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THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 28, 2019 www.italoamericano.org L'Italo-Americano 2 A billion dollars worth of damages, in a week defined "apo- calyptic" by many. And who, better than a Californian, can understand the nightmare of Venice, floo- ded, submerged, swept up by her very own sea? The fire that destroyed everything, devouring hecta- res of wooden areas, left spectral, end of the world's landscapes behind, with layers of ashes over things and inside people's lungs, with the tragedy of many families who lost their home and a lifetime of memories. That fire shocked profoundly many areas of California, which had already lived the same traumatic experience last year. It is an exaspe- rating situation, just like exasperating were the endless weather alerts that, for days, became symbol of the uncontrollable power of a nature that cannot be dominated, that can quickly take over and cannot be restrained, that swiftly destroys. In Venice, it wasn't fire, but water. The sea that, of Venice, is the life and blood. The very waves that, for centuries, have been lulling the treasures making of La Serenissima one of the most magical cities in the world, have all of a sudden become wild.They got everywhere, throwing around all they met on their path. Those who were there remember the acqua granda of 1966 — the same year when Florence, too, experienced the most disastrous flood in its history and that of history of art — as it happened yesterday; but in Venice, too, the last few years have been announcing the storm that was to come. More and more often, the tides forced residents and tou- rists to use walkaways, rising over safety limits and invading calli and campielli, making regular streets, alleys and canals impracticable. They invaded shops, homes, hotels, they drowned Venice's immense cultural and artistic patrimony. These tides are, without a doubt, a sign of global warming, the evi- dent effect of the many alarms on climate change stating that Venice could sink entirely by 2050. Alarms that keep on falling dangerously on deaf ears. After three years of research, Climate Central, a non for profit American organization, redefined the impact of the greenhouse effect of the rising level of oceans and calculated its impact on the world's coastal regions. Using a "learning machine" and NASA data collected by the Space Shuttle, it came to the following conclusion: the amount of world population at risk of being for ever submerged by high tides is three times higher than previously estimated, reaching 150 million by 2050 and 190 million by the end of the 21st century. Venice's vulnerability is, however, easily described by much sim- pler data. We only need to measure the city's tidal wave patterns: between 1900 and 1909, there were two acque alte, and only three Can we tolerate the burning down of California and the sinking of Venice? From the director over 110 cm between 1940-49. In the 20 years between 1960 and 1980, the acque alte rose to 31, only to become 69 between 2010 and 2019. From 1872 to 2000, that is, in almost 130 years, Venice expe- rience only 9 days of acqua alta reaching over 140 cm. Since 2000, in less than 20 years, it has experienced already 10. To better contextualize the meaning of all this, just think that, when water reaches 140 cm (55 in) 60% of the city is flooded. However, in many areas, including Piazza San Marco, serious issues with transport and pedestrian viability are registered already at 80 cm (31 1/2 in). When the tide rises over 100 cm (40 in), 5% of Venice's streets gets flooded. At 110 cm (43,3 in), 12% of the city is. Rialto is flooded at 105 cm, (41,3 in) while the train station, which is much higher than other areas, is safe up to 135 cm (53 in). When Venice used to be a Repubblica Marinara, starting in the 9th century, the city and its people knew how to protect themselves: no one lived on the ground floor and all spaces under two meters in height were used exclusively for storage. Today, however, the situa- tion has been spiraling out of control, and you can no longer consi- der yourself safe just by setting up your home on the second or third floor. Because if a city's foundations — a city that is already incredi- bly fragile — get soaked in water, everything risks to crumble down. Mind, tides have always existed: they are the result of the Moon's gravitational attraction on the Earth, which causes water to rise. But care for the environment, in the sea and on land, has been neglected for centuries, now. We're getting to the crunch: for how long Venice will manage to resist? What do we think when we realize that beautiful Saint Mark basilica, with its breathtaking mosaic floors, virtually stands on a pool, because even its crypts are flooded? Can it last another 2000 years? Those caring for the basilica are desperate, and rightly so: the salt carried by the sea corrodes more than acid and dirty water, filled as it is with gasoline, rubbish, organic waste and all that tides dragged along, brought bacteria and residues able to erode everything. The worst tidal wave of the last two centuries left the city without water, light and phone connection for days, with sirocco winds that reached 130 km an hour: boats were thrown on Riva degli Schiavoni as if they were twigs, bridges were destroyed, books, antique woo- den furnitures, paintings, antique textiles were eaten away by water; baroque doorways got soaked, ancient manuscripts were turned into rubbish in the powerless hands of those who have been trying to save them from the fury of the sea. But has all this scared people enough to make them react? And should we speak about dampness? About the damages mold will bring? About how we are in November and it will take at least another 6 months before the sun can help drying off stones, columns, doors and paved roads? Lain on a layer of sand and sediments, Venice sinks at an average of 1,5 mm every year. Since the end of the 19th century, it has lost already 12 cm, that is almost 5 in. Since the 1960s, the damages cau- sed to the lagoon's ecosystem have been many and the 8 billion euro worth MOSE scandal (MOSE is the infrastructure that should have protected Venice from events such as those we witnessed in the past weeks) is only the last bitter embarrassment caused by a selfish, auto destructive way of living. We can't accept to see Rialto and San Marco sink in indifference. They belong to our cultural heritage. Many of the places we inhabit are part of our very own identity. Venice, because of her uniqueness, is patrimony of humanity: she is home to 120 churches, 40 museums and a plethora of palaces of great historical, architectural and cultural importance. The touch-and-go tourism that, today, chokes her delicate beauty, shows you 10 places of interest in 3 or 4 days, when there'd be 1000 to discover. What does this mean?That if we don't learn to truly discover and understand the places we live in or choose to visit, if we don't start loving them, instead of simply admiring them, if we don't learn to protect and safeguard them as if they were our own home, we will also be responsible of the sinking of Venice and the burning down of our magnificent Californian woods. Simone Schiavinato, Director NEWS & FEATURES TOP STORIES PEOPLE EVENTS

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