as the greatest of these problems...the most important threat now before us. The entire state, local governments, scientific community and social bodies have for years being trying to hide behind their finger. The time to act responsibly is here. Solutions are needed and solutions exist. There is national and regional planning, that must finally be put into action. But there are also new technologies that we must adopt in order to protect the environment.
[see my Flickr group 'International flytipping - fouling our nest'. See this image of flytipping on the road to Ano Korakiana] [*Thiseas supports investments and local development projects and has allocated around €174 million to the region’s local authorities, i.e. 81% of a total of €214 million earmarked for them. Bakoyannis Feb 2007] [Back to the future 14 July 2008:John Aravosis, AMERICAblog.com, interviews Dora Bakoyannis] * * * The nutter on the bus? I was stirred by a remark on a cycling forum. A fellow member said he didn't do buses, adding remarks about his dislike of associating with passengers because 'I always get the nutter':
Pompous I know, but the nutter is your brother or sister. This reason for not ‘doing’ buses is familiar and widespread, evidence of apprehension about the ‘other’ helping create suburban sprawl and autodependent isolation. The ‘nutter’ on the bus parallels the ‘nutter’ in the car – the hitchhiker to whom you'd never give a ride. Cycling the line to work, the majority of queueing cars hold one person. This fear of associating with passengers – in trains and buses and trams – removes the experience of negotiating difference in public. Fellow passengers remind us of how multivariate is the population. I meet people on buses who understand football – a game I find a wee bit tedious – who make it exciting by their excitement. I get to chat with them about theories of the incorporeality of matter, usually through analysis of the notorious ‘hand of god’ incident (among strangers you can revisit the same story again and again). I've been gently persuaded to give Islam a deeper look in discussion of the Holy Qu’ran which I suggest lacks good yarns compared to the Bible, which gives me a chance to tell a tale of lust and betrayal – David and Bathsheba – before we get to Colmore Row. We compare examples of love “Look mate could you say ‘forgive them they know not what they do while someone was hammering a nail in your wrist?” I may mention my atheism, which will give some a chance to bring a lost soul back to the faith – well, their faith. I’ve been nearly converted on buses, especially in India after hearing a shortened version of the Mahabharata that lasted no more than half-an-hour, a time lengthened by my entranced questions. On buses things happen – a man is taken ill. The driver and all on board try to help and are drawn together in solicitousness. A youth plays loud music! No-one says anything, then ‘DO YOU MIND?’ says a big woman. Music switched off. Fellow passengers grin at each other for their lack of pluck, amused but nervous at having a battleaxe in their midst. On buses, especially, the weather is discussed – even when there’s only one other passenger. I take my foreign students on buses to learn about Britain. Last October I had some young Japanese between Dudley and West Bromwich in conversation with fellow travellers. One of them did origami to an increasingly entertained circle of fellow passengers. No-one said ‘are you from China? Enough different strains of our species share space on city buses for recognition to be pretty accurate. I'd broken the ice in the first instance by asking directions, which I sort of knew, but wanted to check. Advice came from all angles. Conversations followed. I have had moments of animosity and danger on buses. Ever changing bus assemblies require cautious assessment, from the moment one enters their space and sometimes on the road outside as one enters or descends. I dislike the smell of cannabis. Nicotine I don’t mind. Others balk at it. Personal noise I detest – not the noise but the self-isolation of the earphone zombie. I will mischievously ask a question moving only my lips, until and if they remove their headphones. (You’ve guessed. I’m one of the nutters!). I've conducted surveys on buses, showing my camous ID and asking their opinion of the service. Evidence-based policy making! The skills of negotiating a minefield are tested. On buses the concept of respect must be a living practice, quite as much as in the world of Debrett. Buses are where very different people have encounters, where every now and again I see people of enchanting handsomeness and and beauty – not on a billboard or TV commercial - and even get to talk to them. Regular moments of separation make the exchange of complements safer. Buses, even more than trains, are where you can have your concerns about society tested but also where you can be reassured, in ordinary ways, of the kindness of strangers. Best. Simon

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