|Though they appear to be relatively harmless, the World Monuments Fund considers the excessive numbers of the mammals above to pose a serious threat to the well-being of Venice|
Venice's inclusion on the list is no surprise, considering that in February of 2013 Ana Somers Cocks, former president of Venice in Peril and a vocal critic of the way in which Venice is being (mis)managed, delivered the Fund's annual Paul Mellon Lecture in New York City. You can view the entire lecture here: http://www.wmf.org/video/2013-paul-mellon-lecture-can-venice-be-saved
It's a talk worth watching for anyone interested in Venice, and it appears to be the forerunner of her more extensive essay entitled "The Coming Death of Venice?" published in the June 20, 2103 issue of The New York Review of Books (http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2013/jun/20/coming-death-venice/?pagination=false).
In both the essay and speech Somers Cocks lays out the major players involved in determining the fate of Venice, explains why the powerful Venice Port Authority and the consortium of private industrial companies called the Consorzio Venezia Nuova wield disproportionate influence, and marvels at the fact that when the Venice City Council finally managed to produce in 2012 the management plan required by the city's designation by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site way back in 1987(!) the plan essentially neglected to seriously address the 3 major threats to the city: (1) the excessive and destructive number of tourists in the city, (2) the excessive and destructive number of big ships, and (3) the global rise in sea levels for which the 5 billion euro water gates being built by the Consorzio Venezia Nuovo will serve as but a temporary stop-gap measure.
In other words, contrary to the old saying "Better late then never," the management plan finally produced by the Venice City Council is so gutless, toothless, and willfully-short-sighted (when not just fecklessly blind) that "late" in their case is really in no way better than "never."
What Ana Somers Cocks has basically been saying in every forum available to her over the last year--including, most recently, in late September at a ceremony here in which she received a prize from the Istituto Veneto per Venezia--is that the ancient world-famous city of Venice, whose history is filled with almost incomprehensibly-extensive engineering projects necessitated by self-preservation, not only has no legitimate viable plan presently in place to assure its own survival, but no apparent plans to come up with one. Unless, Dear Reader, you've drunk so much of the Kool-aid of neo-liberalism that you believe that allowing private interests to squeeze every last drop of profit from the city before its utter collapse qualifies as one.
In her speech to the World Monuments Fund, Somers Cocks quotes a senior member of the Italian government in Rome who tells her simply, "Italians don't like to plan." This is an easy cynical re-affirmation of an old cultural clichè, but having no plan, or intentionally creating gridlock (as has been evident in both the US and Italy) that prevents any plan from being drafted or implemented, is a ham-handedly effective way of maintaining a status quo in which large private interests steer the course.
The surprising thing about all this, though, is that when it comes to cruise ships even the Secretary General for Europe of the international association of cruise lines (CLIA) acknowledges the unsustainability of the way cruise ships now enter and leave Venice. Robert Ashdown is quoted in The Telegraph as saying "We have recognized the need to move away from current navigational routes for some time but there were no alternatives in place" (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/cruises/cruise-news/10283185/Cruise-lines-seek-Venice-solution.html).
This is more than the Venice City Council was willing to actually put into its planning report!
|Not even Hitler could hope to watch the seat of the once great Republic, ruler of a quarter and half-quarter of the Roman Empire, slip past as he sat on a deck chair in his bath robe--but these people could|
Few things can make me despair more completely for the future of humanity than reading the Comments section of any online publication, but I was taken by the first one in response to The Telegraph article above, in which a self-described "yachtsman of 50+ years" was so intent on securing for himself "the incredible experience" of "watching Venice slip past from the top deck of a cruise ship" that he booked a cabin as soon as he heard of a possible cruise ship prohibition.
I find this to be a perversely fascinating mindset, and not at all uncommon. The possibility of imminent prohibition, the possibility that your own action may in some small way be contributing to the cultural and/or literal destruction of a 1,000-year-old city--what better recipe for an air of decadent "exclusivity", even though you pass by on a floating Holiday Inn with a Broadway show tune blaring over the ships' speakers to create just the right "ambience."
It was not the way Michelangelo saw the city, nor Dante, Petrarch, Erasmus, Galileo, Mozart, Wagner, Proust, George Eliot nor George Sand. Not even Hitler or Mussolini dreamed during their visits that the seat of the once-awesome Republic might "slip past" thusly, as that valiant "yachtsman of 50+ years" insists upon experiencing the city.
And the fact is, regardless of what the cruise lines might try to sell people, after three years of living here I can assure you, as many of you already know, that there really are better ways to experience the city.
|And this is actually one of the smallest cruise ships that enters the lagoon...|