Different times, different, indeed opposing, fashionable environmentalist explanations of the same phenomenon, according to the varying paradigms of the Green movement and its mouthpieces prevailing at the moment and shifting from one to the other, with little evidence to support them.
Venice-born journalist Jacopo Giliberto wrote a piece in 2016 for the Italian paper Il Sole 24 Ore, one of the leading financial dailies in Europe, which I translated and quoted an extract from here below.
It’s very notable for several reasons. He was a small boy in 1966, at the time of the worst Venice flood on record, and he describes his memories as a witness to a historic event narrated through small details with dramatic impact: a precious testimony.
And a longing for a city that, Giliberto seems to say, ended then, never to recover. Venice was finished after that flood, its population reduced to one third of what it was, businesses and activities gone. Except tourism, of course.
Almost as an aside, at the end of the article he mentions the fear of global cooling, because the theory that the Earth was going towards a period of extensive glaciation was pervasive in the 1960s and ’70s and, despite claims to the contrary, it was the “scientific consensus” of the time, with hundreds of papers in scientific publications supporting it.
It may ring a bell – an out-of-tune one – but the major media claimed that scientists agreed that our planet was cooler and this was the dawn of a new Ice Age.
Prediction which is as accurate, perhaps, as the one made in 1969 that Venice would sink by 1990 or, for that matter, the notion that our planet will face catastrophe if we don’t reduce human population to a few million individuals.
Here is an extract from Jacopo Giliberto’s “The flood of Venice, memories in white-and-black of November 4, 1966”, in English:
Friday 4 November 1966 I was 5 years old. It was a vacation day because it was Victory Day. I have few dim recollections of the flood, deformed by the black-and-white of memory.
Venice was silent, more silent than usual. No pace marked in campielli or calli. Voices only, but agitated. Intense smell of kerosene. Grey sky. Grey above in the sky and grey down below: when the window blinds were opened, the campiello on the edge of Calle delle Erbe was covered with water on which floated the black patina of naphtha. I had never seen it like this. Cold radiators. There was no electricity. With my father (how big and sure he was) we went down the stairs to the entrance hall on the ground floor: the water was so high that it could perhaps cover the first 20 steps of the staircase.
The grey light came in through the water door on the Rio Santa Marina. The rhythm of the diesel of a barge on the canal. The water was as high as twice my height, and my black rubber boots, that I wore to go to school on high water days, were useless. The memories are completed by the vague taste of the forced vacation in the following days, perhaps Monday 7 November Iole, the teacher, asked to help the classmates who had lost everything because they lived on the ground floor, and above all the black line of the oil remained for months on the walls, at 1 metre and 97 centimetres’ height.
The Venice and Florence floods of 4 November 1966 had two different characters in the two cities. In Florence it had the brutality of the rabid river, the tearing mud. In Venice, water and love “i copa in silensio”, kill in silence, and Venice began to die there. The historic centre had 150 thousand inhabitants, now about 50 thousand; there was the headquarters of Generali (now in Trieste), of the newspaper Il Gazzettino (now in Mestre), of the Adriatica shipping company, of the Junghans metalworking factory and so on. Today Venice is above all a tourism factory.
I go back to November 1966. That slow rising of the water seemed, on the evening of November 3, the usual one of the tidal cycles. Six hours it fall and six hours it grows. But that night the rising tide had not stopped, and on the morning of November 4 it continued to grow, and the falling tide of “dozana” had not been there and, instead of dropping, the water had continued to rise, rise, rise.
Many things had happened at the edge of the lagoon. The land spilled waves of broken rivers into the lagoon. The ancient banks were torn, upset, dissolved, turned into incoherent mud, and vomited mud and water into the lagoon. On the opposite side, on the sea side, the furious storm pushed against the islands, and the furious sea had broken the eighteenth-century walls and overturned into the lagoon. Houses destroyed on the thin strip of land of Pellestrina, which is a town built on the very long and thin ribbon of a sand dune in water.
That flood of November 4, 1966 revealed that Venice was really sinking…
The MOSE project can be used to save the city from the climate change that will cause the seas to rise; in 1966 this phenomenon was unimaginable, on the contrary an imminent glaciation was feared.