Is Venice Sinking?

Italy

Happy belated Earth Day everyone. I hope you managed to celebrate it, more importantly I hope you took the time to reflect on the significance of this important occassion on 22nd April…

I know it’s not supposed to be a one day thing, on which you would update your Facebook status to “I Love Planet Earth”, then you would enjoy a candlelit dinner with (or without) your partner in the evening. In fact I am confident that most of you realize that the fight against environmental dilemmas has been carried on for years now by individuals, organizations and nations that care about the future enough to spread the necessary awareness and educate the rest of us. Travelers tend to keep an eye on such things as part of the overall experience.

Earth Day is an initiative that was created by one caring individual, U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson, in response to the Santa Barbara Oil Spill in 1969. It started the modern environmental movement and drew the attention of millions around the world to the waning impacts human activity has had on the planet, which is why it is crucial that we stay connected to our nature loving self, beyond the day.

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Panoramic view of Venice, shot with my iPhone5

As posted on my Instagram account @mysuperspace

On the day, I thought about my favourite sinking city, I fiddled with the thought that maybe in few (long) years (hopefully) Venice will no longer be on the world map, due to man created environmental circumstances, and it wasn’t a pleasing thought…

Three weeks ago I fell head over heels in love with the Queen of the Adriatic, It was the most beautiful floating natural disaster that I have ever seen in my life, and I had a hard time comprehending that all those pretty palaces, churches, bridges, and squares are going to the fish one day.

Venice

What about the gorgeous masks? Please tell me someone else will learn how to make them…

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It rained so hard the day we arrived, I was afraid the vaporetto we were on would not make it to shore!!

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St. Mark’s Square

****************

You knew that Venice is sinking right? It’s not like I just broke the horrible news to you, and now you are going to lose sleep over it, or something?

Personally, I’ve heard and read much on the subject before, but it wasn’t until I physically stood in the place that the heart wrenching, scientifically proven truth resonated in my head. It was plain dismal.

That in addition to the few times when I was momentarily depressed by the fact that water surrounded us from every direction, including the frequent rain showers, almost undid me, because I can’t really swim!

Italy

Italy

We took a guided walking tour on our first morning to familiarize ourselves with the city; we stood outside Marco Polo’s house and listened to the guide’s remix of historical facts and views about the place and the guy. He gave us a short wandering and questions break during which the brave American of the group (of course) came forward and asked the one question that had been lurking in all of our heads all along. Is Venice sinking?” said brave heart in a throaty tone masked with pretend courage, followed by a nervous giggle, which the rest of the group echoed in equal uneasiness. “Yes” answered Andrea, our native Venetian guide, assuredly. That answer was disappointing only because I knew it, I guess I was hoping I was wrong.

Andrea went on to explain exactly how and why it is happening. Two main factors to blame for the slowly but defiantly occurring tragedy it seems; industrial development and climate change. Industrial development I allegedly get, he totally got me at climate change though…

You mean it’s me!…. It is my fault now?

He didn’t actually say it, but it sure sounded like Andrea was hinting that it’s my 8 cylinder SUV, and my overworked AC, and my energy wasting habits, and my passion for travelling to faraway lands in jumbo jets, and my lousy recycling regime that is sinking the most romantic city in the world, 2.5 inches per decade. What a serious accusation to make on such a beautiful day!

And even if that is relatively accurate, it’s certainly not just me who is contributing to the mysterious disappearance of his beloved hometown, so why was he not staring anyone else in the eye while saying it? Angel for instant! He drives a big car too!

And by the way it is not only his little pretty old town that is sinking, the entire country of the Maldives, the continent of Antarctica and other places are going down too, god knows when. Yeah, so there is absolutely no need to take it personal, it’s
strictly a matter of lifestyle preferences.

I hope you all are siding with me at this point! and I have a feeling that you have something to say about it, do you? if you do, please be fair okey?

Anyway, whatever he was going to say next was expected to be further stinging. “Scientist believe that if we stopped pollution today, not tomorrow, it will take us two to three hundred years from now to recover from the damage already caused”, he said straight to my face, I think….

At this point I was left with nothing to say or do but to hug my guilty conscious, turn away and pretend to take more photos. Behind me, there was one big wall and not much to photograph, what the …..?

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I persisted. I took this photo 🙂

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Column of San Marco

In my defense, I keep asking Angel to help me recycle our empty plastic water bottles at home, but he keeps throwing them away. And I try to remember to switch all the lights off when I leave the house often now, which surprisingly isn’t affecting our DEWA bill, but I do it anyways.

I suppose I can try leading by example sometimes; you know how it is thought, effecting change on any level is easier said than done.

Venice

Maybe you can lead me by your example. Tell me about your sustainable living practices. How are you fighting climate change in your home, office, community?

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Rialto Bridge

Italy

Italy

For the next few days in Venice, we tried to live in the now. We got lost walking the maze of narrow stone lanes and bridges, and allowed ourselves to be enchanted, knowing that the magic isn’t interminable.

Despite the attempt, it was hard to miss the signs; our first gondola ride, for instance, was incredibly romantic, the sun even decided to grace us with its presence for few hours that day and fortunately our gondolier wasn’t too chatty, he preferred to sing instead. As we cruised the smaller canals, we couldn’t help but notice that the rising water levels have permanently destroyed the lower parts of many buildings. Today, most buildings in Venice are inhabited starting the second floor, our hotel started in the 3rd floor for the same reason I am assuming, the lower levels are now used for storage, and the parts at higher risk of flooding are simply abandoned.

Italy

Italy

The narrow pathway outside our hotel. Imagine me trying to drag a suitcase out of here?

I won’t forget the night we were abruptly awakened from a deep sleep by warning sirens, announcing the coming of high water. The alarm is normally fired up 3 hours before the incident to give people enough time to take precautionary measures. We weren’t able to go out to witness it that night, but the next morning St. Mark’s Square looked like it suffered a rough one last night, we had to walk through a little puddle to get through the entrance of the Basilica and around it. This central piazza of the city is submerging underwater more than 40 times every year, and it might get worse in the future.

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Doge’s Palace

Venice is undeniably unique, it has no roads and not a single car was in our sight for days, which gives it a special status in my heart. The way water highways and tiny canals loop around its 118 separate islands, leading in or out of its centre of life, the Grand Canal, is what makes it what it is, charismatic and mystical, regardless of its over commercialized and touristy position.

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Grand Canal

As soon as I got over my pre-judgmental first impression of what looked like a crumbling, weird, decaying and fading old city, I actually managed to befriend its gracefully aging spirit. I imagined it seeing many good years before becoming a divers’ playground. until then, I hope to see more of it, but before that I must do something about my swimming.

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