The Neapolitan Garbage War: When Things Just Keep Piling Up
If only there was a How Clean Is Your House? for cities: Two matronly ladies storm into Naples and scold a shamefaced mayor into cleaning up his act, vacuuming under the bed and somehow disposing of 400,000 tons of toxic so-called “ecoballs,” which are anything but what their name would have you believe. We, the viewers get to gasp with incredulous, self-righteous indignation because our home cities aren’t complete rubbish heaps. “How could they let it get so far?” we wonder out loud, tossing an empty bag of potato chips into the recycling bin, knowing some responsible civic worker will pick it up and put it in the right place.
Not so in the Campania region of Italy, of which Naples is the capital. Just like Tony Soprano, the Neapolitan mafia – called the Camorra – has its hand in waste management, as well as practically everything else. And the Camorra has made a killing dumping, burning and burying waste – imported from northern Italy – throughout the once bucolic Campania. To be fair, it isn’t exactly the mayor’s fault. This is a regional and national problem. Democracy and civic participation do not mix with corruption, intimidation and organized crime. In fact, the situation in Campania and Naples reflects a longstanding north – south divide in Italy in which economic and political power are centered in the north, while the south or Mezzogiorno has been associated with poverty, emigration and corruption.
A Face Lift for Berlusconi
After much local protest and international – including EU – pressure, Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has had the garbage removed from the streets; burned or shipped off somewhere or other and things in Napoli have generally quieted down, at least trash-wise. But who knows how much garbage and toxic waste is buried in the countryside of Campania?
The citizens of Campania and Naples complain of deformed sheep, farming problems, high cancer rates and general poor health. Who better to present it all in haphazard, immersive documentary form than VBS’s TOXIC? The tight-lipped, slightly awkward VBS reporter is perfect for a story where the people are angry and can’t wait to let everyone know how they feel about the Camorra, Berlusconi and toxic waste.
- In the city of Naples and the surrounding countryside of Campania, Italy, the Mafia has controlled the waste-management industry for decades – dumping and burning trash across its rolling hills and vineyards. In 1994, the European Union declared the situation an official environmental emergency, and things have only gotten worse since then. VBS investigates and finds mutated sheep, poisoned mozzarella, alarming rates of cancer, and pissed off farmers ready to push back against the Camorra, Italy’s most powerful and dangerous criminal organization (and the government that enables it). -vbs.tv
From January 26, 2009
By Graham Land
NPR story on the trash crisis, Roberto Saviano and the Camorra
Garbage Wars in Naples – A Time Magazine photo essay