Almost a meter of sea-water in Piazza San Marco. It has been predicted that Venice will 'sink' in a century, now some anticipate that it may take only fifty years.. Yet such an idea is inconceivable, unacceptable.
The Venetians have seen it all too often before. They accept it philosophically as a natural consequence of living in Venice. But true Venetians can't be fatalists. The descendants of an Empire, la Repubblica Serenissimo, and one of the earliest democracies of Europe, are hardly likely to stand idly by and watch their beautiful city slowly sink as if it were just a beautiful old dream, like the myth of Atlantis inexorably destined to finish foundering fathoms deep.
And if it were beyond the means of the Venetian authorities to improve and maintain the dike and pump systems to insure a stable water-level all year round, shouldn't some of the responsibility of saving Venice be shouldered by Europe as part of Europe's precious patrimony?
How many millions of people in the world have had the privilege and pleasure of visiting Venice? How many of them would care about this exceptional city of enchantment enough to want to contribute something to keep it above water?
In Cathy Newman's National Geographic article on the subject, when asked about the problem, the Mayor Massimo Cacciari, professor of philosophy, replied philosophically, 'Let them wear boots.'
The article then adds these statistics- The number of Venetian residents in 2007- 60,000. The number of visitors that same year- 21 million..
For Cacciari, high tide is not a problem. In his view it's more a problem for 'foreigners'. But the last flood, according to him, (from the time of the NG publication) was caused by torrential rain. And there is still the Mose project. Enormous flood barriers mechanically elevated by air pressure to block rising water levels from entering the lagoons of Venice. They would only be activated when necessary, otherwise presumably they would be discreetly hidden. These are under construction and were originally set for completion by next year.
Perhaps greater maritime control is also essential, for the movement and pressure of the water constantly churned up by large vessels contributes considerably to the erosion of the submerged wooden piles supporting the foundations of much of Venice.
The cost of maintaining the famous city is far too much for the Venetians to bear. The young can't afford to live there. Only those who are rich enough or who have inherited property can do so. About thirty years ago the Venetian population numbered 120,000. Now it's less than half that. The population decline is inevitable.
Cacciari seems to place Venice well above tourism. No doubt he is right. In fact in the article I refer to he half jokingly toys with the idea of setting an 'entrance examination and a little fee'..
Such an idea could certainly be part of the solution. An entrance fee in itself would be an examination, and a pass. It could also be the medication and the cure. The Venetian authorities could ascertain the figure required for whatever restoration, safeguard or preservation project, and as the tourists arrive, they could see the rising level of the amount gradually accumulated, thanks to the entrance fees. The figures could be digitally displayed on a sort of elegant, computer scope. Thus the figure level rise should always, in principle, cover the cost caused by the water level rise. It would also make the visitors feel as if they were leaving a small part of themselves as a modest contribution towards preserving for posterity certainly one of the most beautiful, enchanting and unique cities in the world.
Text and lower image © Mirino. Top image by an unknown photographer received by email. (Assuming I have permission to use this photo, I would be glad to credit the photographer if ever he or she can contact me. Thank you in the meantime for the use). Sources- the email, National Geographic, and the site on the Mose project. With many thanks. November, 2011