Veneto Council Flooded Two Minutes After Rejecting Climate Action, Councilor Says
The historic "acqua alta" that swamped Venice Tuesday night also flooded the Veneto regional council for the first time, just moments after it had apparently rejected measures to address the climate crisis.
The council chamber, which is located on Venice's Grand Canal in the Ferro Fini Palace, began to flood around 10 p.m. Tuesday, CNN reported. At the time, the councilors were discussing the 2020 budget for the northeastern Italian region of Veneto, of which Venice is the capital.
"Ironically, the chamber was flooded two minutes after the majority League, Brothers of Italy, and Forza Italia parties rejected our amendments to tackle climate change," Democratic Party councilor and environment committee deputy chairman Andrea Zanoni wrote in a Facebook post reported by CNN.
The League and Brothers of Italy are far-right parties, and Forza Italia is a center-right party, HuffPost explained.
The rejected amendments included plans to fund renewable energy, replace diesel buses with cleaner and more efficient vehicles, replace high-polluting stoves and tackle plastic pollution, Zanoni said.
Zanoni further said that Veneto regional president and League member Luca Zaia presented a budget "with no concrete actions to combat climate change," CNN reported.
Zanoni joined Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro in blaming climate change for Venice's massive flooding Tuesday, according to HuffPost, though he acknowledged it was one of many factors responsible. The city saw its highest tide in more than 50 years when water levels peaked at more than six feet.
There are no words to express all this #VeniceFloods #ClimateEmergency https://t.co/Kufh6NhPqm— Giovanni Antonelli (@Giovanni Antonelli)1573763552.0
"If the voters of Veneto continue to close their eyes, Zaia's League will bring us all underwater," Zanoni said, according to HuffPost.
Regional council spokesman Alessandro Ovizach confirmed to CNN that the flooding occurred during the 2020 budget discussion, but did not specify which budget items were being addressed at the time.
But council president and League member Roberto Ciambetti disputed Zanoni's depiction of the council's actions on climate.
"Beyond propaganda and deceptive reading, we are voting (for) a regional budget that spent €965 million over the past three years in the fight against air pollution, smog, which is a determining factor in climate change," he said in a statement to CNN. "To say that we do nothing is a lie."
Ciambetti did acknowledge the flooding, and posted videos of it on his Facebook page.
"Never had such a situation occurred here (at the Council)," he told local paper Giornale di Vicenza, according to CNN.
The Italian government declared a state of emergency Thursday to help Venice recover, NPR reported.
The flooding has also continued after Tuesday, though at lower levels. On Thursday, the high water mark came to three feet, eight inches, and rain is expected to bring more flooding to the city.
"It hurts to see the city so damaged, its artistic heritage compromised, its commercial activities on its knees," Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said, according to NPR.
Flooding damaged almost a third of the city's raised walkways, destroyed hundreds of books in the Acqua Alta Library and filled the crypt of St. Mark's Basilica, causing major damage. The Teatro La Fenice opera house was also damaged, The Guardian reported.
#AquaAltaVenezia Ecco la situazione marciana dopo l'eccezionale marea del 12 novembre scorso. Venticinque cm d'acqu… https://t.co/AVvQJzBDoQ— Biblioteca Marciana (@Biblioteca Marciana)1573719222.0
"An apocalypse happened," Antonella Rossi, who owns a handmade jewelry store on St. Mark's Square, told The Guardian. "We haven't seen anything like this in 55 years. The water has destroyed everything, and I will have to redo so much – work that took a lifetime was wrecked in seconds."
BBC News meteorologist Nikki Berry explained how the climate crisis contributed to the historic flooding. While it is difficult to attribute any one extreme weather event to climate change, five of Venice's 10 highest tides took place in the last 20 years. Since Venice is sinking, it is especially susceptible to sea level rise.
The storm surge that contributed to the flooding also shows the fingerprints of climate change, Berry explained:
The weather patterns that have caused the Adriatic storm surge have been driven by a strong meridional (waving) jet stream across the northern hemisphere and this has fed a conveyor belt of low pressure systems into the central Mediterranean.
One of the possible effects of a changing climate is that the jet stream will be more frequently meridional and blocked weather patterns such as these will also become more frequent. If this happens, there is a greater likelihood that these events will combine with astronomical spring tides and hence increase the chance of flooding in Venice.
Conte said the government would work to "accelerate" construction on the long-delayed Mose project, designed to protect Venice from flooding using a series of barriers, according to BBC News.
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It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.
Keeping Schools Safe<p>What will safer schools look like?</p><p>In a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2766822" target="_blank">JAMA article</a> published last month, <a href="https://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/1781/joshua-m-sharfstein" target="_blank">Dr. Joshua Sharfstein</a>, a pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, outlined suggestions — many of which are similar to AAP's.</p><p>Remote learning protocols must stay in place, especially as some schools stagger home and in-building learning. If another shutdown needs to occur, children will rely on distance learning completely, so it must be easy to switch to, he said.</p><p>He suggested giving parents a daily checklist to document their child's health. Kids should be screened quickly on arrival and be given hygiene supplies. Maintenance staff should use appropriate PPE and have regular cleaning schedules. A notification system should be in place if a case is identified, Sharfstein recommended.</p><p><a href="https://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/faculty/erika-martin" target="_blank">Erika Martin</a>, PhD, an associate professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany, said nutrition assistance and health services should be included. She called for tutoring programs with virtual options as well as technology access.</p>
Supporting Staff<p>Teachers and staff will be affected by safeguarding measures, noted <a href="https://directory.sph.umn.edu/bio/sph-a-z/rachel-widome" target="_blank">Rachel Widome</a>, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at University of Minnesota.</p><p>"In order for all of the in-school precautions to work well, we'll be asking a lot of teachers and staff," Widome told Healthline. In addition to their usual workload, they'll now be asked to monitor mask-wearing, ensure children are keeping distance, and be aware of any symptoms.</p><p>Along with Sharfstein, Widome called for an increase in financial support. More employees will likely be required so teachers and staff members can keep up with the added demands.</p>
Should Kids Go Back?<p>While these guidelines may help get some schools to reopen, many people don't think children should go back to school over fears they could contract the disease and spread it to other vulnerable family members like grandparents, infant siblings, or their parents.</p><p>In a <a href="https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2020/07/08/peds.2020-004879" target="_blank">Pediatrics</a> commentary, <a href="https://www.md.com/doctor/william-raszka-md" target="_blank">Dr. William V. Raszka, Jr.</a>, an infectious disease specialist at The University of Vermont Medical Center, argued that schools should open because school-aged children are far less important drivers of COVID-19 than adults.</p><p>But he says the risk and benefit is not equal among all students ages 5 to 18.</p><p>"Elementary schools are arguably higher priority for face-to-face schooling, since younger children are at lower risk for infection and transmission, and since parental supervision of younger children's distance learning may be particularly challenging," added Sorensen, who penned a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2767411" target="_blank">June article in JAMA</a> with reopening tips. "That means middle and high schools are more likely to emphasize distance learning."</p><p>Specific student populations, such as special education students and students with disabilities, would also benefit greatly from more time spent in face-to-face environments, Sorensen said.</p>
What Parents Can Do<p>Parents should ask for and receive frequent updates from schools about plans for the fall. They should also be informed about plans if and when COVID infections are identified, Sharfstein said.</p><p>"I'd like to see parents investing now, during the summer, in doing things that can slow and stop the spread of the virus in their communities," Widome said.</p><p>"Now is a good time for kids to practice wearing masks and get used to them as they may be wearing them for longer stretches if school starts up in person," Widome suggested.</p><p>She recommends parents try different mask designs and materials to see what children are more comfortable wearing.</p><p>"If you are using cloth face coverings, it's good to have extras on hand," Widome added.</p><p>Parents should model healthy behavior at home and while out in public — another thing that could affect how well children adapt to reopening practices, Sorensen said.</p><p>"Children may want to know more about face coverings," added <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/leescott/" target="_blank">Lee Scott</a>, chairwoman of the Educational Advisory Board at <a href="https://www.goddardschool.com/" target="_blank">The Goddard School</a>. "Dramatic play, such as creating or wearing a face covering, may help some children adjust to this concept." Schools can also show children photos of what faculty members look like in their masks so the students are familiar with that appearance.</p><p>Johns Hopkins University recently released its eSchool+ Initiative, a slew of resources surrounding education during the pandemic. These include a <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-checklist/" target="_blank">checklist for administrators</a>, report on <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/ethics-of-reopening/" target="_blank">ethical considerations</a>, and a tracker of <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-policy-tracker/" target="_blank">state and local reopening plans</a>.</p>
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