Interview. We spoke with Irene, a 41-year-old activist of Ultima Generazione, which recently shut down a highway between Rome and Florence. ‘I’m not interested in whether or not the CO2 emissions support this economic model or not, I’m interested in finding an alternative because they’re destroying the planet.’

Ultima Generazione activist: ‘Italy is heading toward desertification’

On Tuesday morning, activists from Ultima Generazione once again organized a protest on the A1 highway between Rome and Florence, blocking traffic near Fiano Romano.

“Extreme phenomena are happening and people are dying from heat while on the job, but President Meloni is lining up behind the climate denialist parties in Europe,” they denounced in a statement.

Their protest, which called for a stop to fossil fuel subsidies, lasted for about 20 minutes and was met with anger from motorists. The police took the protesters away in handcuffs and detained them.

On Tuesday afternoon, in Milan, where traffic was disrupted on a number of streets because of Monday’s storm, other activists also organized protests, again drawing the ire of motorists. We spoke with Irene, who prefers not to give out her last name: she is 41 years old, with a degree in agribusiness, an entrepreneur and an activist with the environmental NGO.

Heat, hail, cloudbursts, fires, landslides – all at once. Is the climate proving you right?

It’s not that the climate is proving us right, it’s that we’ve paid attention to the climate. We’ve paid attention to the scientists who have given clear proof that something isn’t right.

At the same time, people continue to get angry at your roadblocks. It happened again on Tuesday on the A1.

This happens because it’s very difficult to consider the idea that we should change this system, the way we produce, the way we live. It happens because people’s need to earn their daily bread is very powerful. And on that, of course, we’re in agreement with them. But we have to realize that we’re all in the same situation: yesterday it was Emilia-Romagna, today Sicily and Milan. What will come tomorrow? Italy is heading towards desertification. We need to act now.

In Milan as well, where cars couldn’t drive because of trees felled by bad weather, motorists weren’t angry at climate change deniers but at you, the activists who were protesting. Why?

We were made to believe that this economic and political system would take care of our welfare, protect us, and do the best for society. But it’s not doing that, and this is a hard thing to come to terms with. Those who have more power have more responsibility, but we are all involved in it.

These days, there are those who argue that environmentalism has become a kind of mainstream thinking that one should be skeptical about.

If in spite of all the evidence, they still want to think that CO2 has nothing to do with what is happening, it will be hard for them to change their minds. But sounding the alarm isn’t the point, the point is to find solutions for the concrete problems we’re facing: water scarcity, highly polluting intensive livestock farms, soil degradation. Addressing these is more important than determining whose fault it is. One of the most effective remedies would be to quickly stop emitting CO2.

Meloni, speaking to Vox voters before the Spanish elections, said the environment should be protected but at the same time one must counter the “ultra-environmental fanaticism that is leading the left to attack our economic and production model.”

Instead of talking about systems at the highest level, capitalism or Marxism, we need to take a pragmatic approach and adopt solutions. I’m not interested in whether or not the CO2 emissions support this economic model or not, I’m interested in finding an alternative because they’re destroying the planet. If there are going to be fewer jobs, we’ll have to find a way to move them somewhere else. If I have cancer, I have to stop smoking. Then we can talk about how to support tobacco workers.

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