Blog and ideas

From Amorgos, 15 of May 2014

Open brainstorming

for a harmonious development on the island Amorgos.

Assuming our permanent objective is to secure life, a good life on a living island.

  1. Keeping a good background

Our vital needs are permanent: air, water, food, shelter, secure environment. Those vital ressources need to be preserved in priority.

Once they can meet our basic needs, the quality of our life will depend directly on the quality of those ressources. An example of balanced development can be seen, for instance, on Ikaria island (where springs still flow, old forests still grow and people live among the longest healthy life on earth)

The conditions for life on Amorgos are :

  • water ressources. Remaining water-sufficient can be achieved:

    on the one side, by sparing water, as did hundreds of generations on Amorgos, developping elaborate techniques and habits.

    on the other side, by enhancing water ressources.

    Note that , today, the major part of winter rainwater is lost into the sea.

    In order to enhance Amorgian water ressorces we notably need :

    to protect and actualize the ancient rain collection system (terraces, cisterns, basins) ;

    to protect water catchments (by restoring tree cover and terrraces) ;

    to protect water tables (esp. prevent further drillings).

    to create effective water treatement and recycling infrastructures.

  • food sources : Food sufficiency depends on:

    a fertile, healthy nature (biodiversity of plants, animals, microorganisms) (see Ikaria island)

    a diversified agriculture, that keeps the earth ressources in balance (sustainable).

  • shelter: housing needs to be:

    available and suitable to live year-round, especially in the winter (proper thermic and hygrometric balance)

    durable (well built, rust proof, dry, antisismic)

    adapted in scale and needs to the environment (a well-isolated stone house, for instance, cuts energy costs)

  1. Assesment

We believe that clean air, clean sea, peace, security, and the quality of human relations, is the unvaluable wealth of Amorgos today.

Good human relations can only be preserved through economical equity, cooperation, and solidarity, reinforced by arts, culture and traditions.

The sense of security also encompasses a healthy environment. Reasonable use of the island’s limited ressources ensure their renewal for the next generation – creating grounds to keep faith in the future, and a sound development.

We shall note that the tourist industry (and sometimes inappropriate agriculture) can cause threats to all those vital elements : air, water, food, shelter, peace.

Hospitality is a tradition that has to be preserved in synergy with other life-sustaining activities. This article tries to underline that the sources of income for the island are multiple.

Polyeconomy is like polyculture, stronger, more sustainable – and healthier.

A sound economy will always take strenght and strenghten the fundamental elements that have secured life on the island through the ages, whatever the circumstances : the capacity to support oneself autonomously (self-sufficiency), and the ability to adapt to world evolutions (adaptability).

  1. Suggestions

  • Here are concrete suggestions to diversify Amorgos’s economy and really bring back life on the island. Many are but a proposition to revive, in a contemporary way, the age-old economic bases of the island.

    Others are innovations, sometimes inspired from neighbours and other lands.

a) Foraging, fishing and agriculture

  • culinary, aromatic and medicinal plants : an enormous potential, since virtually all amorgian plants have known properties, and a very high concentration of active elements, due to unique geoclimatic conditions. Perspectives are endless, including food (horta specialities for instance, sweets, etc..), essential oils (see Vaggelis Vassalos exemplary enterprise), cosmetics, perfumery.

    (Note that very common Amorgian wild plants like Juniper, Lonicera Etrusca (Ayioklima), Micromeria, and many other perfumed flowers have not been used so far.)

  • Plants used as textile or dyeing agent (Amorgos owns its fame, and name ! to a mysterious dyeing agent giving a unique red colour). Was it a mineral, a root, a lichen ? Opinions diverge, but resurrecting this technique would be certainly a breakthrough.

  • Reviving ancient (sustainable) cultures. There are great potentials with spontaneously growing plants like Lupine (a rich food, a major staple in Greek Antiquity and a substantial agricultural revenue in Australia for instance), Mustard (Senapis), Capers, Mastic (Pistacia lentiscus), pulses, etc… Those spontaneously growing plants don’t require water nor hazardous chemicals to grow.

    Oak accorns (supposed to be a major staple throughout human history) are also promising prospects : see the succesful initiatives on Kea (Tzia) island.

  • Honey : potential for a very high quality export product, given Amorgian floral biodiversity and aromatic qualities. (See Panayotis prized honey in Langada). A POP (Controlled Denomination of Origin), could boost high quality production.

    Moreover bees are an indicator, and a major factor, of a healthy environment.

  • Organic fish & sea food farming : possibly with Cycladic specialities, like tiny shrimps, etc… ? – Any specialist in this domain?

POP labels give a chance for export and increased revenue for producers (as for santorini wines, tomatoes and fava). Labels of quality & organic labels, encourage good practices – and could also help in the resolution of the livestock issue, by promoting quality over quantity.

Amorgian high quality products (olive oil, honey, wines, CHEESES) and specialities (psimeni raki, pasteli, sweets, etc…) could find outlets in delicatessen shops in cities and abroad, like the Maison de la Grece in Paris – which already expressed a demand about it.

b) Arts and Crafts

  • Cooking (immense possibilities) and sweet making. See above. Hundreds of common wild plants are still waiting to be used or rediscovered (Rumex, Malva, Juniperus, Chrisanthemus, etc…) to confectionate new recipes, as well as cakes, sweets, liquors, spice mixes, that could be exported. (see Oak products on Kea island for example)

  • Doubtlessly, the dry stone construction skills are outstanding on Amorgos. Sadly they are also getting lost. See Adonis in Langada for a living example.

    Who will follow up in the next generation ?

  • Leather crafts have a sure potential on Amorgos – considering the 19 000 animals on the island (whose skins are currently wasted…) – and that a good shoe maker would sometimes come handy !

  • Goat leather can also be used by artists, and instrument makers : for instance to create bagpipes. A talented flute and bagpipe maker has settled on Santorini a few years ago (selling through internet). (On Amorgos, this other musical tradition is waiting to be revived !)

  • Wool spinning and weaving : wool is widely abundant on the island (and silk could possibly be revived). Paradoxically all the wool is, again, wasted, and Amorgos’s amazing tradition -clothes, scarves, carpets, embroidery – is on the verge to disappear completely. Georgia Kolokitha in Chora could help reviving this tradition.

    For examples of preserved textile traditions, see in Crete, Naxos (not. Halki), Karpathos, or abroad Burano island near Venice for instance.

NB : Wool can also be used as a building element, with whitewash, for insulating houses (see Garrick’s house in Lagada for instance.

  • pottery. There is space for regular pot makers, as in Sifnos, and creators. See the two Annas, in Aegiali and Xylokeratidi for instance.

  • metallurgy : there is a new blacksmith in Arkessini, but there used to be more. Knives, small metal objects from the island, could become valuable trade products.

  • jewel making (see Marilena in Tholaria)

  • sculpture (wood, marble)

  • wood turning

  • icon painting and restoration

Amorgos is also a space, obviously, for painters (see Mairy Kolokitha in Chora), sculptors (see Yorgos Koutroubas in Kolophana), writers, philosophers, photographers, dancers, musicians. Artists and talented craftsmen can give a tremendous value to the island…provided they can find a place where to live ! (and sometimes a workshop) (see §1, adverse effects of tourism).

They can also attract visitors by organising workshops throughout the year (as for pottery in Siphnos for instance)

and develop an inspiring cultural network between Amorgos and the rest of the world.

c) Trade, export, transport

  • see the above for ideas of trade products from Amorgos. Many more wait to be invented !

  • Internet gives new opprtunities for commerce, and open outlets for Amorgian products and creations.

  • The development of Amorgos shipping tradition, embodied in the Express Skopelitis, deserves to be looked after. Amorgos has a central position in the Aegean and a deep, famously protected bay. Developments could consider the openings of new seasonal lines (towards Icaria, the Dodecanese ?), new types of boats, new activities (transportation of goods, sailing schools…)

  • A fast line towards nearby islands with domestic and international airports (Santorini, Astypalea, Naxos) could be a reasonable alternative to building an airport an Amorgos.

    A simple partnership development with Astypalea would help re-open Amorgos’s connections with the Dodecanese, and further Minor Asia, with possible international connections with Kos, Rodos, Smyrni and Bodrum.

    A direct connection with Santorini would re-open connections with Crete and its fast-developing airport hubs Heraklio and Chania (a project for plane connection Chania-Santorini is on study)

d) Tourism

Amorgos main assets for tourism lie in its preserved environment, unaltered beauty, authentic people and peace.

It can continue to develop its hospitality without losing its assets nor its soul. Alternative forms of tourism, for which Amorgos has a top potential, are a unique chance to spread tourism more evenly round the year, avoiding the chaotic mass-tourism summer peak, experienced by popular islands, while ensuring stable revenue.

It also give reason for families working in tourism to stabilize on the island year-round, creating a living island and self-reinforcing economy.

A few ideas are (list to be extended) :

  • agriculturism (with possible activities like picking olives, baking bread, making cheese, etc…)

  • nature and hiking tourism

  • birdwatching

  • nature photography

  • artistic tourism (watercolour)

  • sport tourism (diving, trail running, climbing, sea-kayacking) and competitions (Trail contest, sailing, triathlons)

  • weddings

  • Year -round events, panegyria and festivals (sea the festival of oral literature and tales in Kea). Music festivals, film festivals, poetry, matinades competitions, kapetanios, festival of free-diving (take contact with traditional skandalopetra association for instance)…all can bring visitors outside the main season.

A official tourism board would be a major plus for the island : first it would create at least one interesting job, second it may bring high profit with a minimum investment. A tourism board centralizes and relay the information, keep contatcs, releases newsletters, make bookings, aptly promotes the island, develop a website, coordinate press travels, etc…It can also sell quality by-products (traditional crafts, etc…)

d) Cultural and community projects.

Amorgos is an ideal place for seminars and conferences in various spheres (see the seminars for Natural Agriculture and the seminar on eco-guiding on Amorgos this winter/spring). This brings visitors year-round and boosts the economy as well as the island’s intellectual development :

  • architecture and dry stone construction workshops

  • renovation of the cultural heritage

  • cultural and artistic seminars (dance, yoga, etc…)

  • cultural conferences (ex. : Yperia)

  • agricultural seminars

  • religious seminars and congresses

  • Nature projects, reforestation, etc… : communautary projects build the community together while opening its horizons.

e) Institutions and educational projects

There is endless space for imagination. Only one school or institution is a great way to keep an island and its economy living. It attracts often young, talented individuals for a long stay. They can widely benefit from donations and subventions. Students re-inject their subsidies into the local economy.

Subventions can come from European projects (not. for environmental and social projects), private donours, the Amorgian diaspora (desirous to act in support of their island of origin), fund raising or crowd funding.

Here are a few ideas :

  • an icon painting and restoration school

  • a botanical garden (an idea from Yorgos K.)

  • a psalmody school (for religious singing)

  • a school of traditional Aegean music, song and dance

  • a sailing school

  • a free diving school (The clearest waters in the Aegean)

  • an astronomic observatory

  • an institute of herbal medecine, a school of naturopathy

  • a local centre for archeology

  • a local centre for architecture

  • a training centre for nature & moutain guides

  • long-term artist residencies

  • a local centre for marine and halieutic research in the Aegean

Note that patenting an idea, a product or an intellectual work can also generate a substantial income.

  1. (wide open !) conclusion

All the above elements can blend and combine together endlessly. They can functiun in a virtuous circle as long as all elements in the chain are preserved. For example crafts, trade, arts and cultural tourism are all synergetic.

Echanging ideas and bonding with other islands and the world can only widen inspiration and opportunities.

To determine the best options, let’s keep in mind Amorgos’s natural potentials, among them :

  • clean air, clear water

  • a central position in the Aegean (and one of the best natural refuge for sea vessels).

  • its physical particularities (wind, rock, climate, sismic activity, etc…)

  • a rich legacy (archeology, traditions, architecture etc..)

  • a humble scale

and above all, the enormous love it can generate.

Thank you for your interest. This is an open brainstorming for the better future of the island… Please feel free to add your own comments and suggestions to this list!

Yours faithfully,

the Velanidia Foundation


4 thoughts on “Blog and ideas

  1. Gilbert

    Hello Velanidia & friends,
    most important I see fresh water, trees, wood & biomass, then the rest will come…
    I like also very much the idea of the botanical garden, apparently very reasonable & basic for creating interest in reforestation.
    Hope all your ideas will succeed within our generation,
    Gilbert Hesmer from Bochum, Germany

  2. Francine

    You post interesting posts here. Your website deserves much more visitors.

    It can go viral if you give it initial boost, i know very useful service that can help you, just type in google: svetsern traffic tips

      1. zaramonaco1627na

        this european crisis is a big chance. we should use our own skills and live more simple and see, what our surrounding offers us for free. thank you for your ideas. that is the way!!

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