‘La Terra dei Fuochi’

Why Naples, Italy?
What comes to mind when you think of Naples, Italy? For most people, it would probably be its food, or maybe its iconic football team. However, for those who have visited the city, something else might come to mind, and that is filth. I chose to focus on Naples as when I visited the city last summer; its visible waste issue struck me. The photo I took below shows the outside of my Airbnb, reflecting a familiar scene throughout Naples. I was initially unaware of Naples’ waste crisis, so while sitting on my hotel balcony, I researched why Naples was so grimy. To my surprise, this visible issue of illegal fly-tipping was not new. Naples declared a ‘state of emergency’ in the 1980s due to uncontrollable waste levels flooding Campania’s capital (Senior and Mazza 2004). Recognising that the issue emerged before 1994, I asked myself how the situation got so bad. Surely after more than 25 years, the situation should have been solved. Right?

A pile of waste located outside my Airbnb [Photo taken by myself, September 2019]

Who are the ‘Camorra and what have they done?
I have always known that Southern Italy was synonymous for its mafia, especially in Sicily. However, I was unaware that Italy’s third most populated city was controlled extensively by a mafia group known as the Camorra. Roberto Saviano; an expert on organised crime in Italy and a Naples native, regarded the Camorra as both “entrepreneurs and criminals” (Saviano 2008: 287). Saviano (2007) described the Camorra as “entrepreneurs” as they have made an elusive business by disposing and often burning illegal waste in the Neapolitan countryside. This illegal incineration of waste has earned Naples the name ‘la terra dei fuochi’, translating to ‘the land of fire’. As of 2008, then-President Silvio Berlusconi declared that the waste crisis had ended thanks to a collection of measures imposed by the central government. Though, I would beg to differ from Berlusconi’s claims, as from my week-long visit to Naples, I saw how Naples is overflowing in all kinds of waste. The crisis might not be as severe as it was in the late 2000s, but its ongoing externalities are everlasting and irreversible. 

A video highlighting the extent of Naples’ waste crisis (video courtesy of Yelloww.net)

The aims of this blog series:
The following blog posts aim to investigate how Naples’ situation is deeply political, and how a group controlled by a few select individuals has caused so much devastation to Italy’s third most populous city. Even though the crisis may be technically over according to Berlusconi, I will explore how waste is still a significant issue for Naples, and how it has left a lasting effect on Naples and its population. What makes this blog special is its urban political ecology (UPE) lens. UPE brings a unique approach to understanding cities by focusing on ‘metabolism’ which constitutes the different flows of ‘stuff’ through a city (Swyngedouw 2006). Henceforth, by applying a UPE lens, I will explore the implications caused by years of disregard of waste in Naples. So, relax, grab a Peroni and join me as we explore the complexities of Naples’ environment and urban flows!

References: (3)

Saviano, R. (2007) Gomorrah. Italy’s other mafia. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Senior, K. and Mazza, A. (2004) ‘Italian “triangle of death” linked to waste crisis’. Reportage, 5, 525-527

Swyngedouw, E (2006) ‘Metabolic urbanisation, the making of cyborg cities’ in Heynen, N., Kaika, M. and Swyngedouw, E. (eds) In the nature of cities, urban political ecology and the politics of urban metabolism, Abingdon: Routledge 

2 thoughts on “‘La Terra dei Fuochi’

  1. Oh wow, this is really interesting! I went to Naples last year & when I was there, I genuinely thought the amount of waste was simply from tourism and/or a lack of care from citizens. It didn’t even cross my mind that there might be more to the waste crisis? I can’t believe that Camorra has a stake in this and might be using it to further their own power……interested to see where this goes!!

    Liked by 1 person

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