Statement from Greece: Earthquakes know no borders, neither does our solidarity!

Statement from the initiative Μας Σκάβουν τον Λάκκο

Μας σκάβουν τον λάκκο is an initiative of environmental and social organizations in Greece against extractions and war. It is part of the “Μας Σκάβουν το Λάκκο-Kazma Birak – Don’t dig” campaign, which was established through the initiative of 73 environmental, social and political collectives in Greece, Turkey and Cyprus and is a collaboration against extractions and war in the Eastern Mediterranean.

It is expected that many people have been left speechless by the magnitude of the destruction and tragedy caused by the earthquake centered on the Turkey-Syria border. So far (February 7), the number of dead exceeds 5,000, while it is expected to increase dramatically as the days pass.

Is it a natural disaster?

Media and governments are quick to label any such tragedy as a “natural disaster,” be it earthquakes, wildfires, or heavy rainfall and flooding.

The thousands of dead, however, were not killed by the earthquake as such, but mainly because the buildings were flimsy and unsuitable. They were killed by the indifference of the Turkish state to ensure the static adequacy of building infrastructures, public and private, built on giant faults, while there were clear warnings from the scientific community about expected very big earthquakes. They were killed by the profiteering of the large construction capital that infests the area where the earthquake occurred, which in the name of maximizing its profits, degrades the quality of the constructions, arbitrarily, and does not respect the specifications for anti-seismic shielding. They continue to be killed by the criminal inaction of the state apparatus and the virtual non-existence of civil protection, which has left ordinary people helpless and abandoned.

They are also being killed by anti-environmental pharaonic projects like the Atatürk Dam in South East Turkey (the 3rd largest dam in the world), for which geologists and seismologists have been clamoring for induced seismicity in the region.

We live in an earthquake-prone area, which historically has produced very big earthquakes. We may remember the 1999 earthquakes in Greece and Turkey, and the earthquake on both sides of the Aegean in October 2020.

The issue is not whether earthquakes happen, but how people are protected from their effects. Instead of giving money for stability checks and safety measures, billions are given for Rafale, F-16 and F-35 fighter aircrafts. Instead of conducting emergency drills and exercises, instead of ensuring the proper equipment and adequate training and staffing of disaster response units, Greece and Turkey are competing in police repression.

Mining and nuclear energy

It is not only that. The two countries have entered a race to develop new oil and fossil gas mining projects. Apart from the fact that mining and use of fossil fuels intensify the climate crisis and nationalist rivalries, there are other side effects. In principle, these mines have been shown to cause earthquake tremors, which can trigger new earthquakes. But apart from that, mining platforms in case of big earthquakes (or other accidents) can cause great ecological disasters. In July 2021 we saw the fire at sea caused by a gas pipeline accident in the Gulf of Mexico.

But the destructive policy of the two governments does not stop there. Mining of gold and other mineral metals is planned in this seismic area. Open-air mine tailing ponds with toxic waste, in cases of earthquakes, floods or other accidents, almost always leak and their contents contaminate vast areas. We typically mention the cyanide leakage into the Danube from the gold mine in Romania, which was described as “the worst environmental disaster in Europe after Chernobyl”, but also the recent cyanide leakage into the Euphrates in Turkey. 

To complete the picture, the Turkish government is building a nuclear plant in Akkuyu, next to the East Anatolian Fault, while the Greek government is preparing to indirectly finance the construction of a new nuclear plant in Kozloduy, Bulgaria, committing itself to absorb its output in the long term. Let’s remember that the nuclear accident in Fukushima was caused by an earthquake.

We ourselves are not left speechless!

For all these reasons, we stand firmly against extractions, mining and any environmentally destructive policy. We stand in solidarity with the Turkish people, in their struggle for survival at this hour, and also in solidarity with their struggles against environmental destruction and war. With the movements of Turkey and Cyprus we are building a common front, against the policies of our governments, for a peaceful and ecological life. We do not remain silent; we claim a common life of dignity!

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