The number of signatures on the petition to “Stop the destruction of the Apuan Alps” continues to grow. The Apuan Alps are a mountain range in Italy, from where most of Italy’s marble is quarried. The petition started by environmentalists seeks to “shut down the quarries in the Apuan Alps, as they are the source of the greatest environmental disaster in Europe, and to try and convert the local economy to a more sustainable one.” This according to a recent article by Melania Carnevali in the local daily Il Tirreno:
“This is certainly a radical request, that up until a few years ago seemed a totally untenable proposition. To many this proposition appears less untenable today. The main reason why the quarries were considered “sacred” is that they were the main source of employment – first the area was dotted with small marble laboratories where artisans worked the stone, then these were replaced by larger companies who devoted their production to large marble “tiles” used in the building industry. Regardless of the final product all of this created work on site – a large number of people in Carrara and in nearby Pietrasanta made a living working marble. This has changed: in recent times the quarries have been shipping the blocks, whole, to where labor costs are lower, and so the local economy has suffered. So now people’s attention has turned to the sadder face of the Apuan Alps issue, the environmental effects of the quarrying.
The environmentalists fear that the unchecked quarrying could threaten the local flora and fauna, as well as causing damage from a geological perspective.
Since Michelangelo’s time – he sculpted his David from Carrara marble – the production of marble, and the exploitation of the mountains has seen a drastic and exponential growth. Today approximately 9 million tons are “harvested” a 100-fold growth in the last century – and, according to the environmentalists only a fifth of that is used in the building industry; the rest they claim, is used as calcium carbonate, to replace lead in paints, the asbestos in roofing materials and as fiber in wood pulp used in paper making… as well as filler in cereals, in cosmetics, in vitamin pills and in toothpaste. To this the environmentalists add the pollution costs associated, such as the spoiling of local waterways and the presence of particulate matter in the air.”
All of this makes the closure of the quarries seem the only solution possible to the environmentalists.
Melania Carnevali spoke recently with Uilian Berti, local councilperson, and in charge of environmental affairs in the area, and he counters that the shutting down of the quarries is still an untenable proposition.
And his reasons are twofold:
“… the value of the marble, and the marble industry’s impact on the local economy. We are known the world over, for this material’ continues Berti “… so much so that next September the World Mountain Run will be hosted in these hills – it’s a source of prestige for the region, and secondly the closure of the quarries would create an employment emergency that the region could not withstand. Even if marble is exported abroad, there are still hundreds and hundreds of people that work in the sector.” Carnevali presses Berti: “So everything will stay the same?” And Berti answers: “We, in this administration, have clear ideas on the issue, and are working on new regulations that will help avoid abuses, scandals and grave environmental problems. And maybe this will bring about the closure of certain sites – especially in the higher elevations – but certainly not all of them.We need to, instead, further valorize marble and to re-create in the region a type of work that will increase employment and grow the economy. Marble is a resource for the region.”
THIS is the link to the online petition.
You can contact councilperson Ulian Berti through his fb page, linked here.
Previously on Art is Life: