Enrico Fontana* started narrating the world of “Rifiutopoli” (waste country) in 1984 after he discovered that waste “would be discarded even in the most beautiful of places, where you would expect to see only butterflies, not waste”.
“Rifiutopoli” became the story of an underground world, where waste is corrupting nature at its core. This story is the work of Enrico Fontana together with visual artist Vito Baroncini. They dedicated their work to all the victims of Ecomafia crimes like Ilaria Alpi, Milan Hrovatin, Natale De Grazia, Michele Liguori, Roberto Mancini.
We asked the author how the word Ecomafia was born:
“The word Ecomafia was born after the longstanding work of an Italian magistrate, Nicola Maria Pace, operating in the public prosecutor’s office of Matera, (in the Southern Italian Region of Basilicata) who dedicated most of his career to fight illegal trafficking of waste and environmental pollution. I met him when he was conducting important investigations on illegal discard of radioactive waste. I was then an activist with the environmental charity Legambiente. In partnership with the corps of Italian Carabinieri, and the Eurispes centre, Legambiente had established a national watchdog on the links betweens criminality and the pollution of the environment. It soon became evident how big and pervasive they were. To navigate this world I would also use my experience as young reporter during my investigations for newspapers like Paese Sera and l’Espresso.”
What are the main challenges today to make people aware of these criminal activities, the illicit disposal of waste and the resulting environmental pollution? How you can go past the judicial aspect of the matter and engage people on how to fight back against this situation?
Judicial reporting of these facts has been a crucial starting point also to unveil how serious a crime it was. When the world Ecomafia entered officially in the Italian dictionary in 1999 it was a stepping stone to explain people the situation. Ecomafia is a real thing. You can act on this reality with laws and also with culture. People should be aware of the health and social costs of polluting the environment. In 2001 a low against illicit trafficking of waste was enforced. Ultimately, in 2015, crimes against the environment were considered a criminal offence and sentenced accordingly. It took us 21 years to get there. The challenge of today is to look at waste as an economic resource and put back into the economic what we previously considered only waste.
What is the story of Rifiutopoli?
Together with the artistic performance of Vito Baroncini we want to tell in the most simple and direct way about an underground world, which is made of people that took our everyday waste, that we discard maybe without paying to much attention. However these people use our waste for they criminal activities polluting our world, jeopardising our health. We also tell the true stories of people fighting against this system and paying with their lives. Rifiutopoli has the ambition to rescue people from the nightmare of a waste country towards the dream of a zero waste world.
*Enrico Fontana is member of the board of Legambiente and chief editor of the magazine La nuova Ecologia.