MATI: Necropolitics and coastal Development in Greece
Paper presentation in: Le Parlement Climatique/The Climate Parliament, organised by École Nationale Supérieure de Versailles, 24-25 January 2020. Platon Issaias.
At 16.41 on July 23, 2018, at a remote location of the peri-urban settlement of Penteli Mountain at the north east of Athens, Greece, a wildfire started. Extreme weather conditions – 40C and wind gusts of up to 80 miles per hour – spread the fire at an incredible speed, reaching the coastal summer house settlement of Mati, three kilometres on a straight line to the east, in less than an hour. At 18.15, the fire reached the beach; 1500 buildings were destroyed or severely damaged, and in total 101 people died. Inside their houses, their cars, on the streets, on the beach, in the sea; weeks later, on hospital beds. The Mati wildfire is – so far – the second deadliest of the 21st century. In its immediate aftermath, various assessments pointed out into potentially different causes. Apart from climate change and the particular weather conditions on the day, lack of civil protection and defence planning, as well as human error were presented and discussed as contributing factors. A criminal investigation was launched against a large number of ministers, mayors and civil servants. Data analysis and evidentiary forensics however suggest a more complex reality.
Telecommunications between key persons suggests that a decision was made at around 5.30pm that significantly altered the progress of the event. The planning of the settlement itself, the type of its architecture and materials, the species of its man-made vegetation, building irregularities, the privatisation and the restricted access to specific parts of the coast trapped hundreds with little chance to safely evacuate and escape the fire. It seems that Mati killed its residents, or more precisely, an array of political and design decisions that drove coastal developments in Greece since the 1950s were significant contributors to the devastating incident. Departing from the July 2018 Attica wildfires and the Mati massacre, the paper presents elements of this urban and architectural history. Private property, irregular and opportunistic planning, small scale building construction, but also tourism, are thought here in relation to climate injustice and the necropolitics of the social, economic and environmental crisis in the European and the Global South.