#02 ENVIRONMENTALISTS IN SEARCH FOR COMMON GROUND
People are standing here and there around the sunny square in front of the Santa Maria delle Grazie church that has been chosen as the spot for a demonstration called "A tutto gas, ma nella direzione sbagliata" ("Hitting the gas, but in wrong direction"). A demonstrator is being interviewed standing next to a tall tin missile. After a moment, I realize that the vast majority of the people on the square and around it aren't there for the demonstration; they are actually tourists and local people just enjoying their Saturday, waiting to enter to see Da Vinci's Last Supper. In fact, the actual demonstration participants are less than a dozen.
This doesn't add up. Around 40 groups and associations had undersigned the manifest for this nationwide demonstration (in Italian), including organizations like Greenpeace, WWF, Fridays for Future—where are they?
Even Legambiente, perhaps the largest and oldest Italian environmentalist organization doesn't seem to be present either. Except for one activist: young activist Luca has arrived from Turin (ca. 140 km / 87 miles from Milan) because "in Piedmont [region] no-one had organized anything". Why there isn't anyone else from Turin with him? "Well, the organization sent the email only on Thursday..." He's not sure why there isn't anyone from Milan's chapter either.
Wearing a bright yellow Legambiente t-shirt and cap and even a Legambiente face mask, Luca has with him two pieces of cardboard, and after careful thinking he writes two statements on them: "Minister: You Must Quit the Nuclear!" and "The Problem Isn't Where to Extract the Gas From: the Problem Is the Gas!"
Next to the building opposite to the church there are three banners spread out on the ground; two of them refer to nuclear weapons. There are also that tin missile, as well as cans and bottles containing "radioactive waste" and flyers against nuclear on a table.
Marco Giorgini is an activist in his fifties representing an association called Mondo senza guerre e senza violenza (World Without Wars and Without Violence); he's against nuclear in all forms. After chatting with him it dawns on me why there are so few demonstrators, and why the young activists of Milan aren't there: given that nowadays some environmentalists aren't against nuclear power anymore—on the contrary, some of them are openly pro-nuclear now—Giorgini presumes that they don't want to be seen with the totally anti-nuclear groups, like the one he represents. "If the demonstration had been exclusively against the gas, also young activists would have come."
Today, some environmentalists say that while not perfect, for the moment the nuclear is the "good enough" alternative in order to stop using gas. Giorgini doesn't agree: "It takes twenty years to design, build, test and deploy a nuclear power plant—and we're already late [in stopping the climate change]. We must explore other alternatives."
In the meanwhile Italy, like many other countries, continues to be dependent of imported and expensive gas.
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