The Project :
It is July 31st, at one o’clock at night the hail arrived. In a whirlwind of lightning bolts, so close together as to create long moments of constant light, hail balls as large as grapes, in some cases the size of tennis balls, fell from the sky. An unusual fury in two successive waves, never seen by the people of the village… and then the air charged with electricity, dense with ozone and scents so pungent that it feels itchy in the nostrils. The next morning we realize that the damage done to the cultivations and to the greenhouses is huge and breathtaking, it twill take us years to recover.
That storm was just the latest in a long series
The Ture Nirvane cooperative of the Torri Ecovillage has developed ecological and social tourism over 20 years, a tourist facility but also a living laboratory for experimentation and analysis of the time and society in which we live. For years we have analysed the systemic crises that could be seen on the horizon. Then the Covid emergency came, the first of the crises, the unexpected one, and with it the perception that everything was becoming unstable and uncertain.
With Covid, working has become difficult, with many months of closure and layoffs, and at the end of 2020 the income from the eco-guesthouse and the restaurant was 40% of 2019. In these long, quiet months, the Ecovillage members and the its volunteers have created a relationship with the SPES, a local social cooperative that assists the differently abled, the refugees and other needy people. We started offering voluntary help, then exchange of goods with the intention of building a strong and continuous path in social agriculture to complement our main income source, eco-tourism.
Meanwhile, on October 2nd the storm Alex, of exceptional size, made the Colle di Tenda state road that connects Ventimiglia to Cuneo (the gateway between Piedmont and Liguria, one of the direct routes from Turin to the sea) totally and thoroughly unusable. The SS20 road collapsed in more than 25 places, and at the height of the tunnel the morphology of the mountain has changed: essentially the entire slope, on which the last stretch of road ran, is no longer there. Now the authorities are starting to talk about reopening in 2023. Once again a storm of water and wind that no one had ever seen in these areas.
It is difficult to explain to a non-Ligurian that we are not located in an entirely inhabited area and freely available for transit: we have strips of land on which the roads wind, and houses have been built around them. The sea is in front of us, and we had only one road upstream, the SS20 towards Piedmont, which is no longer viable today. To the east, we have the National Road “Aurelia”, usually blocked by traffic not suitable for long journeys; and a single highway, the A10, that since the fall of the Morandi Bridge in Genoa (in 2018) has neverending construction sites and very long queues all along. We have France to the west, and the borders are not always free to cross in a period of sanitary emergency. And then there are the refugees, more or less numerous depending on the year, who no longer have a reception centre to stay in, helped only by civil volunteers. Migrants who camp out in the station, under the bridges, on the banks of the Roya River and on the beaches; every car and every train to France can be, and often is, controlled and this delays every movement to France for us white Europeans. Migrants who raise questions, doubts and dismay about the inadequacy of the response adopted place by our country and by Europe itself: today a phenomenon of a few hundreds of thousands of people, which in the future could potentially become millions and millions, a migration of peoples, as sometimes happens in history.
Covid, migrants, infrastructures in crisis … dialogue and exchange with distant territories has become difficult, but on July 31st the very territory that hosts us has been wounded. Everything is fragile these days: the valley, the roads, your vegetable garden, your health, your work, your humanity.
We live on a borderland, it was once the border of the Roman Empire, today is the border with France. People who live on the border can perceive the evolution of events before others, at other times it seems that events themselves happen with a higher energy, all mixed together, all superimposed in the same instant.
A border is not just a place where you live and communicate with the outside world, it is also a place that must be nurtured, defended, supported.
For many years we have felt like a sort of garrison, “our ecovillage, our cooperative”, just as the neighbours and friends of SPES are a garrison on a geographical, cultural and historical border. A garrison that does not want to give up but that sometimes needs external support. Because a garrison on an external border must be nurtured, defended, supported.
A FEW DETAILS ON THE DAMAGE:
The greenhouses cultivated by the 2 cooperatives (Torri and SPES) are 5 in total, and cover an area of approximately 5.000 square meters; they supply local, fresh and organic vegetables to the Ecovillage restaurant, to the two SPES canteens and to a WhatsApp group of 200 local participants.
The dangerous work of breaking down the unsafe windows was done in an emergency by the owner with a team of specialist. We are now removing the glass from the soil and doing what we can to harvest whatever was left, but most of the produce was destroyed. In the autumn, the removal of all remaining glass and the final cleaning of the grounds must be completed.
An estimate of the final costs ranges in € 100.000 in total, so we are just starting now, and the help you will send us through the crowd-funding will be put to use immediately.