National Geographic : 1947 Dec
Erosion, Trojan Horse of Greece Costa Emmanuel from lNI'RA Haunting the Greek Villager Is the Constant Specter of Fuel Scarcity Homeward bound from the fields, this girl leads a donkey and a pony laden with precious wood for cooking and heating. Even green oak along the roadsides is cut. In the Vouraikos River area, forests have been reduced to brush by uncontrolled cutting and by grazing of the sprouts by sheep and goats. Now not over five percent of the country is forested. Cutting of the larger trees for fuel, coupled with constant grazing of the sprouts by goats and sheep, has also reduced most of the original hardwood forest to brush a foot or two in height. Most of the maples, hackberry, myrtle, and other hardwoods, and their intervening stands of rich grasses, have long since been consumed by the hungry animals. Only the harsh, prickly-leafed oak and an occasional wild pear tree remain to protect the rocky soil from the driving winter rains. Fuel Seekers Comb Countryside Under such conditions, the worry of being without fuel is a constant specter that walks beside each villager. Everything that will burn and is not needed for some other purpose is carefully gathered. While the men and women are in the fields, the children comb the surrounding countryside for sticks. Even the green oak brush along the roadsides is cut and packed home to cook the evening meal or to heat the rude stone houses. In months of travel in Greece I never saw a donkey or the small Greek pony on its way to the village without a load on its back. If it wasn't carrying corn, beans, wheat, or some other crop from the fields, it was loaded with sticks or brush for fuel. In midsummer, as soon as the wheat is har vested and threshed, almost the whole village moves up into the canyons to the fir timber to get out the winter fuel supply. While the men and older boys fell the trees, the women and children cut them up in lengths short enough to be loaded on the donkey. During the late summer it is a common sight to see a hundred or more donkeys strung out over several miles of mountain trail, all so heavily loaded that it seems only their ears protrude.