It is essential we look after the land, you told them.
‘Our numbers continue to grow; we must manage the resources we have.’ ‘But we must grow more,’ they said. ‘What if Greece should go to war?’
You tried to make them understand. You told them how the very earliest settlers were wise, selecting only fertile areas to farm; how time passed and through forgetfulness and necessity, your ancestors expanded onto the fragile slopes. Solon the great reformer, understood, with his laws banning hillside ploughing. But then Peisistratus, the tyrant, undid his wise husbandry, introducing a bounty for planting olive trees on the eroding land.
In Critias, you wrote: ‘What now remains compared with what then existed is like the skeleton of a sick man, all the fat and the soft earth having wasted away, and only the bare framework of the land being left. There are some mountains which have nothing but food for bees, but they had trees not very long ago.’
The people did not heed your warnings, Plato. Productivity declined and Greece’s power waned. The Peloponnesian War marked the end of a great era, but the land continued to suffer.
Today it is estimated nearly a third of Greece is just one step from becoming desert.
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