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Greece’s Other Deficit

For the past decade, much attention has been paid to Greece’s fiscal deficit. But Greece is also running an ecological deficit, as its residents consume far more natural resources than the country produces.

OAKLAND – For the past decade, much attention has been paid to Greece’s public finances. And when, in November, the country faced the first review of its reform progress under its latest agreement with its creditors – an exercise required to obtain a new infusion of bailout funds – its budget deficit was put under the microscope once again.

But Greeks would do well to consider another type of deficit – one that has received far less public scrutiny, but could have economic consequences that are just as serious. Like the rest of the Mediterranean region (and indeed the entire world), Greece is not just running a fiscal deficit; it is also running an ecological one.

According to our analysis, Mediterranean countries currently use 2.5 times more ecological resources and services than their ecosystems can renew. Greece, for example, would need the total ecological resources and services of three Greeces in order to meet its citizens’ demand on nature for food, fiber, timber, housing, urban infrastructure, and carbon sequestration. Athens alone demands 22% more from nature than the entire country’s ecosystems can provide. And, after years of recession during which pressure on Greece’s natural resources declined, demand has begun to rise again, as GDP growth has shown some improvement.

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