Recent history of Ecology between Law and Literature
29/05/2015 blog

In this and in future articles I intend to talk about actuality, law and literature. If it is true that literature and actuality entertain a constant dialogue, always, the same can not be said for law – which, of course, accompanies the current events, but you do not often see it attached to the literary world.

Sometimes I will talk about current issues following the parallel tracks of literature and law. Other times, I’ll let the two things come together in the same speech.

This time we talk about ecology.

Let’s start with a fairly recent fact.

On the evening of Tuesday, May 19, the Senate finally approved the bill on crimes against the environment. There are five new offenses included in the Italian Penal Code, down in Title VI bis entitled “Crimes against the environment”:

  • Environmental pollution,
  • environmental disaster,
  • obstruction of controls,
  • omitted clean,
  • Traffic and abandonment of radioactive material.

These cases are no longer considered violations, but crimes for which have been extended the statute of limitations and tightened up penalties that may go up to twenty years of imprisonment.

Small “Italian” achievements towards an ecological awareness

In January of 2014 it was finally closed an infringement procedure that the European Union had opened in 2007 against Italy, guilty of failing to comply with Community rules dictated by Directive 35 in 2004. Of that directive Italy had transposed only the definition of ‘environmental damage’ as’ any adverse change in habitat, water and earth. ”

Only in 2013 with the 97 Community law Italy has managed to comply with the directive, by introducing Article 298 BIS, with which it was made a differentiation for hazardous activities and by providing for strict liability for dangerous activities and a regime of culpable for all the others. The Italian course towards an eco-justice took shape over many decades, in small steps.

Going back to the origin, we find out that the text of the Constitution – in its original version of 1948, and prior to the 2001 reform – lacks of any reference to the environment.

In 1979, however, the Supreme Court has interpreted broadly the art. 32 of the Constitution, defining the right to health as well as the right to a healthy environment.

There is a strong political, literary and legal component that find in the Constitution the mother of all the rights, from which you can settle all issues, even those that are not spelled out – such as the right to a healthy environment.

My invitation today is to find the source of these and other rights, for which we are fighting today and for which we will fight tomorrow (I think about civil unions, the right to euthanasia, etc.) always in the Constitution itself. I share the words of a great intellectual, Edoardo Sanguineti, a men of literature and politics has always supported the need to reform the law returning to the principles of the Constitution.

Is there space for ecology in literature?

Yes, a lot. Writers have certainly contributed to the formation of an ecological awareness. Although there is not a part of literature that can be categorized as purely “ecological”. However, there is a branch of study called Ecocriticism (or “literary ecology”). The main question that this branch of study arises is: how Literature and Ecology communicate with each other?

The first ecological literature dates back to the romantic period, with Schiller, Byron and Rousseau. They are the first to compare the virginity of natural landscapes with those marked by modernity and to prefer, decidedly, the firsts.

American literature is particularly focused to this issue. Suffice it to mention Leaves of Grass by Walt Witman and Walden by Henry D. Thoreau, right up to contemporary Underworld by Don DeLillo – with the age-old question of the disposal of radioactive waste – and the post-apocalyptic The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

Fot the Italian literature is enough to mention Italo Calvino and the (invisible) city of Leonia grappling with a world of garbage and Pier Paolo Pasolini, careful student of the changing environment.

Slowness is useful to

An ecological politics has yet to be built into the culture of the people. It collides with our own lifestyle, face to wildly consume all available resources. The legal regulation of environmental crime and the slow whisper of literature certainly encourage a more careful ecological awareness. But never as in this case, it comes to done early.

The timing of the literature and law do not coincide with the environmental urgency: it is clear. However, the signals coming from the last law-making on this issue and the interest shown by the Italian literature in recent years (it should be noted L’energia del vuoto of Bruno Arpaia) help to better decipher the importance of the issue. And this counts for a lot.


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