Piana Eco Festival: the peaceful coexistence of ecology and culture

Maurizio Pallante

“Degrowth is the true antidote for crisis”: is the confident assertion made by Maurizio Pallante, a scholar who, over the past few years, has been advocating with his affirmations and theorizations the necessity to reduce waste and consumption of resources, as well as one of the guests during the first day of the Piana Eco Festival. The Festival, which opened on July 20 at the “Gentile” City Theatre in Cittanova, is an important event scheduled to continue until January 2016. Over the first days, the essayist Pallante delivered a lecture on the economic condition and the benefits that would result from the adoption of certain methods of “Happy Degrowth”, a movement of which he himself was the founder.

In terms of organization, the Piana Eco Festival represents a remarkable effort, given the number of events for the promotion of ideas and opinions related to the topical themes contained in its manifesto: ecology, nature, culture and well-being. While explaining how the first edition of the Festival will work, its artistic director Nino Cannatà gave us a glimpse into a number of cultural moments which seem bound to exert a beneficial influence on the general perception of the importance of environmental sustainability. A film festival is scheduled to take place between July and December, whereas three workshops (“Arundo Donax”, reed sounds and urban regeneration) are going to be held in September; from September 11 to 13, an eco-village will be hosted by the Villa Comunale of Cittanova, with information points, exhibition stalls, meetings, public debates and workshops .The above-quoted Arundo Donax will be a protagonist during the months of the Festival. What is the Arundo Donax? It is the common reed, which can be found in abundance along the paths of most southern towns of the countryside. During the workshop, all the different uses of this shrub are going to be illustrated: not only its rural applications, but also its energizing properties and its employment in design. The Arundo Donax can also be used in music, as the multi-instrumentalist Mimmo Morello has proved by playing some instruments, such as bagpipes and flute, realized with reed parts.

In his interesting lecture, professor Pallante described quite clearly what the word degrowth, which is too often interpreted negatively, really means. The perspective he adopted is characterized by a qualitative, rather than quantitative, connotation; the scholar also provided a few concrete examples: an increase in the number of cancer patients would have to be regarded as a negative parameter, whereas its decrease – or in other words, degrowth – would be a positive one. From a merely economic perspective, Pallante also quoted what might be called “prepared obsolescence”. Namely, the possibility for a damaged object to be repaired rather than replaced with a new one. After mentioning a few concepts dear to Robert Kennedy, professor Pallante, who had previously deduced that all those things which give a meaning to life are not conducive to a GDP growth, concluded by analyzing the issue of a “happy degrowth” in relation to our present context, and particularly to Italian politics. In his opinion, the ruling class has no sense of awareness, and he suggests to start enacting his proposals within small social groups.

The Piana Eco Festival has managed to engross many different groups of people and hundreds of residents, like the ones who participated in the opening  conference. As an added value, a distinguished international guest, Serge Latouche, is going to close this interesting series of initiatives with a lecture on the “bet” of degrowth.