Letter to Michele Serra
Dear Mr Serra,
Many years ago, when we were both about twenty years younger, I seized a sentence from your statement in Cuore on November 12, 1994. I used it as the opening in an article I published in a Civil Protection magazine. The sentence referred to the terrible flood in Piedmont which had just occurred; it said " ... one thing is certain, and it is a bad thing. Only when you drown, and lose homes and factories you try to reason about the mistakes made and the direction to take. Man, like all animals, learns more quickly when it hurts ... ".
I thought back to you again, your sentence, and myself, whwn I was reading "Lâ€™amaca " in La Repubblica the other day, right after the terrible flood in Sardinia.
In your original statement, twenty years ago, you felt the urge to attack the system that had degraded the Italian territory, putting factories on the floodplains of the Piedmont rivers (Ferrero of Alba, e.g.). Reading your words today I feel a final despair for a country that did actually send the poors suburbs of Olbia down to the reclaimed land of Gallura.This was permitted by a sequence of pardoning illicit developments.
One knows that on reclaimed land there's plenty of space and the drained land is flat. As with the Medician reclamation of the plain of Pistoia, the reclamation of the Massaciuccoli Pisano, the Venetian reclamation of the Bacchiglione between Vicenza and Padua, in the reclamation at the mouth of the Volturno river. In these places, after being hurt over and over again, Man should have learned more quickly. The basin planning has them listed as areas of high flood risk, and are highlighted in red on the maps of spatial planning. The law requires that risk exposure maps are dominant over all territorial and municipal construction plans. The law requires that in the red areas no new buildings are to be built. When you renovate an old building you can not increase the load settlement.
But if we travel around Italy today, and we can do this it sitting at home using GoogleEarth, we uncover suburbs of cities and industrial buildings in the areas which were subject to poverty and malaria before the reclamation and which, for a short time, were agriculturally productive when land reclamation was complete.
It was the same thirty years ago, when Zamberletti began the construction of the Italian Civil Protection System. We assessed the costs of the territorial restructuring needed to reduce the risk to acceptable leves. The required funds were, and still are, comparable to the Country GDP for several years. It woud have required many decades of careful planning to have made this successful. For this reason Zamberletti put every effort into non-structural measures; measures to alert authorities citizens when a paroxysm of meteorology could bring water to their homes.
And kill. And destroy property and means of production.
Non-structural measures, to allow citizens take simple measures to temporary safeguard themselves. Because you can live in flood prone areas. It always has been. The paroxysmal events are rare and do not strike in the same place. During the period of respite you can live, produce, sell and even go for a stroll. You have just to know where you are. Just to know that modest cost measures, such as raise the ground floor of buildings, build safe underground parking lots, defend access roads, do not drive unaware on embankment roads or on bridges of which you can not see the road surface, and so on, save you from damage far greater than the cost of the safeguard measure.
And so we got the system of alerts, the instruments of observation, the organization, in essence, of the system of Civil Protection of Prediction and Prevention.
In the Italian regions that have positively cooperated with the Department of Civil Protection only a few alerts are unverified. When the meteorology, which is a science, and since is a science is uncertain, suddenly change its trajectory.
Contrary more than seventy percent of the alerts that describes an event are then realized somewhere in the alerted area.
Only for very rare events the system fails of alerting people, for the same reason, because the weather prediction is a science with intrinsic degree of uncertainty.
At the time of Zamberletti we not only aspired to create a system that could save lives and movable property. We wanted to create a system that could teach. To teach the authorities to perform as authorities. To teach citizens to recognize the country where they established their residence, a beautiful country of olive groves and mountains and sea, but, consequently, a country exposed to the paroxysms of nature.
I spent the second half of my life building the system technology, teaching meteorological and hydrological sciences, and writing laws in order to make the social behavior fitting the risk exposure of the country.
Now I chair, not for long now, a Research Foundation that assists, as Knowledge Center, the Civil Protection. I can see my original commitment in young researchers who are thirty or forty years younger than me.
This is precisely why I must think about the prospects of a Research Foundation, and researchers, who have in their statute "â€¦to protect the environment and civil protection."
Next Saturday, Franco Gabrielli, the current head of the Civil Protection, in the Palace of Justice in Milan will introduce a consideration about the Civil Protection system. He is a person of considerable intelligence, and will not make the list of successes. Rather he will analyze the reasons of the recent failures.
Let me ask you a question.
Whereâ€™s the Man that you, and I, were expecting would have learned because in 1994 he had done wrong? He isnâ€™t certainly the one that has established the new suburbs of Montecatini in the areas of land reclamation. Neither the one who built factories and homes in the reclamation of Massaciuccoli, on the left side of the Serchio River. Neither the one who drew up the plan of the industrial areas of small municipalities around Vicenza. Neither the one who planned the development of Castel Volturno.
Iâ€™ll stop here the litany of areas at risk, where a both old and recent irresponsible planning did plan that someone would get hurt.
Is there a political party which is different from that party made up of stupid builders, their architects, engineers, geologists, lawyers, notaries, and the banks that support them, not forgetting the politicians who sees consensus at any cost, citizens who break the rules knowing full well there will be amnesties and finally corruption of officials?
Is our final despair due to just two decades of wretched selfishness of politics and selfishness transmitted to our country citizens through television?
Or is there much more to it?
From where could we or should we start again?
Savona, 28th of November 2013
 Siccardi, F., Omicidio Colposo? Una lezione di ingegneria naturalistica, PROTECTA, 3/4, pagg. 26-30, Roma,1995
Short vitae of Michele Serra
Michele Serra (Rome, 1954) started working in 1975 for L'UnitĂ , then the official newspaper of the Italian Communist Party (PCI), of which he had become a member the previous year. Serra is a long-time left-wing supporter, although he abandoned PCI's successor, the Partito Democratico della Sinistra, in 1991, because of dissent against the party's directions.
In 1986 he began to write satire for Tango, the satiric supplement of L'UnitĂ , winning the Satire Prize Forte dei Marmi the same year. In 1987 he also started collaborating for Mondadori's magazine Epoca, but abandoned it in 1990, when the publisher house was acquired by Silvio Berlusconi.
In 1989 Tango was replaced by Cuore, and Serra was appointed by Massimo D'Alema as its director. Cuore was published weekly independently starting from 1991.
On June 7, 1992 Serra began a popular satire column for L'UnitĂ , entitled "Che tempo fa" accompanied by Ellekappa's comics. In 1994 he abandoned the direction of Cuore and, in 1996, began to collaborate for the newspaper La Repubblica and for the weekly L'Espresso, for which he continues to write as of 2008. In the following years Serra wrote for numerous TV and theatre shows, including Fabio Fazio's Che tempo che fa.