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Famous People Are Trying to Save
Umbria from a Geothermal Plant

In Castel Giorgio, in the centre of Umbria, the heartland of Italy, a geothermal company wants to build a plant. Fausto Carotenuto, the owner of a spiritual wellness and yoga centre in Umbria, is trying to stop the building of the plant. He thinks that there would be artificially triggered earthquakes, barren gardens and ruined lakes. The wonderful and peaceful land of Umbria would be destroyed.

Mr. Carotenuto has battled for nearly a decade with the help of Castel Giorgio's Mayor to stop the geothermal plant. But in July the office of Italy's prime minister decided the experimental project could go ahead and dig deep into the volcanic land of Umbria.

Mr. Carotenuto responded with an army of illustrious allies. They include the lead designer of Gucci, a Cannes Grand Prix-winning director and luminaries of festivals and filmmaking who have adopted Umbria as their new home. Far from the crowds of Rome and Milan, this area has become the essence of a certain Italian ideal, and so they don't want a geothermal plant spoiling it. Mr. Carotenuto brought together these "knights" in his house. He had on his side Alice Rohrwacher, the Cannes Gran Prix-winning director who grew up on a honey farm in the area, along with her sister Alba, recognized as one of the finest European actors of her generation. Alice had previously waged a battle against the invasion of hazelnut trees, planted by the Italian industry that produces Nutella.

Alongside Alice and Alba there was Jonathan Nossiter, a film director famous for his documentaries about ecology and about the big wine industry. To help activate the locals, Mr. Carotenuto also tapped Mr. Nossiter's partner, Massimiliano Petrini, a local who once treated a viper's bite with electric shocks.

And then there was Alessandro Michele, the lead designer of Gucci and owner of a nearby castle. He agreed to contribute financially for an expensive environmental lawyer to sue and stop the plant's construction. Mr. Michele said that they all need to fight against this "monster, a medieval dragon". He also wanted to clear that their activism was no radical chic hobby. "We have a great sensitivity to the things that cry for help", Mr. Michele said. "This place cries for help". Mr. Michele also said that this battle has a connection with his job. "My job is to preserve beauty. And hasn't beauty a value?".

The opponents of the plant also say that the approval process was arranged dishonestly. Franco Barbieri, a volcanologist and former government minister who Is a member of a state commission that approved the project, is married to a woman who is also a volcanologist and was one of the experts who helped determine that the area was seismically safe for digging. Mr. Barbieri said that he recused himself from the decision, that the process was legitimate, and that his wife did only preliminary examinations.

The company building the plant says it uses an environmental friendly system with zero carbon emissions to produce electricity. It would help, not harm, the environment.

Diego Righini, the company's general manager, said that the wel-off want everything to remain the way it is so they can remain the ones who are well off. He argued that more than 10 million euros will be invested to build the plant to draw workers, to create families and nursery schools. He added that construction would begin in February, despite the lawsuit.

Mr. Michele is worried about Italy's situation. "Italy is going through a dark moment, worse than the collapse of the Roman Empire".

"I ask myself", he said, "In 2020 do we really need to still destroy everything?".

Bianca Damato

[17.2.2020 - 11:46]

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