The sustainable lightness of the cure From G20 a reflection between Venice and the Amazon
G20 Sustainable solutions, promoted by Saphira & Ventura Art Design Architecture, took place on the 5th of July at Palazzo Mora within a series of initiatives promoted by the European Cultural Centre as part of the exhibition Time Space Existence. It hosted a debate by a group of international experts on sustainability with the contribution of artists, architects, professors and experts.
The event was part of a series of activities and meetings which took place from 5th to 11th of July in Venice, during the G20 summit. These have aimed at announcing the Amazon Biennial 2022 as well as raising the world leaders’ awareness on the urgent problems of the Amazon Forest and above all on the possible actions in favor of sustainability to help solve the problems of local communities as well as environmental problems linked to climate change.
A narrative parallelism between Venice and the Amazon
Within this context I proposed to the organizers of the event a sort of narrative parallelism, between Venice and the Amazon, because it is a unique opportunity to bring together two realities that seem unassociated, but which in reality have significant and, I hope, prolific convergences.
One could talk about opera and compare the great Venetian tradition that at the end of the eighteenth century led to the construction of the Gran Teatro La Fenice with the passion that led to the construction at the end of the nineteenth century of the majestic Amazonas Theater in Manaus, in the center of the Amazon.
But certainly, what most motivates this unprecedented conceptual twinning is the delicateness and vulnerability and therefore the need for resilience of these two distant entities, one very small and one enormously large: both precious for humanity, both need urgent action and a cultural rethinking of values by the inhabitants of the common home called Earth, the only home we have, for the time being.
We are in a city, Venice, unique in the world for its morphological structure and for its architectural and artistic beauty, which loses its inhabitants, and we are discussing a forest, unique in the world for size and biodiversity, which loses its trees.
Starting with the Amazon, the problem is quite obvious because it is the lung of the world. The world’s largest rainforest is severely threatened by deforestation. Since the 70s, 18% of the original coverage has already been lost, equivalent to twice the surface area of Germany. In the last two years alone, 10,000 square kilometers of forest have been lost every year. A deforestation of 20-30% would lead to a point of no return and to the transformation of the Amazon rainforest into a savannah with gigantic climatic consequences for the entire planet. It is a well-known issue that affects everyone in the world and much of the planet is aware and worried.
The advent of a new Sustainable Renaissance
Similarly, the city of Venice is seriously threatened by depopulation. Since the 50s the city has lost about 90,000 inhabitants, going from 160,000 in the first post-war period to the current 50,000 of the main island and 75,000 considering the entire island system, which includes the Lido, Murano, Burano, and Sant’ Erasmo. A city is not a city without inhabitants. If the return to the monoculture of global mass tourism continued to fuel the process of depopulation, the urban ecosystem and the demographic and socio-economic balance would collapse.
As for Venice, there is still no awareness in the world of the importance for the planet of the problem of its depopulation; Venice is perceived as a city to visit and as long as it can be visited it always seems to exist in its splendor. The real concern is that if it continues to have more and more tourists and fewer inhabitants it will no longer be a city, but will become a monument and a macro resort. “What is the problem?” – some might say. The problem is that the whole world would lose an example of a sustainable city that teaches humanity sustainability starting from the lifestyle, the way of thinking and living. And this teaching based on a thousand-year history, as well as on many productive excellences and on multiple layers of knowledge, is fundamental for the future of all. The permanence of this testimony of urban culture is crucial, precious, irreplaceable.
It is therefore a matter of building a necessary contemporary narrative to the lagoon city, considering Venice, at the beginning of the third millennium, a World Heritage Site for the sustainable lifestyle that its morphology induces and promotes: from this point of view it is evident how the survival of Venice as an inhabited city is a matter that concerns the planet; fighting the tourist monoculture that accelerates depopulation, definitively stopping the cruise ships which destroy the ecosystem, and promoting innovative, ecological cruises compatible with the Lagoon are in this case consequential decisions.
The key word to build what I call the “Sustainable Renaissance” is therefore balance! The balance between artificial and natural, the founding paradigm of the Republic of Venice that led to the construction of the most extraordinary urban structure in the world whilst simultaneously protecting the Lagoon, that is, its habitat. This required the understanding that this was possible only by looking beyond the lagoon’s geographical limits, protecting the forests in the mountains even if they were essential to provide the timber to build the city. Deforestation carried out too rapidly would have led to the destruction of the lagoon system on which the city was being founded. This is the balance, knowing how to modulate interventions and preventing irreversible and catastrophic imbalances. Understand the value of smaller economies with great cultural and social added value. Knowing how to mix and share instead of separating and eliminating. In antithesis to blind and irresponsible greed, imbued with destructive and short-sighted instantaneousness, the wisdom of balance must act as a bridge between past and future, because it is the only prospect of the future for both the lagoon city and the Amazon.
The destruction of cultural and environmental ecosystems is not an option
In Venice there are currently very positive signs at the institutional level in conjunction with a favorable economic situation in Europe, which, on the personal initiative of President Ursula von der Leyen, launched the New European Bauhaus initiative to promote the combination of beauty, sustainability and inclusion; the DNA of Venice. Ca’ Foscari University has launched the VeniSIA project that aims to attract innovators and experts from all over the world who deal with sustainability, environmental sciences and energy. Municipality, Region and Government have signed an epochal agreement approving the project of “Venice world capital of sustainability“, which sees all the Universities, prestigious cultural and research bodies together with the business world, involved in an unprecedented and virtuous institutional chain. Thus, there exist all the prerequisites to believe in the beginning of what I named the sustainable Renaissance in the book Venezia Secolo Ventuno. It is important that the actions from now on reflect the intentions and that all citizens are involved in a new common feeling that is ethically tuned to the principles of sustainability. In this scenario it is legitimate to think that it is possible to extend that common feeling to the rest of the world by obtaining the necessary respect to make tourism sustainable and responsible, which in this case could be harmoniously flanked by city life, maintaining its unparalleled quality. Today we have the skills and opportunities to build sound economies and therefore jobs and prosperity with sustainable actions. We have the opportunity, starting from Venice, to rebuild the lost balance.