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The Italian Penal Code on environmental crimes – Law 68 of 22 May 2015

It has been reported in the media that France has joined the “club” of countries condemned for not having acted to halt climate change. The list is growing longer: the Netherlands, Pakistan, Colombia, Ireland … France has been convicted in the Paris administrative court of “ecological harm” because of its inaction on the climate. The case was launched in 2018 by four NGOs with the backing of a petition that had gathered 2.3 million signatures. Recognition of this responsibility opens the way to future legal challenges to oblige states to take action on the climate.

We wondered whether Italy could be similarly sanctioned, so we searched Italian legislation to find out. Law 68 of the Penal Code of 22 May 2015 – which came into force 29/05/2015 – contains Measures on environmental crimes. It deals with pollution, environmental disasters, movement of radioactive material, failure to carry out land reclamation, obstruction of checks, as well as aggravating circumstances in relation to the mafia.

Can we as Italian citizens consider ourselves to be protected, and thus reassured? The law is there, but who is applying it and how? Are cases being brought in response to daily reports of environmental disasters or pollution? If the State is not acting to ensure that the law is obeyed, does it become equally responsible? Again, if the State fails to act in order to protect the environment, can it be prosecuted?

This is the text of the first article of the law:

Art. 1

 1. The following is inserted into the penal code after title VI of the second volume:

 «Title VI-b. Crimes against the environment.

  Art. 452-b. (Environmental pollution). Punishments of two to six years’ imprisonment and fines of between 10,000 and 100,000 euros will be imposed on anyone who deliberately causes significant and measurable damage or deterioration to either of the following:

   1) the water, air, or substantial or significant areas of the soil or subsoil;

   2) the biodiversity of the flora or fauna of an ecosystem, including farmland.

  When the pollution is caused in a natural protected area or one that is subject to protections for its landscape, environment, history, art, architecture or archaeology, or damages protected species of animals or plants, the penalties are increased.

So anyone who causes pollution or damage either pays a fine or goes to prison. However, there is another factor that immediately springs to mind: Italy’s judicial system does not operate at the same pace as that of nature. This means that prosecutions are often irrelevant compared to the damage done. So the “polluter pays” principle should be supplemented by one that says “those who cause damage must repair it “. Prison and fines, even of 100,000 euros, are not in themselves effective in restraining those who make damaging choices for nature, of which – let’s not forget! – human beings are a part. If, on the other hand, an industry, a factory, a farm was obliged to repair the damage done and compensate the local residents, they would think hard before acting against nature’s limits. Cases such as the PFAS pollution of the water table and domestic tap water in the Veneto, the toxic waste dumps of the Terra dei Fuochi in Campania, the familiar environmental scandal of ILVA in Taranto all spring to mind.

We invite our readers to let us know of cases that have been brought and gone through the judicial process and their outcomes, including any penalties imposed.

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Associazione di Promozione sociale e culturale 5 agosto 1991, Buscate (Milan)

We return with renewed enthusiasm to the task of presenting to readers the Associations that belong to the Gruppo Suolo Europa.

Buscate (in the province of Milan) is home to the Associazione di Promozione sociale e culturale 5 agosto 1991, which was set up in 2010 to preserve the memory of the historic battle against the landfill that the Lombardy Region wanted to set up at the quarry known as Cava San Antonio in Buscate, a fight that began on 5 August 1991 and ended in victory three years later. The Association, together with the Ecoistituto del Veneto, has contributed to the publication of ‘Quelli delle cause vinte‘ [Those who won the battles] (Michele Boato ed. Libri di Gaia). From the outset the Association has concerned itself not only with the (still unresolved) matters relating to the environmental restoration of the Cava San Antonio – now called the Cava Campana – but also with many other environmental problems locally and in the Altomilanese (the area to the north-west of Milan) more generally. In particular we should mention the Quarries Plan of the Metropolitan City of Milan, the ACCAM Incinerator in Busto Arsizio (Va), a pleasant place about 2 km from the centre of Buscate, the pollution of the Ticino river and the Naviglio Grande, and the Cava di Casorezzo. In addition, in 2020 the Association proudly rescued from felling a 130-year-old Deodar Cedar, getting it declared an ancient tree and ensuring its adoption.

Another of the Association’s areas of interest and initiatives has been connected with the safeguarding of the town’s architectural and artistic heritage (Villa Rosales-Abbiate) and most recently the history of the “biblical” emigration that affected the Altomilanese at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th, with the publication of two books about emigration to the USA (Mi a vo via – translated into English with the title I’am going away) and Argentina (La Mérica di frascuni).

The Association has had links to the SIP Forum for several years, supporting the proposal for the Parco dell’Altomilanese and the draft law on ending soil consumption. At the local level, in 2013 the Association made submissions to the local Territorial Governance Plan based on the idea of “zero consumption” of the soil.

Contact: Associazione 5 agosto 1991 -Via Madonna del Carmine,11 – 20010 Buscate (Mi)

Email: cinqueagosto91@yahoo.it

Mob. 340 902 1566 – 3357461614

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Food Education

This Newsletter has always stressed the importance of using public structures to improve the diets of individuals. We have reported on tried and tested examples from European countries in which the canteens of schools, hospitals and workplaces use organic produce from the local areas where they are located.

We are therefore pleased to report that the Emilia Romagna Region has decided to invest 5 million euros in the period 2020-2022 in food education in school and college canteens, with the aim of using zero food miles organic produce, based on the Mediterranean diet, as well as reducing food waste.

This is an important initiative that chimes with the more complex strategy of improved use of agriculture and recovery of the values of the land. In addition to the organic canteens, the programme envisages information drives and the promotion of organic food in schools, as well as work experience activities of farm work through Open teaching/learning farms. This is a summary of the features of the new three-year programme of food education approved on 23/06/2020 by the Emilia-Romagna Legislative Assembly:

  • understanding of farming and the land, appreciation of rural culture and local traditions
  • the activities of teaching farms, as cornerstones of education in agrifood consumption in the area
  • the Open farms initiatives
  • participation on farms in the FAO’s World Food Day in October
  • support for generational change in farming, improving access to training including online, so that more people, especially young people, can gain the qualification of ‘teaching/learning farm worker’.

It is hoped that school students will then acquaint their parents and families with the principles of healthy eating and farming activities more generally. This “reconciliation” will help bring people closer to the land, enabling better understanding of the soil and of the values of local land.

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Local Territorial Associations: Friends of Cuirone

Cuirone is a community in the Municipality of Vergiate (Varese) in the northern part of the Lombard Park of the Valle del Ticino.

The Amici di Cuirone non-profit group was set up in 1987 by Giorgio and Miranda Ostini to promote research into and understanding, conservation and appreciation of the local area through the study of its environmental, historical, architectural, artistic, archeological and linguistic heritage in the form of the cultural, material and spiritual assets of Cuirone and the Vergiate area.

Over the years this ambition has taken concrete form with the creation of a Laboratory for the study of the area, as well as exhibitions and publication on the development of the area and its community with the aim of raising awareness among the public and educational institutions. The group has also published comments on documents relating to the administration of the area – from the old Planning Documents (PRG) to the more  recent Area Management Plans (PGT) – which suffers from the disorganized model of industrial/commercial/infrastructure development that has afflicted the province of Varese and Lombardy more generally since the 60s.

Cuirone has nevertheless remained a well-preserved little town, characterized by renovated farmhouses and dairies built of thick stone, flanked by vegetable patches and gardens, surrounded by woods and large areas of farmland that make it well suited to the new and more sustainable models for the cultivation and use of the land. 

On the group’s initiative, Cuirone has been included among the “Places of the Heart” in the census carried out by the F.A.I. [Italian Environment Fund] since 2010, and in 2012 came 2nd in the province of Varese and 9th nationally in the village category.

Since 2011 the Amici di Cuirone have been the local group for the Municipality of Vergiate in the national SIP Forum.

Part of the work of the Association is located in the studio of Giorgio Ostini, an artist who liked to call himself a craftsman. This small productive space continues to fly the flag of creativity, hosting shows of works by other artists. It is open to anyone who is interested in the multifaceted work of Giorgio himself as well as the initiatives of the group he founded.

For more information, contact:

Miranda Baratelli Ostini amicidicuirone@gmail.com http://www.cuirone.net/

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Agriculture on a small scale: Terra Bene Comune (The Land is a Common Good) Document

The acronym GAS stands for Gruppo di acquisto solidale [Fairtrade purchasing group]. It refers to groups of people who get together in order to buy products, generally food, on the basis of the sustainability and equitability of those products. We present an initiative taken by a series of GAS in the Marche region who decided to apply to the regional authorities for formal approval of a law to recognize and promote small-scale local farming.

This is their petition.

Given that

– farming, a primary and substantial sector in the lives of everybody cannot be considered simply the production of “goods” because the act of eating well is the basis of health,

– the land is a “common good” to be protected and preserved to ensure the survival of future generations,

We strongly desire,

– to take care of our environment, supporting small-scale agriculture, an agriculture that is “resident”, resilient and that protects and safeguards our land;

– an agriculture that “saves” and protects natural and water reserves;

– an agriculture that is diversified and maintains biodiversity while preserving the beauty of the landscape;

– an agriculture that is aware of the climate change that is underway, and is capable of developing measures to mitigate and adapt to it;

– an agriculture that does not use artificial pesticides, that follows the principles of organic farming and agroecology more generally;

– an agriculture that is based on families and communities and that creates bonds and sociality, while passing on traditions and knowledge;

– sustainable livestock farming that takes account of animal welfare;

– healthy food whose place of production is known and familiar, and that brings with it as added value a solid relationship of trust between the farmer and consumers;

– an agriculture that favours direct local sales;

– production that restores the dignity of agriculture also through fair pricing that takes into account the quality of the processing, as well as the labour and rights of farmers;

– an agriculture that is more simply regulated, and in particular adaptable to mountainous and disadvantaged areas, in order to create opportunities for work and local wellbeing.

Small-scale agriculture must be regulated by a correspondingly small-scale bureaucracy, because the removal and simplification of bureaucratic regulations are necessary for the production, processing and sale of agricultural products.

 For this reason we request the adoption of a specific law.

Art. 44 – Italian Constitution

“In order to obtain a rational use of the soil and establish equitable social relationships, the law imposes obligations and restrictions on private land ownership, sets limits to its extent according to regions and farming zones, promotes and imposes decontamination of the land, transformation of large estates and the re-establishment of productive units; helps small and medium landownership. The law will make provisions to favour mountainous areas.”

It would be hard for them to be clearer or more determined, but to understand their level of commitment we would like to introduce you to the promoters of the law by watching the video they produced to accompany the campaign to collect signatures .

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Educational trails in the Veneto

The Centro Internazionale Civiltà dell’Acqua [International Centre for the Civilization of Water] is a Veneto non-profit created “to achieve a more longsighted management of water resources and to spread new knowledge and more sustainable behaviours regarding the water and landscape heritage“. The Centre is also the creator and mainstay of the “Water Museum of Venice” (a member of the Water Museums Global Network). This is a digital museum that covers the area of the Tre Venezie, illustrating famous and historic landscapes that are closely connected to water and to the natural heritage. It provides geo-referenced digital routes, via a free downloadable audioguide, that accompany the visitor while offering further information, videos and interviews at various points along the way.

So far, so similar to the existing apps on nature and on cultural or artistic locations. These routes have features that make them unique, however: they are at once a historical reconstruction, a natural journey, an ecological solution and an educational trail. A few dozen are available, some of them in both English and Italian https://www.watermuseumofvenice.com/tour.  This is the latest one, on Meolo. Here is the introduction:

“Perfect symbiosis between humanity and Nature can exist, and the Belvedere Wood in Meolo, which has been restored and is now completely accessible, confirms this. Continua a leggere “Educational trails in the Veneto”

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SIP Committee in Cislago

The ESG (European Soil Group) has around 60 members, each one of which represents one or more local associations. One of the aims of the ESG is to inform people about what is happening at the European level regarding soil/land/landscape. This Newsletter is the most visible manifestation of this, but to “communicate” we also need to get to know one another better. This is why we have invited ESG members to present their local groups.

First up is the SIP [Save the Landscape] Committee in Cislago.

“Cislago is a Comune with about 10,000 residents, in the province of Varese in the area known as the Basso Varesotto. As a Committee we don’t do anything very special, apart from making life difficult for those who in one way or another want to cover the few remaining green spaces with asphalt and cement.

 We focus particularly on the cases of those who surreptitiously enclose pieces of land with hedges of cherry laurel in the hope of then building on them. In the meantime they put up illegal shacks (with little gardens to distract attention, “in all innocence”) and carry out building work on these pieces of land (which have been taken out of cultivation despite being in the middle of areas of farmland and woodland that are designated, “Environmentally protected”…).

The threats and insults of the owners (who we bombard with protests and official complaints) have not been lacking in recent years.

The agreement of the general population is growing, however, because our actions are not only or mainly repressive, but rather part of a cultural battle to change the mentality of what is “private property”. This basically guarantees to a few people the “freedom” to spoil or obscure the view (by closing off open spaces around towns and farms) with hedges that are essentially WALLS (of cherry laurel) because they are so high, wide, long and dense. People have the right to enjoy views of the LANDSCAPE. For about 20 or 30 years the Town Council has allowed this behaviour, which has led to increased degradation of the landscape and allowed new construction to take place. What it could and should have done is promote restoration of existing building stock. This protective attitude towards unregulated building has also hampered our “cement census”, ie identifying the houses, industrial sheds, shops and other buildings that are empty and unlet.

One of our other initiatives is as promoters of a new farmland/woodland park over several Comuni and more than one province (between the Basso Varesotto and the Basso Comasco, involving 7 Comuni) which would allow us to protect the few remaining Natural Areas.”

For more info, contact Maurizio Cremascoli: salviamoilpaesaggioelaterra@gmail.com

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Recognizing the importance of farmworkers in protecting the land

Protecting the citizens and the land by protecting the soil and safeguarding the environment while caring for the health and safety of workers.” These are the words with which the North Tuscany Consortium No. 1 was introduced by its chair.

What characterizes this territorial consortium? Involvement of farmers, or rather farmworkers, in the conservation of the land. It is already the consortium’s responsibility to ensure the safety of the land and to this end it carries out hydraulic and maintenance work. But protection of the land cannot be separated from the direct participation of those who live on it, especially in rural areas.

Let’s take a step back.

Italy has signed up to the EU’s territorial cohesion programme and has an Agency whose mandate is to promote “economic development and social cohesion, facilitating cooperation between institutions and the establishment of strategic partnerships among those involved in order to bridge the territorial gap within the country and strengthen the administrative capacity of local and regional government”.

The Agency organized “A strategy for Internal Areas in Italy” with the aim of preserving the  more  remote  rural  areas,  which have  historically  been deprived  of  many  public services (healthcare, schools, transport…),  and experienced  a  lengthy  and  steady  period  of  abandonment  in  favour  of  urban  areas,  with  high  social  costs  in  terms  of  hydro-geological  instability,  decay  and  soil  consumption. Continua a leggere “Recognizing the importance of farmworkers in protecting the land”