Ancient Greeks used to say that harmony of the environment is related to the inner world of the human being, but this is not the case anymore, at least according to experts who attended an international symposium here. All speakers at the symposium on the Prevention of disasters and their consequences in Greece: Building partnerships to mitigate the effects of forest fires agreed that the harmonious co-existence of the environment and humans has all but gone. The meeting was organised by the International Institute of Harvard-Athens and the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, under the aegis of the Special Emergencies Fund and the Ministry of Economy and Finance of Greece. About 17 distinguished academics and experts from five different countries described their experiences on how to prevent and extinguish fires and mitigate their consequences. Everybody agreed that forest fires cannot just be stopped. Taking into account the climate change all around the world and the catastrophic effects of a fire on the local ecological and social system, all speakers emphasised that the key point is prevention. The French government, the meeting heard, has developed an early warning system which ten minutes after a fire breaks out, fire extinguishing helicopters or a team of firemen arrive at the scene of the fire. Every dollar we spend to prevent fire is equal to seven dollars for recovery of the damages, said James Lee Witt, Director of the US Federal Emergency Management Agency 1993-2001. Margarita Arianoutsou, Associate Professor of Ecology at Kapodistrian University said that the climate around the Mediterranean is changing. In 2007 the area burnt by forest fires in southern Europe was bigger than the total area damaged by fires in the past 27 years, she said. Last years fires in Greece cost the lives of 76 people and burnt an area of 270.000 hectares of forest and agriculture land. Thats almost 10% of the total forest land of the country, she added. The issue of natural disasters and more specifically forest fires is one of the many regional problems of critical importance to the environment and public health, stressed Philip Demokritou, Director of International Institute of Harvard-Cyprus. International co-operation on this issue is needed, because natural disasters have no borders, said Greek Minister of Health, Demetris Avramopoulos.