Sunday, May 31, 2009

Local Politics:Left, Right and Wrong- Part 2

Two planning mistakes, similar to the proposed artisan zone, have been made in the past several decades. In 1972 the national or perhaps regional government decided that Umbria should produce more meat. A seventy-meter long block and eternit barn was built just down the hill from Acqualoreto, paid for with government subsidies. It lasted something like six months, maybe even a year or two, before going out of business. After 37 years, the barn remains a scar on the landscape. There are apparently no subsidies for tearing down such eyesores. Perhaps it could house the new artisan activity, but then, building in virgin woods is no doubt cheaper than rehabilitating a huge dilapidated shack.

Acqualoreto, Collelungo and Morre each had their own elementary schools. The post-war exodus left too few children to support the three schools, so rather than close two of them and expand one, it was decided to construct a new school at the intersection of the roads leading to the three villages, on previously unbuilt land. Unlike the livestock barn, the school is not an eyesore, but it is located on a curving three-way intersection, which is hazardous enough for motorists without the addition of a schoolfull of children. More important, all the children and teachers arrive every day by school bus or car from the villages, which are two to four kilometers away. This may be just as well, since the roads connecting the villages are narrow and rigorously devoid of sidewalks. Thus, while we’ve avoided periodic human roadkill, we’ve done nothing to alleviate the epidemic of childhood obesity.

The political decision may have been astute since it left all the villages equally unhappy but none jealous of the others for receiving favored treatment. Nevertheless, it was and remains an environmental error, despite seeming just the way it always was to the recent generations, born after its construction.

Umbria is a gorgeous region, one of the least populated in Italy. Much of it has been defaced in recent years by ill-considered development. This is one small area that has remained relatively intact and every year it attracts more and more visitors. Turning it into just another nondescript zone of marginal industry, besides being an affront to nature, will have negative economic consequences for the area.

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