What is environmental justice?
Arguably, we can apply the case of Naples’ ongoing waste crisis to a critical idea in UPE; environmental (in)justice. So, what exactly is environmental (in)justice? The concept emerged out of the USA in the early 80s, and it suggested how environmental externalities are disproportionately experienced by the poor and often those of colour (Schlosberg 2007; Miller and Tyler 2003). As a result of disproportionate environmental implications, residents commonly protest and speak against the injustice (Bullard 1992). However, in the case of Naples’, externalities are not explicitly thought of as an issue associated with income or race. But by taking a more in-depth look into the plight of Naples and its micro-geographies, we can understand how the waste crisis and its externalities that I have explored in the past posts, are interlinked with discrimination (Armiero and D’Alisa 2012). This blog entry aims to explore Naples’ waste crisis through a different approach. Rather than looking at the causes and implications of the waste pile-up, I aim to explore the indirect motivations and causes of the crisis through an environmental (in)justice lens.
Why has Naples suffered and not anyone else?
There is a reason why Naples out of all cities has been disproportionately impacted. We can boil the reasons down to poverty, vulnerability and a lack of governance. The Campania region is the third poorest region in Italy by GDP per capita succeeding two other southern regions (Mignone 2008). It is also one of the least economically productive (Armiero and D’Alisa 2012). As a result of this poverty and lack of opportunity, the impoverished south has been considered a ‘wasteland’ (Iacuelli 2007: 13), or “a dumping ground for the rich” as suggested by Saviano (2007: 287). Saviano’s (2007) quote encapsulates a critical problem for Naples, and that is the striking inequality between Italy’s north and south (Rungi and Biancalani 2019). Arguably, those who call Naples a ‘wasteland’ are not entirely wrong. As a region focused on agriculture, Campania has plenty of empty land covered by forests. Consequently, Naples has seen an influx of waste from the industrially focused north of Italy, with this waste being dumped in the empty forests of the impoverished north of Naples (Antonopoulos 2016; Iovino 2009).
However, Campania is not the poorest nor least productive region in Italy, so why has the waste gone to Naples and not Sicily or Calabria, which are far more impoverished? We again have to look at the individuals who have caused this problem; the Camorra. Being primarily based in Naples, the Camorra control the city and know it better than anyone else. As a result, they have been able to place authority on households and businesses in Naples, through fear and a promise to protect the everyday Neapolitan (Saviano 2007; Durante 2008). However, most of the Camorra’s power and control has been over poor, vulnerable and often migrants who are new to the city (Roberti 2008). These groups are subsequently at the mercy of the group, and subsequently, the Camorra have exploited this relationship with little consequence. The Camorra have disposed of waste virtually anywhere owning to the monopoly they hold over much of Naples (Ibid 2008, Saviano 2007). The Camorra also have a monopoly over the municipal government, which has meant this waste crisis has gone mostly unnoticed (Armiero and D’Alisa 2012). Had this waste crisis been in a city in Italy’s north with more robust political and social governance, the situation would have likely been controlled much earlier.
Naples is rather unlucky. However, there are reasons why Naples has suffered disproportionately in comparison to other regions in Italy. The cities immense poverty and migrant population has been a breeding ground for the Camorra to impose power and authority. This blog entry, explored through the lens of environmental (in)justice, how Naples’ social characteristics have been exploited by the Camorra, which is why Naples’ waste crisis has been so severe.
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