|Long-delayed near the mouth of the lagoon while crews addressed this morning's first cruise ship crash, a second cruise ship on its way to dock at Tronchetto passes the wreckage of the riverboat in the Giudecca Canal this afternoon|
Today the traditional Festa della Sensa was scheduled to be celebrated: a re-enactment of the ancient annual ceremony in which the Doge, standing aboard his golden barge the Bucintoro and surrounded by dignitaries in other boats, threw a gold ring into the Adriatic, symbolizing Venice's marriage to (and dominion over) the sea.
Of course, Venice ain't what it used to be way back when, and its relationship to the sea has also changed. Long gone are the days when the Republic's fleet of merchant ships and galleys ventured far out to sea and returned from far-flung ports with treasure; gone, too, are the more modest fleets of fishing boats which in much more recent times plied the Adriatic.
These days, Venice is a much more passive recipient of crude oil and, of course, tourists, and it was one of the massive cruise ships carrying the latter which caused the cancellation of today's planned festivities when it plowed into a docked river boat alongside the western reaches of the Zattere, injuring five people.
The Youtube videos of the crash are remarkable, with people screaming and trying to flee the docked riverboat before the immense cruise ship crushes it: BIG SHIP CRASH
There is even one taken from onboard the cruise ship itself as it bears down upon the idle riverboat: VENICE Cruise ship crashing into pier in Venice
For many many years opponents of the ever-increasing number of cruise ships coming into Venice have warned of just such an accident, imagining the damage that could be done to the Palazzo Ducale, for example.
But the cruise industry, and those politicians who do its bidding, have consistently assured worried Venetians that each monster ship is leashed to two stout tug boats as it makes it way along the historic city. With one such tug in front of it, and another following it, they assured us--in spite of instances to the contrary--that a cruise ship could never possibly stray too far toward the fondamente of the city. The mighty tugs would always be there to keep it in line.
The two video links above demonstrate this claim was nothing but a false assurance, a useful fiction; quite simply, a lie. The two tug boats in the video appear completely powerless to alter the course of the cruise ship.
Predictably, the cruise ship industry and those who do its bidding, such as Venice's mayor--in other words, the very same people who assured us that no such accident could ever possibly happen in the first place--have seized upon this accident as proof that the controversial re-dredging of a deep water channel through the lagoon that would allow cruise ships to come to Venice's port via Marghera (rather than through the city center) must start immediately.
Or, in other words, now that the danger and damage of which those opposed to cruise ships in the lagoon have long warned has actually come to pass, Venice has no choice but to immediately begin to dredge a canal whose dangers and damages have also been well-documented by the same people who warned against the possibility of an occurrence like today's.
This rather shocking argument (in which deceit and incompetence are put forth as virtues) is surprisingly common these days in both my native land of America as well as in Italy (not to mention the UK). The basic absurd thrust of which is as follows: Yes, we have lied to you and we have failed you; the things our opponents have warned against have actually come to pass; which is precisely why you should give us full authority to incompetently and greedily pursue our next even more dubious endeavor.
In truth, cruise ships are not only a problem for Venice and its lagoon. Yes, in Venice their 24-hour emissions while they are in port are partly responsible for the city having particularly bad and unhealthy air quality, and the proposed deep water channel to be dredged for them will, among other ill effects, lead to more frequent and more intense acqua alta.
But they are actually a disaster wherever they go, dumping hundreds of millions of gallons of fecal waste into the Mediterranean sea each year, and emitting more black carbon than any other big ships (see graphic below, measured in tons).
|from the International Council on Clean Transportation report on black carbon emissions in global shipping, 2015|
Indeed, as the short film entitled "Apologia Mediterraneo" by artist Newton Harrison in the current show Artists Need to Create on the Same Scale that Society Has the Capacity to Destroy: Mare Nostrum (Complesso della Chiesa di Santa Maria delle Penitenti, Fondamenta di Cannaregio 910) makes abundantly clear, humankind's own "marriage" to the Mediterranean Sea has become an abusive one, which is quite literally killing it (among the facts cited: total fish population has dropped 65% and is still dropping; in the course of their 9,000 annual trips across its surface, tankers legally release 40 million gallons of oil into it each year in tank washing operations).
As long as Venice's authorities continue to ignore the damage their policies inflict upon not only upon the lagoon but upon the Mediterranean, maybe it's time to entirely discontinue the traditional "marriage to the sea." The marriage was always one-sided anyway, with the Venetian Republic offering neither to love nor cherish its "betrothed," but simply to exploit.
We know the effects of such irresponsible exploitation now, just as we know the damaging effects of cruise ship travel, both in Venice and on the Mediterranean--and those who continue to support such exploitation and such travel might more accurately represent their relationship to the sea, and to Venice itself, with a funeral rather than a wedding.