Venice&Environment. 5 easy pieces

GIOVANNI LEONE
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THE THIRD WORLD WAR 

The third world war has long since broken out; the climate war of a planet that is defending itself by attacking mankind, which over the last two centuries has stolen an unprecedented amount of resources, burning them in the name of progress and a senseless development model. Last summer it was the Amazon Forest that burned, this year it was the air that caught fire in Canada with temperatures of over 49 degrees (120), and in Russia where it was the hottest summer in the last 120 years. The  climate change theatre of war is constantly shifting, and in Europe the center of gravity is the Mediterranean basin, where there is open warfare between hot African winds and cold polar currents. In the mare nostrum the rise in sea level is more limited than in the oceans, but the increase in water temperature is greater, which is an extremely critical factor. The waters of this sea that is surrounded by mountains are prevented from continuing to regulate the system by absorbing heat; instead of providing a typical temperate climate, the rise in water temperature has turned it into an element of destabilization and violent disturbance. Our country stretches “from the Alps to the pyramids”, and has the longest coastline of all the Mediterranean countries, with a solid mountainous backbone. It is because of this geographical condition that it is the advance front in the war between heat and cold, exacerbated by humidity that unloads water bombs and devastating storms, as was the case with Vaia in October 2018. 

Sculpture by Eros Lazzaretti (from one of the fir trees felled by the Vaia tornado, 2018, Marcesine, Enego)

Today, more than ever, Italy is split in two: in the South we share the problems with the countries of the Mediterranean belt, from Greece to Spain and Turkey; in the North, on the other hand, we suffer the discomforts of the climate of continental Europe, with floods and hailstorms like the one on 26 July on the A1 highway near Parma, a sudden bombing of motorists hit and sunk by hail of such dimensions that it is impossible to call them grains. The chunks of ice grow in size due to the turbulence and heat of the warm updrafts, which prevent the ice from falling until it has reached a weight sufficient to overcome the updrafts, at which point it falls to the ground and there is pain. Our climate is turning from a virtuous one to a harmful one, but we insist on lingering and considering these extreme phenomena as occasional, isolated emergencies when they are already commonplace, our new normality. Nothing will ever be the same again; climate change is a present reality that we are bound to come to terms with. What is unforeseeable, however, is what will happen tomorrow and beyond to future generations, whose future is in jeopardy, and who will certainly pay a very high price in terms of lack of livability for faults that were not their own. It looks like a film, a mix of horror and science fiction, but it is instead a documentary. At the end of the nineteenth century the awareness that the sun would one day (albeit far in the future) go out was a shock to the spirit of the times, introducing a sense of bewilderment and the loss of center that has also been documented in artistic production. Today it is not the death of the sun the day after tomorrow that we should fear, but the death of the earth today, and us with it. It is time to say STOP. 

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ARDOUR: SICILY IN FLAMES

I have been in Sicily for a couple of weeks now: a fiery stay. The air is on fire, with temperatures constantly settling between 39 and 45 degrees. Etna is fiery and has been making the force of nature felt for months, lighting up the night with fountains of magma and flooding the land with black sand. The earth is on fire, ignited by bandit breeders who burn down the woods, or by absent-minded and reckless smokers, nourished by the temperature and facilitated by negligence. The fire is now also self-combusting, killing animals, besieging farms, and rural settlements, running along roads full of dry brushwood due to the lack of maintenance and creeping into towns, entering houses, as happened a few days ago in Via Fossa della Creta in Catania. The head of the civil protection department, Fabrizio Curcio, made it clear that the regions are responsible for actively combating the risk of fires, which does not mean extinguishing them but taking regular and systematic action first at the level of prevention and then also at the level of protection, with surveillance and vigilance, while the State is responsible for coordinating air rescue when the regions are unable to cope with emergencies with their own forces. President Nello Musumeci’s indirect response, complaining about the cancellation of two bids to buy fire-fighting equipment, was unsatisfactory: if they were cancelled, it means that these bids were not carried out correctly. Those responsible must be identified, and endure consequences, both at a technical and political level: officials who are unsuitable for the functions entrusted to them must be put in other jobs; managers who are incapable of running their offices must be moved to another post; administrators who are incapable of administering? At home. It is pointless to invoke special powers, commissioners, and extraordinary procedures. 

Sicily, Summer 2021

The second reason given by President Musumeci is the same as that given by all his predecessors, but it is not convincing: with dozens of fires set, there is no way to prevent them. This is a self-evident affirmation, but it focuses on the effects and does not investigate the causes: if I set a fire because I can benefit from it, it is those interests that must be hit. If it is not profitable then I would stop setting the fires, but if I can benefit from it with more land for livestock or grazing, to affect protected areas or to obtain changes of use, I will continue to set fire to it. 

The State came to the rescue by recognizing the state of mobilization and sending 33 rescue teams made up of firemen and Civil Protection volunteers from Emilia-Romagna, Friuli, Veneto, Trento, Bolzano, Piemonte and Lombardia. The first to arrive on the island was the Trento column, made up of firemen, forest rangers and civil protection workers: “when a forest burns, it affects us all, it’s our home that’s burning” said one of them as soon as he landed. Chapeau. This is the unity of Italy, a unity of consciences, a unity that should be seen in the context of a southern issue that we have never wanted to resolve and which we have done everything possible to worsen. This issue will have to be addressed sooner or later, and it cannot be dealt with by resorting to the endemic disorder of the undisciplined south. Many southerners have helped make Italy, both in the period of the industrial boom and up to today. Many are scattered around the world where they profitably demonstrate that they possess skills, capacities, and qualities however they are forced to leave their land because they lack the conditions for growth. It is reductive to think that it can be a matter of mere mentality, because there is a precise will behind it. But this is another story to be written without diminishing it with a generic representation. 

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VENICE: FAR FINTA DE’ POMI

This is an expression commonly used in the Venetian vernacular. It literally means “pretend apples” and denotes the detachment and disinterest of those who, not wanting to face problems, push their resolve away… or say they want one thing and do another. This seems to be the case in Venice-Laguna. The debate in the Senate on 5 August on the conversion into law with amendments of decree-law no. 103 of 20 July 2021 on ‘Urgent measures for the protection of waterways of cultural interest and for the safeguarding of Venice, as well as urgent provisions for the protection of employment’ was disarming. Commonplaces (how beautiful Venice is) and pocket-book simplifications (the lagoon has been transformed by man, with rivers diverted and canals dug for navigation, almost as if the current giants of the sea were comparable to galee or brigantini, the typical ships at that time). The environment? a dangerous term, better the sustainability-parsley, aroma lavished in abundance to smooth out peculiarities and nuances. A trumpet call was heard from the right (and here was Senator Toffanin stating that “For Forza Italia, environmental protection and sustainability go hand in hand with economic and social sustainability”), on the left there was a reply (and here was Senator Ferrazzi saying “…the time for words is over and our task together must be to keep the sustainability of Venice and the lagoon which, as we always say, is environmental, labour, economic and social sustainability. In talk we always agree, in operational projects we must have the ability to do so.”), this Manzonian quote is quite fitting for the situation. 

Photo by Sandra Stocchetto

The ghost of environmentalism as an ideology and an obstacle to progress has been waved around left and right, casting a sinister light on politics, which is increasingly distant from reality: the most important game is being played on the environment, and it does not belong to the left or the right but concerns us all. No one can deny that the dream of an industrial port serving a chemical plant in a delicate environment like the lagoon has turned out to be a nightmare. Now we need to rethink the reconversion of that infrastructure area in a new, organic way, and the ZLS (Zona Logistica Semplificata means Simplified Logistic Zone) is a good opportunity to do so, provided we do not confuse goats and cabbages, as in the case of hydrogen, a source of clean energy whose extraction and safe storage needs to be solved. UNESCO has also condemned the decision to locate an LPG depot in Chioggia, so what would it say about hydrogen on the lagoon shore? The profit priority to be aimed at today is the environmental one, for survival, a statement that is not ideological but by now self-evident; it is useless to invoke complexity because this is a simple matter that can be understood even by primary schools. “We have intervened in an attempt to overcome all ideologies, all sectarianism, all partisan views and all ideological flags, trying to do what our ancestors did, and that is to hold together complexity, which is exactly the task of those who say and think they are political leaders,” said Sen. Ferrazzi. He was joined by Senator De Carlo “…this is done by strengthening the port, not with science fiction visions disguised as environmental protection” and Senator Mallegni “Forgive this ironic digression, but we must be extremely careful about what we do. We must act with a sense of responsibility and not with the ideology that is occasionally stirred up and often injected into these Chambers”). They even managed to sneak through a million-euro amendment in favor of ILVA in Taranto, while rejecting the amendment to ensure that measures are carried out in compliance with water management plans and flood risk management plans. Convergence on the approval of the superpowers of the commissioner, who is now authorized to operate as a variant of the Port General land-use Plan with the power to review, extend and integrate concessions… all within the framework of a temporary project.  ILVA, Porto Marghera – time seems to be going backwards towards a conception of work as the only social priority, on the altar of which safety, health and the environment, all social priorities of equal rank, are sacrificed with impunity. The prevailing interest of the ‘elected’ seems to be to intercept consensus in their territories of origin with tangible measures and funding, when we need short-, medium- and long-term strategies framed in a forward-looking vision, consistent and flexible at the same time, capable of adapting to changing circumstances.

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SOCIAL DRIFT: I WAS NOT THERE AND IF I WAS THERE I SLEPT… AND IF I SLEPT I DREAMT THAT I WAS NOT THERE

To foresee the future, you need to be a visionary. Astrologers, wizards and shamans are all visionaries in their own way. Today, we can also say that authors of fantasy or science fiction  are visionaries, with their prescient intuitions. So are the social avant-gardes, who with their lucid observation of the dynamics at work go against the current in order to counter the future unfolding before them. The seriousness of what happened at the G8 summit in Genoa in 2001 overshadows the prescience of the content brought forward by the No Global movement, born in Seattle two years earlier and then spread throughout the world. Many beautiful people converged on Genoa, families and activists, believers of different faiths and environmentalists, students and professors, intellectuals and farmers. That protest brought to the fore regional causes and the protests of the world’s peripheries and minorities, contesting the neo-liberal model of economic development imposed by a small group of powerful countries that, thanks to their political, military and economic power can enforce global policies to the detriment of local realities and the environment. Today, the gap between wealth and poverty has widened exponentially at both the individual and national level. 

Genua, 2001

At that time UN was taking its first steps towards protecting the environment. The repression was violent, and the presence of a few aggressive black=blocs was hyped to fuel a climate of opposition and confrontation that allowed the exaggerated display of force. They succeeded in criminalizing a healthy, variegated and far-flung civic movement with criminal actions, as the Venetian policeman Gianluca Prestigiacomo recounts in “G8 Genova 2001. Story of an announced disaster. The testimony of a man from the DIGOS”. (a fine book published last July by Chiare lettere). The violent people were a negligible minority in a sea of ordinary people, but it was enough for many to comfortably dismiss the whole issue as a predictable consequence of a violent protest. This was not the case, and being Genoa, the birthplace of De André, the refrain of the ‘song of May’ (1968) comes to mind: however you think you are absolved, you are still involved. And here lies the heart of the environmental issue: no one can escape, we are all involved.

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RUNNING FOR THE ENVIRONMENT

Terms such as energy transition or sustainability have become commonplace and overused to the point of being meaningless. Progress has been made with the many international climate agreements made at the various COP (conference of parties) meetings. The cornerstones were the Rio Agreement (1992-COP 1) and the Kyoto Agreement (1997-COP 3), then the historic Paris Agreement (2015-COP 21) and the Bonn Agreement (2017 COP 23). 

Agis Emmanouil

On 1 November, COP 26, organized by Great Britain in cooperation with Italy, opens in Glasgow. The progressive acceleration of the consequences of climate change calls for a change of pace. And this is what Agis Emmanouil will be doing in his own small way: marching 2,421 kilometers relying exclusively on his own body, an elementary source of renewable energy, to underline the need to rely on his own strength together with the inadequacy of politics to tackle the issue with the necessary determination. There is an urgent need to act now for change, without delay, individually and collectively. A change in mentality is urgently needed, but it is still coming too slow. We need to give it impetus, each in our own small way and all together, by reviewing our daily habits, even the smallest. Let us reduce the use of machines, of every machine, from cars to household appliances, let us use them to help us do what the human body cannot do, instead of using them to satisfy indolence and laziness. The change cannot be postponed because we have accelerated the course of time – tomorrow is already today, and risks becoming yesterday. We must not waste a minute more. Nothing we do will help to stop things from getting worse, let alone improve them, but at least we can try to slow down the deterioration, because the drift we have caused to the planet will take time to stop doing damage, and it will take centuries, perhaps millennia, for them to improve. We do not seem to have understood this yet, and we continue to talk about palliative measures and measures that are inadequate for a dying patient.

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Venice&Environment. 5 easy pieces ultima modifica: 2021-08-16T11:10:36+02:00 da GIOVANNI LEONE

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