Saturday, December 28, 2013

Naples in the News

How can you not love a place like this! My sister took this panoramic photo from the top of Castel Sant'Elmo. 
Naples has been taking a lot of heat lately. Have you heard? The rest of the world finally paid attention to the toxic waste dumping that has been going on for decades in Campania. If you haven't heard about it, I've put links below to several articles written in the last couple of of months. I say that the rest of the world finally paid attention because I believe that this was one of the worst kept secrets I've ever come across. Case in point:

(1) One local asked me why the American base is located where it is since there is so much toxic waste nearby. [As a note, the military commissions water testing yearly, or more often, all over Campania and make those results available to families; any community found to have severely toxic water results in families being moved out, as happened a few years ago in one of the towns that has very recently been confirmed by a Camorra informant as one of the places for huge amounts of illegal toxic dumping].
(2) A local friend (different from #1) warned me to never eat produce or canned goods produced in Afragola because it was poisonous. (Afragola is a farming community located fairly close to Naples, and it too is now known to have experienced an enormous amount of illegally dumped toxic waste.).
(3) Yet another local warned us not to eat the mozzarella di bufala from a certain town because the buffalo there were grazing on toxic land.
(4) One month before we moved to Italy, the lake right by our house, Lago d'Averno was seized by the Italian government from a Camorra boss's front man. I remember discussing with Nathan then that I could only imagine the Camorra boss wanted the lake so he had his own, dump spot. Unfortunately, it's ringed by vineyards, citrus orchards, and small farms, and it's located only about 300 yards from the Pozzuoli Bay. A few months after we moved in, the lake turned this really bizarre, neon green color. Yet another time, I was walking around the lake (it really is an amazing, idyllic spot, complete with Roman ruins, a Sybil's cave, and the terminus of a huge tunnel to move soldiers and horses between Cuma and the lake, which was then open to the sea), and the lake edges were completely filled with dead fish. Lago d'Averno has now been put on the list as one of the sites of illegal dumping.

See what I mean...toxic waste dumping was certainly not a secret among the Neapolitans. But perhaps the extent of the dumping is indeed a revelation. And maybe the attention of the world gives Neapolitans the freedom to protest, when before, protesting could have resulted in some unappealing backlash. Rising up against the Camorra is not necessarily the safest path. I am glad to see the international community paying attention to the problem, but why did Campania have to first have a cancer rate increase of over 40%! For women, 47%! Take just a moment and think about those statistics. They are truly horrific. In some communities, estimates are that the land will be poisoned for the next 50 years. Groundwater is poisoned, wells are poisoned, the soil itself is poisoned...and yet, another article I found highlights the fact that in all likelihood, the Camorra will be able to muscle in on the cleanup contracts as well, making the cleanup as profitable as the initial dumping for which they were responsible.

I hope that with all the negative attention, there will at least be a few positive stories coming out of both the situation and the appeal of Naples. I wrote often in the last few years on how much Naples has to offer, yet it takes some digging. Some fearlessness, some willingness to buck what the fear mongers say and open your heart to both the people and the place. And take another look at the photo by my sister. Naples is full of breathtaking beauty.

Mafia Toxic Waste Dumping Poisons Naples Farms

Toxic Nuclear Waste Dumped Illegally by Mafia Blamed for Surge in Cancers in Southern Italy

Toxic: Napoli, A documentary film

Triangle of Death, on Wikipedia

Mafia's Dumping of Toxic Waste Blamed for High Cancer Rates in Italy

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