A negative impact on the environment

Perhaps the least conspicuous of the devastating effects of the use of available resources, the “soil overexploitation” is that devious phenomenon that hides behind other devastating effects: pollution of earth with toxic waste, of air with polluting emissions, of  water with poisons of all kinds, plastic and industrial waste.

Its excessive economic exploitation,  with destruction of woods, use of pesticides, intensive agriculture, excessive building, provokes alterations and unbalances also in the water cycle: rainfall is decreasing while the use of water for irrigation and for the cities is increasing.

Everything seems to conspire against the integrity of the planet Earth and its species but, masked by a thousand productive and housing needs, the overexploitation  of the soil represents a creeping and corrosive effect. Just think of the Amazon Forest, the tropical rainforest in the Amazon basin in South America, the world’s green lung and irreplaceable source of oxygen, which is being cleared at the rate of hundreds of football fields a day. More than a fifth of the forest has already been destroyed and the entire ecosystem remains in danger.

Not at the same pace, but with a catastrophic impact on the climate and the environment that surrounds us, in Italy we have witnessed deforestation perpetrated especially around the urban areas of greater housing concentration, where the speculation is transforming agricultural soil into more profitable urbanized areas, with highly destructive consequences of the territory and agricultural production. The damage caused by this phenomenon,  especially aggressive near lakes, rivers, sea, mountain slopes, etc. is now under everyone’s eyes.

The recent  catastrophic events, which have become increasingly devastating, teach us that building on the banks of rivers or streams can turn into an unparalleled catastrophe.

The chronicles in this regard teach us, or at least should teach us, that during the rainy season, especially in November and with anomalous peaks sometimes in spring, those beds are flooded by swirling water masses, swollen because of meteoric phenomena, with flooding on the cemented banks, causing incalculable damage to things and people.



What to do then?

Limit construction to areas delineated by geologists, avoiding mountain slopes at risk of landslides or volcanic areas (for example Vesuvius or Etna), river banks, lakes, coasts, etc., not only for aesthetic reasons but for the preservation of environment and people.

However, it seems that we always act with the benefit of hindsight, especially in Italy where, in the face of updated maps on the dangers of various kinds (seismic, flooding, landslides, karst sinkholes, etc.), we always proceed with the logic of short-term, immediate financial interest and not with a long term perspective.

In the Long Term Economy, on the other hand, the concept of long-term well-being is synonymous with prudent use of the land, in contrast with the logic of short-term profit that has especially characterised us in the latest 7 decades  and which is the predominant cause of the destruction of the soil and of the global ecosystem.

The short-sightedness of those who lead or thrive with the current economic system, to which unfortunately we are addicted as habitual consumers, is leading us to a continuous collapse.


Urbanization & Architecture

Even architecture has turned itself in a form of acquiescent building with intensive exploitation. The great, precious works of the past, which represent our flagship and which should be protected with the utmost respect for the environment in which they are inserted, sometimes lie in a state of decay and neglect, submerged by weeds or abandoned to their fate of obsolescence, caused by lack of maintenance.

Given the increasing demand for houses, urbanization has been stripped of those excellences that only the wealthy patrons of the past (eg. the Medici, the Pope, the sovereigns, nobles, etc.) could afford thanks to the gracious life of their subjects.

Since the beginning of the first industrial revolution, the eighteenth century, there has been a constant phenomenon of urbanization with a progressive shift of population from the countryside to the outskirts of the cities. London was the prototype par excellence of the first workers’ urbanizations with the birth of satellite cities around industrial areas.

After all, Urbanism was born in England with the exploitation of the working classes progressively moved from the countryside and above all of minors, malnourished, poorly paid and slaves of their masters.



The origins of contemporary architecture

Without going too far into the consequences of these first wails of the various industrial revolutions, the bitterness of a posthumous disharmonious development remains to the invention of reinforced concrete by the Belgian Auguste Perret, an architect and entrepreneur who moved to France.

In addition to his great professional activity, Perret is also known as a teacher of Le Corbusier, from whom he was emulated, as he was technically by the other great architect, Frank Lloyd Wright of overseas, together with Walter Gropius, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Alvar Aalto, considered the masters of the Modern Movement in Architecture.

But the applications of reinforced concrete have not always been environmentally friendly. In fact, we have witnessed a replica of the works of the two great pioneers of modern architecture, the former being rationalist and the latter being organic, often leading to the bad architecture that is now in fashion.

Practically the architect, no longer driven by a form of aesthetic / philosophical ideology aimed at meeting human settlement needs, was forced to follow the political and speculative logic in order to continue operating.

Once the ethical / aesthetic aspect has been discontinued, a hybrid emerges: a servant of the political system, a real whore, forced to submit to the urbanistic indications of the current power.

From this enslavement to urban planning of convenience, disrespectful of the territory and bent to the logic of profit, with rules mainly dictated by speculation (Finance governing Politics), the current disaster has emerged:  soil overexploitation  that does not take into account the environment,  but only of the economic interests of a few. The majority remain excluded from the benefits, but slaves of the system’s evil spells, suffering the distortions, the critical points, the ideological disruptions, etc.



Is the Earth condemned to become a sort of “Easter Island”?

The ISPRA report reports data from the 1950s on a national and regional level and on the main municipalities and shows that land consumption has now affected more than 7% of the national surface.

The latter, which grew in the following years, has however recorded an important slowdown in recent years: between 2013 and 2015. Nevertheless, about 35 hectares per day have been lost, to the detriment of agriculture and beyond.

The environment, in this specific case the Italian one, cannot withstand the crazy speed of transformation (about 4 square meters of soil / sec.). We are moving towards a progressive desertification of areas, in the past productive, which will also affect the climate and all aspects related to the balance of the ecosystem.

If we project what is happening in Italy in the world, we will realize that our planet will no longer be enough, already at the limit of its possibility of survival.

Only a slowdown in the exploitation of the soil and the resources of the planet can guarantee us a stable and lasting peace. Otherwise we will give Earth, small dot in the cosmic void, the same end of the “Easter Island”  as we are unable to preserve our planet from a safe end, together with all the animal and plant species that live on it.

“Easter Island” represents, in my imagination, the archetype of the disappearance of our civilization.

  Franca Colozzo

Franca Colozzo

An Italian Architect/Writer /ex Teacher in Italy and also in Turkey, passionate about Human Rights, Peace, Education, Environment, Women’s Empowerment, sustainable Architecture.

Franca Colozzo has 22 posts and counting. See all posts by Franca Colozzo

Franca Colozzo

10 thoughts on “Soil overexploitation

  • Vineet Mani

    What a great article, Franca. It provides great insights and what is simply wonderful is the fact that it highlights solutions which are based on expert’s experiences and exposure. The way you have brought forward the significance of architecture in averting the situation of soil overexploitation,it is simply commendable.

    • Franca Colozzo

      Dear Vineet Mani, having worked for years as an architect and urban planner and knowing unfortunately from within the distortions (connivance with political power) against which I have always fought often going against politicians on duty (either right or left) thus losing positions, I can say with absolute intellectual honesty that being architects or engineers nowadays means prostituting oneself in the current power.
      Precisely so as not to succumb, I faced many competition tests to enable me to teach and be free to criticize corruption. A state salary is devoid of subjection to private individuals. For some time I had been thinking of writing this article and finally yesterday I made a commitment to put my thoughts on paper.
      Thanks again for your words of praise that fill my heart with the satisfaction of having worked well.

      • Vineet Mani

        There is so much to learn from you and your experiences, Franca. I have not come across many people who are conscientious in a real sense. They relent, sooner or later, but there are not many bravehearts who voice their concerns and fight back tooth and nail.

    • Franca Colozzo

      Thanks Vineet for the appreciation. This article comes from my direct experience in the urban / architectural field, where the contradictions add up and the good politics of the territory is only utopia. In truth, the foolish use of the soil derives from profit and feeds exclusively on it, not caring about the mess and the problems resulting from the territory and the climate.

  • Stephen Saunders

    What you have decried about the Italian ecosystem, Franca, is simply a microcosm of our entire Earth and it’s expendable resources. You made an interesting point when you said that the exploitative economic interests of the few have led us all to become consumer slaves of a sort. What is the mechanism for this, I wonder? Is it simply that money is the root of all evil or is there more to it than that? Your fine article really asks the question: Where is mankind headed? — a mankind that is overtuned to using Earth’s resources in the most direct, expedient, fast, and frankly, careless way possible.

    • Franca Colozzo

      Thanks for your comment Stephen Sanders. As I explained to Vineet and mentioned in the past to Dario, in my mind the article was already in embryo, noting the destruction of the soil in Italy and in the world, with particular reference to the Amazon green lung. Soil consumption is perhaps the basis of all ills, like Pandora’s box in Greek mythology. The senseless use of the soil can trigger a real natural catastrophe. I mentioned Easter Island for this purpose, an emblematic example of the end of that civilization.
      The god of money, cleverly used by a group of potent and exploitative men, unfortunately deceives even the man in the street. The 1% of humanity holds an incalculable wealth, equal to that of all the remaining world population. About 10% of the Earth’s population (including us) is relatively wealthy; the rest suffers alms without having the strength or the means to rebel.
      Hence wars then arose to grab the resources available, often fomented by the warlords who profit from the desperation and death of other men.
      What to do to get out of this vicious circle? Unite the poor and the marginalized in a human chain of solidarity, giving them sufficient education and food. Only union is strength. The power of the few is finance, the real demon, to be destroyed with a slow action of long-term economy against throwaway consumerism that they have given us since the last World War.

  • Stephen Saunders

    I agree Franca, and would add that along with the relatively wealthy (including us) are the affluent, almost synonymous with wealthy, who at first may wish to help the man in the street but become accustomed to a softer, easier way of life and are eventually numbed to everything except a commercial viewpoint on life.

    • Franca Colozzo

      I agree with you Stephen. Unfortunately, man is among the animals the only insatiable so that the more he accumulates the more he wants. This is basically the human drama.

  • Dario Ruggiero

    Stephen, you got the point. People want an easy life. So they stay to the rule of the system. The fact is that now still a lot of basic needs depends on Money and also power and influence. But this kind of system is revailing to be a failure

    • Franca Colozzo

      Thanks Dario for your intervention and for focusing on the insatiability of the human being, the one that is bringing the planet to the final collapse. If the system does not change rapidly, the human race will be destined to disappear and with it many animal and plant species, helpless spectators of human madness.

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