Friday, April 12, 2013

Climate change: it's happening here!

The "ghiacciaia" (ice storage building) of Monte Senario, not far from the town of Fiesole, Italy, as it was about a hundred years ago. It was used to store snow in winter that then was sold as ice in summer. The building is still there but, today, the winter snow that you could throw into that cavernous storage system would barely be enough for a few ice cream cones. It is a visible demonstration of the effects of climate change in this region, but many more things have changed and are changing right in front of people's eyes. The citizens and the administrators of the town of Fiesole discussed about these changes in a meeting organized on Friday 12, 2013

There is some hope, after all. Consensus is building up about climate change. Denial might not be such a terrible obstacle and we may still have a chance to do something before it is too late. It is a sensation that came to me with the meeting on climate organized today, Friday 12, 2013, by the administration of my town, Fiesole.

Not a meeting of scientists; not of activists. It was a gathering of ordinary people: farmers, employees, professionals, students, local politicians. They had come to listen to a small group of experts telling them, for once, not about remote or abstract ideas, but of the concrete reality of climate change. Of course, polar bears have their problems, poor critters, but the talk was about what's happening here; how climate change it is affecting agriculture, the economy of the town, and everyone's life.

And, for once, politicians, experts, and the public agreed on everything. They said it loud; no fear of being politically incorrect: climate change is here and now! It is not something we read in the newspapers or we hear in TV. It is in our town; it is here that things are changing, we see the change every day. 

It was a small miracle for a quiet Friday morning. Everyone could suddenly realize that they were not alone in thinking what they were thinking. Everyone had noticed the same things: that springs are drying up, waterfalls are disappearing, plants are withering, and leaves  are getting yellow in summer. Now, that's real weird: Fiesole is not California: summer, here, has always remained green. Up to a few years ago.

And no climate denialists. Had there been one around, he would have to face up real people - he would have had to show his face; he couldn't hide behind a nickname; he wouldn't be able to play the usual games. There was just no space for denial - it would have been denying reality. It would have been denying what people had been seeing with their very eyes.

A refreshing moment, an epiphany of understanding. You see, the Internet is a toxic environment. People with no faces and no names throwing sentences at each other as if they were stones. How the hell did we get caught in this idea that we can discuss anything in this way? And think we can ever agree on something? Can't happen: people with no faces can't agree on anything. We need to look at each other in the eyes - then things change.

I don't know if these meetings are the only - or even the best - way to go. But I am sure that we are not getting anywhere with the endless Internet slugging we have been engaged in, up to now. We need to look at each other in the face to understand that climate change is not only real; it is here, it is coming. If we do that, we'll see that consensus is building up about the need to do something to stop the disaster before it is too late. The next step in Fiesole will be to work on that.


I wish to thank to the administration of the town of Fiesole for organizing this meeting. In particular the vice-mayor Giancarlo Gamannossi, the mayor Fabio Incatasciato, and the Tuscan commissioner for agriculture and forestry, Gianni Salvadori. And thanks to the speakers: Toufic El Asmar (FAO), Federico Spanna (AIMAT) and Cristiano Bottone (Transition Town Italia). Finally, thanks to all those who managed to spend a whole Friday morning discussing climate change, despite the many more things they surely had to do. 

From left to right, Gianni Salvadori, regional commissioner for agriculture and forestry, Fabio Incatasciato, mayor of Fiesole and Giancarlo Gamannossi, vice-mayor; who organized the meeting.

Cristiano Bottone, of Transition Town Italy, speaking at the Fiesole meeting and asking the question, "We knew from the 1970s about climate change, how is it that we didn't do anything up to now?" 

The public at the "Basolato" hall in Fiesole. We had a nearly full house at the meeting. Not bad for a Friday morning!


Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome, faculty member of the University of Florence, and the author of "Extracted" (Chelsea Green 2014), "The Seneca Effect" (Springer 2017), and Before the Collapse (Springer 2019)