"Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." Philip K. Dick
In 2011, while the media and politicians were still debating whether climate change was really happening, we started seeing ever greater numbers of climate disasters across the planet. I wasn't in Italy on 25th October 2011 when, in just four hours, 22 inches of rain fell on the city of Monterosso, a third of its typical annual rainfall.
I visited Monterosso in the first week of December that year. At that time the city had just been emptied of mud, leaving a skeleton of dirty walls in destroyed places. Everybody was working industriously in a spirit of solidarity, each of them taking care of the restoration of hotels, restaurants, shops, public schools and the hills behind city. Many citizens I interviewed were very lucid about the fault of dangerous urbanization in the region, the hydrological risks and the lack of care for the hills surrounding the city: “New generations don’t farm the land anymore, they don’t protect trails, don’t mend the countryside walls and they don’t clean the rivers.” Some people said that this was one of the most important times of their life, because as a result of the calamity the citizens overcame the usual envy and selfishness of modern life, and felt supported and connected to one another as never before.
Monterosso, a beautiful fishing village and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was almost wiped out by a flood. That day the rainstorm caused dozens of landslides, the underground rivulet from the surrounding mountains turned in a roaring river and rampaged through the town, swamping the village and bringing hundreds of tonnes of debris and mud in its wake. The damage in the area amounted to more than 700 million euros and the Italian government couldn’t afford to pay for the removal of the ruins and for the restoration of vital services such as sewers. Thousands of volunteers and public organizations went to Monterosso to help with the work.