Everywhere in Italy, we see the livelihood and life-threatening scenes of climate emergency. Sicily sees burning temperatures of 47 C, Palermo is encased by a ring of wildfire, meanwhile, Milan, and Bologna have been battered by tornadoes and hail the size of apples. Through both extremes, we see our oxygen tank punctured by the devastating loss of trees.
However, meanwhile in Abruzzo in the middle of this environmental catastrophe, we see dumb and dumber at work. A right-wing regional government-backed construction company is beginning to tear up the Regional Sirente Velino Park to make a cross-country snow park and ski resort.
The original planning permission had been refused by a judge in Abruzzo before it was appealed and allowed by a Supreme Court judge that had been appointed by Prime Minister Meloni. All this flurry of activity and investment for snow, when there is little left and when long-term snow in Abruzzo will always have to be man-made, putting additional strain on our beautiful natural resources.
Already the famous runs at Roccaraso are covered by snow-making machines, sucking up our mountain’s precious water table and which make ski-ing this far south possible. The snow-making facility cost a mere €12m to install for the snow resort’s owners, less available is the cost to the environment and the general public of the water it takes and blasts into snow.
On the same day that Italy’s Civil Protection Minister declared Italy’s climate is now tropical and infrastructure must rapidly change, the WWF reports that the Environmental Impact Study of this environmental monster in Abruzzo’s acclaimed regional park was published only 2 days ago and despite that study not yet being approved, work on it has already commenced!
The study concludes if the endangered animals don’t like it, they can move away. We wonder if the backers of this construction would like humans to do the same if we continue to swelter as there won’t be many left. I wonder how many ski-ers there are in Abruzzo’s population, and if this new ski resort would attract them to stay if it is maintained. There isn’t much chance if it becomes like its eastern neighbouring Prati di Tivo. Its infrastructure has not been maintained, and its ski chairs sit like a rusting ski-ing phantom sat, tragically lost in the Gran Sasso Mountains. With a lack of long-term full-time employment options between 2013 and 2021, Abruzzo lost 56,258 inhabitants, a decrease of 4,23% in its population, double that of the national average which was 2,26%. Particularly worrying are the numbers lost in the 15-31 age bracket which saw 26.567 young people migrate to other regions within Italy and overseas, a reduction of 11.12%, this is two and a half times that of the national average of 4.53%.
The hypocrisy of the regional government is beyond puzzling. On the one hand, it wants to help destroy the natural environment and resources of a beautiful regional park which is home to endangered wildlife like the Marsican Bear and yet it is the first ask for environmental handouts. On the 27th of June, the local government recorded a regional calamity from the abundant and incessant rain that had fallen from April through to June, with an estimated 40% loss of the wheat harvest. In the first quarter of 2023, Abruzzo recorded a drop and closure of 337 farms, there is no driving impetus of investment from the local government in them like there is for this new ski resort. It is certain that more farms will close by the end of the year due to the high price of production and the impact of the Climate Emergency, what will happen then, will it request the distribution of food too?
We’re aware that governments win votes by the promise of caring for their community. As crops dwindle and local youth leave for climes whose thrust isn’t based on 8 weeks of the year, it is reassuring to know that this local government has us all covered. We will be able to continue to ski for possibly a handful of weeks of the year and continue to make a few of their friends rich, life goes on! In the absence of wine due to decimated vines, we can listen to the remaining old folk tell stories about the past and Europe’s most southerly glacier, the mighty Calderone that used to sit nearby in the Gran Sasso Mountains before it sweltered to death.