I thoroughly enjoyed Roberto Saviano’s speech at the rally for the resignation of the current administration in Milan, during which he stressed that we must start imagining a new world, rather than merely opposing Berlusconi…
I will attempt to explain by way of an example: The situation in Italy is tragic, not only because of B. and because of widespread corruption, but also because of the stifling bureaucratic system which, according to statistics, costs 15 billion euro annually – money thrown down the drain on administrative paperwork. However, this is a one-sided evaluation, which ignores the fact that it takes years to get permission to do anything in Italy, and every year we waste billions of euro on a bureaucracy that suppresses business.
For example, let’s say you want to manufacture a hundred bottles of liquor? That’s a crime. Or perhaps you would like to produce some jam? That’s also a crime. Nobody knows why exactly we are so weighed down by these insane regulations. Don’t be fooled, all these rules do not guarantee the quality of the jam. I could easily produce a jam that is concocted of sugar, frozen fruit, colourings, fungicide, pesticides, flavourings and preservatives, and yet it is legal to do so as long as I adhere to the regulations. It is clear that in such scenarios anyone who is in anyway corrupt would be in their element. In other countries, however, the logic is the opposite: you are not asked for any official paperwork, but should you screw up they will make you pay dearly. In Italy they put countless hurdles in your way from the start, and then if you screw up it could take up to ten years before you are prosecuted and you will most likely end up with two convictions and a fine. This state of affairs is partly the fault of a certain left-wing authoritarian tradition.
We have a striking example right before of our very eyes: a solid agreement between the Right and Left is preventing the construction of almost all large solar photovoltaic (PV) farms. The government is putting a new law into effect that prohibits PV farms which exceed 1000kw, and in Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany they are introducing even more restrictive regulations. In practice, we are relinquishing the possibility of building energy farms that would produce more electricity than any nuclear power plant B. could ever imagine, and thousands of potential jobs will be lost as a result.
I know that voicing this will awaken the wrath of many… but my opinion on the matter is a simple one: a) we become dependent on nuclear power or b) we face a disastrous energy crisis. How can we allow large wind and solar energy farms to be outlawed simply because they are not aesthetically pleasing to the eye? It is complete nonsense when people state that the ground will become sterile after 30 years as a result of the shadow cast by solar panels. On the contrary, although the panels are placed roughly 2 metres above the ground, they do not completely prevent the sun’s rays from shining on the earth’s surface (as they do not have a continuous surface), therefore herbaceous plants can be grown beneath the panels in order to regenerate the soil and agricultural land, exhausted from intensive chemical exploitation, can be allowed to lie fallow. It’s rumoured that solar energy farms have to be cemented to the ground, whereas steel posts are in fact all that is needed…
But thinking about the realities of the environmental impact of all this is boring. Better to ban them all. But if you ban them all you are left with nothing. I believe it is better to make proposals that can convince even those who are not environmental enthusiasts. Learn the art of mediation. Only when we can reconcile ecology and the economy can we even attempt to get millions of people on board. At times we have succeeded: for example, thanks to the grants received from the Energy Efficiency Scheme local authorities in certain regions were persuaded to distribute millions of water-flow restrictors to households’ free-of-charge, and only because of this have we succeeded in reducing our excessive water consumption. Some are of the opinion however, that grants such as these, which were established as a result of the Kyoto Agreement, are a load of rubbish because they make a commodity out of our ecology. That may be true, but they do exist regardless of whether we decide to avail of them or not. We decided that we would, and thanks to a successful campaign we can say that we, in Italy, have saved millions of litres of water.
But, despite such results, we are seen as traitors in the eyes of some ecological fundamentalists. The real question is this: are we in favour of taking small concrete steps? The question the progressive movement should be asking is whether the vision of a credible and concrete future generation is enough to drive Italians out of their indecisiveness and rise above politics. We need to work out an inventive means of creating a consensus of ideals and quantifiable interests. We have to recognise that the power of every small action we take today is a step towards a significant outcome for tomorrow.
Translated by Clare Hawkins and Ingrid Clancy, MA in Advanced Language Skills, NUI Galway.