Daniele Moggia, an activist from Vernazza who was there during the floods of October 2012 and who has been a driving force in rebuilding the town and educating people about the fragility of the local environment, has just written a post about the most recent cry, after the small rock slide on the Via dell’Amore, for people in the Cinque Terre to start rebuliding the old stone walls and cultivate the land.
In a nutshell, his argument is that while yes, the dry stone walls are absolutely necessary and critical for this area, it is a bit disingenuous of all the politicians and governmental agencies to call for this kind of populist intervention when they have no idea how hard it is to build and maintain these walls, particularly considering that it is a losing venture, financially speaking.
He’s totally right. After the floods last year, when I first went to check out my olive groves, I was met by the disheartening vision of collapsed and washed-out stone walls, walls that had probably been there for fifty years or more. Even when we remove the factor of my not having any know-how in building these walls (it’s trickier, on a physics level, than you might think), one afternoon of humping the large stones back up the hill to fill in the holes left behind was enough to teach me a lot about the physical demands of building these walls. After less than two hours, I was perhaps as physically exhausted as I have ever been. Rebuilding all of the walls of the Cinque Terre would be Herculean.
I believe in this land, in this territory, in this environment. In my own small and still rather inexperienced way, I farm it. And in response to Daniele’s question, “Who’s up to the challenge?”, I feel ready to say, “I am.” But like Daniele, I know it’s a challenge that will be hard to overcome on a large scale.
For the truth of te matter is that the dry stone walls of the Cinque Terre National Park are an idea that is out-of-synch with contemporary times. Small scale farming, massive physical exertion, working for the collective good, and most importantly, earning practically nothing for your labors are not the sorts of things that get masses of people up and moving.
But if the alternative is that the Cinque Terre slowly slide into the sea …?