Think Piece. The World without Deposit and without Precaution From Rachel Carson to the 4th WEEC: A journey of learning in a changing world
My environmental commitment started long ago. Those were the years of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, when the concern of more sensitive people focused (not necessarily in order of importance) on water pollution caused by detergents, on the carcinogenic effects of pesticides in agriculture and artificial colourings and preservatives in foods, on nuclear danger, on hunger in what was then called the Third World, where decolonisation was in progress. Television brought into homes black and white images of tanks in the streets or crowds in revolt; of great personalities sending out messages of peace and justice and feeding the hopes of democracy. Today the images of the first come in colour, but those of the second are in short supply. They were the years of great change in countries that are now part of the G7 or the OECD.1 Cement and asphalt were on the rise, supermarkets were opening and small shops closing, loose foods (sold by weight and wrapped up on the spot) were disappearing from the shelves and ready-made foods were taking their place. For one Italian writer (Pierpaolo Pasolini, murdered in 1975), those were the years of the ‘disappearance of the fireflies’ – that charming insect that no longer lights up the hot summer nights because of the pollution and the urban sprawl. To paraphrase Rachel Carson, we had entered the era of the ‘dark summer’. For me, a young boy at the time, it was also the era of the ‘no deposit/no return’ disposable bottles of beer or milk, etc. For the wealthy world this was the sign of achieved affluence. Millions of people were breathing a sigh of relief. After two world wars, after the difficult 1950s (which millions of immigrants had spent in mine shafts or on assembly lines), it was the sign of liberation from sacrifice and woes. Instead, it was the sign of the next collapse.
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