Smog Blog Posted by Serena on Jan 29, 2010 in Italian Language
The word ‘smog’, as you can probably tell, is not an Italian creation, but we have certainly become experts at producing it!
‘Smog’ is an amalgam of two English words: smoke, and fog, and was originally coined to describe the appalling, asphyxiating conditions in London when the smoke from thousands of coal fires, and factory chimneys combined with thick fog. These days coal smoke has been replaced by vehicle exhaust fumes, yet due to strict ecological measures the insidious smog that choked the population not so long ago has been banished from London.
Here in Italy, unfortunately, smog continues to be a serious problem in many big cities: ‘le città più inquinate del duemilanove sono state Napoli e Torino, con centocinquantasei e centocinquantuno giorni di superamento delle soglie’ (The most polluted cities in 2009 were Napoli and Torino, with 156 and 151 days above the safety levels). However, at present it is the huge urban sprawl of Milano in the north which is suffering badly. ‘Dall’undici gennaio, nuvole, nebbia, e temperature vicino allo zero non hanno mai permesso alle polveri sottili di scendere sotto la soglia di sicurezza’ (Since the 11th of January, cloud, fog and temperatures close to zero have never allowed the quantity of fine dust particles in the air to go below the safety level).
So why is it that in 2010, with all our talk about ‘eco awareness’ and concerns about the impact of inquinamento (pollution) on our health and the future of planet Earth, we can’t sort out our smog problems? In a word (and not one that I like to use often) la politica! (politics!).
Until recently there were quite stringent laws in place that would block traffic from entering the most polluted areas of Milan during adverse weather conditions. Then the laws were changed. Milan decided to set itself up as a model of good conduct by following the example of London with systems like the ‘Ecopass’, or by preventing the oldest, most polluting vehicles from entering areas at risk. At the beginning it seemed that tutto andasse liscio (everything was going smoothly). In 2008 the pollution control sensors registered only settantotto giorni di smog sopra le soglie (78 days of smog above the safety levels), an absolute record! However, last year the benefits slowly evaporated and the levels returned to centosei giorni ‘rossi’ 106 ‘red’ days, in other words: days above the safety levels.
So what went wrong? Well, the new measures, which initially looked so promising, needed revising, augmenting and enforcing ever more stringently. For example, the heavily polluting ‘diesel Euro 4’ vehicles should, theoretically, pay a pedaggio (toll) of 5 euros to enter the city, but the introduction of this simple measure has been ‘postponed’ seven times so far, ‘e non se ne riparlerà prima delle elezioni regionali di fine marzo’ (and it won’t be discussed again until after the regional election at the end of March). The politicians, having ‘kindly’ listened to the concerns of the commercianti (traders) regarding possible loss of revenue, seemed to have concluded: ‘non possiamo perdere voti per colpa dell’Ecopass’ (we can’t loose votes because of the Ecopass).
And what about the concerns of the ordinary citizens of Milano? Here are just a couple of quotes from Milanesi (people from Milan) extracted from comments on an article about lo smog in the online version of the newspaper Il Corriere della Sera:
“Io abito a Milano, dove l’aria fa sempre più schifo, e mi aspetto che i nostri amministratori facciano qualcosa per migliorare le cose”. (“I live in Milan, where the air is increasingly disgusting, and I expect our administrators to do something to improve the situation”.
“Io non voglio vedere morire mia mamma di bronchite cronica, come sta succedendo, per gli interessi di commercianti, proprietari di fuoristrada, costruttori amici del potere o amministratori incapaci di vedere al di là di un tornaconto elettorale”. (“I don’t want to see my mother die of bronchitis, as is happening, due to the interests of traders, off road vehicle owners, constructors with powerful friends or administrators incapable of seeing beyond electoral results”).
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