Aspropyrgos is a busy Greek shipping and industrial center. Along with the imported car parts and electronics come illegal drugs, weapons and contraband cigarettes, as well as violence and nationalistic tensions between locals and immigrants. In a sense, Aspropyrgos is a microcosm of Europe itself, struggling to benefit from the global economy while protecting its identity.
In 1843 magazine, Alexander Clapp follows a scrap metal collector and the relative of a murdered businessman to profile the Greek city and its reputation for lawlessness. Despite a violent strain of nationalism that has taken hold in Aspropyrgos, a Chinese business is now trying to develop it into a railway hub in a potentially lucrative distribution network. If the region is going to benefit from outside investment, someone has to tame the violence.
The economic crisis made the lives of the Aspropyrgians harder than ever before. Relations between Pontic Greeks and Roma grew increasingly hostile, as each group blamed the other for their misfortunes. “Look how lawless they are,” Kostas says of his Roma neighbours. “They leave their trash and their kids everywhere.” Lambros views people like Kostas as intruders. “Nothing bad came in from the sea before they got there,” he says. Into the void left by the emaciated and neglectful state stepped Golden Dawn, the neo-Nazi party that has thrived on resentment of austerity.
Golden Dawn attracts nearly one in three votes in Aspropyrgos. Kostas heartily supports them; so does almost every other Pontic Greek I meet. Many approve of Golden Dawn’s willingness to put the Roma in their place, often through brute force. But even more attractive to Pontic Greeks is Golden Dawn’s veneration of their distinctive identity. By resisting assimilation and maintaining their traditions for thousands of years, the Pontic Greeks affirm Golden Dawn’s central tenet: that the Greeks are exceptional people. They preserve the connection to the era of Hellenic supremacy. While others treat them as interlopers, Golden Dawn elevates them to aristocrats. No other politicians have ever talked to them like this before.
I could tell you about the view from the plane as it descended towards Calvi; I could describe the granite formations along the coast and the sparkling sea; I could supply various details about how Geoffrey, Jean-Thomas and I passed our first few days in Corsica; but really this story begins with the Mountain Man.
The contrasting conditions of the resurgent Föritz and the depleted forests of Albania are a microcosm of the planet. We are living in the Anthropocene, a time when human activity, more than anything else, shapes the earth’s climate and ecosystems. Our hunting, fishing, deforestation, overgrazing, and pollution have created a period of mass extinction the likes of which haven’t occurred since the dinosaurs. E. O. Wilson, the preeminent biologist and conservationist, predicts we could lose half of all species on the earth by the end of this century.
But might we also be in a period of “re-wilding,” a time of ecological restoration and the return of species that had previously been exterminated?
In New England, where I live, the countryside was so denuded in the early twentieth century that scarcely a tree remained. Reforestation over the past eighty years has been so extensive that British author Nigel Williams was only half joking when he wrote of the region’s “tree epidemic.”
Similarly, forest cover in Europe has increased by more than 70 percent since 1960, as generations of young people moved to cities. Despite subsidies that encourage European farmers to stay put, they will vacate 30 million hectares of marginal farmland, an area the size of Poland, by 2030.
As forests and open meadows return, so too have the creatures that once inhabited them. European bison, nearly one-ton beasts that bear a striking resemblance to their North American cousins, were extinct in the wild a century ago. The only remaining individuals lived in captivity. Now, through breeding programs and reintroductions, they number several thousand in the wild.
—Phil McKenna, writing in The Big Roundtable about efforts to transform the no man’s land that once separated Western Europe from the Eastern Bloc into an eco-corridor. McKenna’s piece also tells the story of two men who met as boys living on opposite sides of the Iron Curtain, and who were bonded by their shared love of birds. The piece was produced in partnership with PBS’s NOVA Next.
John Kornblum, a former U.S. Ambassador to Germany, who still lives in Berlin, said, “If you cross her, you end up dead. There’s nothing cushy about her. There’s a whole list of alpha males who thought they would get her out of the way, and they’re all now in other walks of life.”
German politics was entering a new era. As the country became more “normal,” it no longer needed domineering father figures as leaders. “Merkel was lucky to live in a period when macho was in decline,’ Ulrich said. “the men didn’t notice and she did. She didn’t have to fight them—it was aikido politics.” Ulrich added, “If she knows anything, she knows her macho. She had them for her cereal.”
-After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Angela Merkel went from unknown East German scientist to the most powerful woman in the world, a rise due to equal parts analytical ability, political tactics, and patient opportunism. George Packer details the incredible evolution in The New Yorker.