Yesterday I got onto bus 35 to the Piagge district of Florence, where there was a meeting of the Mamme No Inceneritore (“No Incinerator Moms”).
Along the way, one can understand the inevitable rise of a movement like that of the Moms of the Piana or flat lands west of the town centre, where not one of the sixteen million tourists who visit Florence each year has ever set foot.
A typical suburban detached house: a ceramic next to the door shows the Madonna tenderly embracing the Child. Then a few flowers, a signboard with the face of a snarling dog and the words, “you are entering at your risk”, plus stickers of various private security companies. Since nobody ever comes by on foot, one wonders whom exactly they are trying to scare away.
Then there are the mid-rise blocks of flats, built in the 1960s and 1970s in the universal industrial style of the times.
There is no lack of trees, gardens, flowerbeds… town planners in Florence are not those of Calcutta, of course. However, everything revolves around cars – streets which turn into highways, underpasses and overpasses, roundabouts which split up blocks and houses into small islands separated by tons of metal in constant, stinking and hazardous motion.
Isolation, fear, cars and television: the four pillars of consensus.
I meet what seems to me a very wide range of people of every age and profession, and 90% of them dislike those who are currently in government; yet those who govern us are there because half the population votes for them. The paradox is easy to understand: most of those who vote for politicians, never meet anybody except TV personalities in their living rooms.
In a way, the Piana is a human waste bin: they have cleaned the centre out of its inhabitants, and here is where they have gone to live.
Among the mid-rises is the Catholic Community of Le Piagge, with its great lawn and community garden. And a lot of people. I recognise only a few faces: the Mamme No Inceneritore in fact are something which grows very spontaneously in this desert. It is no coincidence that they are parents, that is people used to meeting each other in the last place where people can gather without paying dues to the innkeeper: the pavement in front of the kindergartens and elementary schools. Sometimes – as we in Oltrarno have discovered – it just takes a little crack in the cement for humanity to bloom.
Suddenly, I hear a terrifying roar and see a shadow race across the ground. A second’s panic, then I look up and see an airplane fly overhead, so close I almost feels tempted to throw a stone at it.
Florence uses the Piana as its airport. The planes rise up, nose first, all day, just a few metres away from Italy’s main motorway, then they fly a few metres above the houses of the Piagge.
Now the project is to turn this already devastating thing into a much larger, more crowded and totally unnecessary international airport, a job which has casually fallen to Marco Carrai, the man who invented Premier Matteo Renzi (and also secretly lent him his spacious home in the centre of Florence, at the time Renzi was mayor).
At the same time, the Town government is going to build one of the largest waste incinerators in Europe at Case Passerini, a few hundred metres away from the Piagge. Citizens of course have been informed that the chimneys that will burn every kind of waste day and night will be totally harmless for people’s health.
Not to mention the motorway – Italy’s jugular vein linking Naples and Rome to Milan and the rest of Europe – which blocks off the Piana from the west, unloading its poisons onto the whole area.
A few days ago, I read somewhere that there supposed to be 75.000 premature deaths every year in Europe, due to air pollution. The figure seemed ridiculous: about one thousand times those killed in the recent Paris bombing, and nobody mentions it?
Since exaggerations tend to discredit good causes, I decided to check.
And the statement did turn out not be true.
The World Health Organisation– which has every means to carry out studies and certainly no interest in getting in trouble with sponsoring governments by making things up – carried out a vast study some years ago, which showed that premature deaths in Europe per year, due to air pollution, were not 75.000 at all. They were 600.000. 600.000 premature deaths a year in Europe. Six hundred thousand.
Once people used to ask, a bit rhetorically, what kind of world “we” would be handing down to our children. Well, today we are those children, and this is the world that has been handed down to us.