New York Review of Books regurgitates pessimism about the death of Venice, climate alarmism and prejudices about tourists
A new article, ‘The Coming Death of Venice?’, by Anna Somers Cocks about Venice in the New York Review of Books regurgitates pessimism about the death of the city, climate alarmism and the usual prejudices about tourism.
The death of Venice is a remarkably unoriginal subject. It was an emergent theme when Venetians suffered from plagues, devastating fires, and sexual diseases in the middle ages. Ancient Venice suffered more from the impact of flooding due to weaker infrastructure than today. After the fall of the Venetian Republic in 1797, decline and death became prominent cultural metaphors for the city in the 19th and 20th centuries. By the early 21st century, the death of Venice has become little more than a tired cliché.
But this article reinforces some prejudices with more practical implications. It calls for placing limits on tourists by charging them using ticketing mechanisms, which would make visiting the city more expensive and might discourage poorer people from coming. Apparently there is a huge problem that St Mark’s Square is now crowded “with hundreds of people milling around, sitting on the ground, resting on their rucksacks, and eating picnics”, according to Somers Cocks. Maybe they cannot afford to occupy the expensive restaurants on St Mark’s Square, unlike the author – the Honourable Anna Somers Cocks OBE? Somers Cocks doesn’t seem keen on tourists from poorer parts of the world coming to Venice. She states; “It is worth noting that official figures give Chinese tourists as 16.3 percent more numerous than in 2011. The citizens of BRIC – Brazil, Russia, India, and China – are coming and it is only a matter of time before the crowds become intolerable, even hazardous, in the narrow alleyways”. Somers Cocks neglects to mention that 2012 also witnessed higher proportions of Americans, French and British people visiting the city compared with 2011 (Venice City Council). She notes one day in Venice in July 2011 when cruise “ships tied up in port and 35,000 tourists were disgorged all at once”. One wonders how a less-developed city coped when 42,480 tourists arrived on Ascension Day in 1785. Indeed, why were ancient Venetians prone to encouraging and celebrating the arrival of visitors?
The article bemoans the weak influence of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) compared with the misjudgments of representatives from Venice City Council and Venice Port Authority in managing the city. But why should unelected officials from an international body determine how this city is run instead of local institutions and locally-elected and appointed officials? Moreover, while there are suggestions for limiting tourism and re-directing tourists by charging them, little consideration is given to how new infrastructure could improve the city for tourists, locals and others. The article is downbeat about the construction of new ship docking facilities and the proposed light tower, both on the mainland side of the Venetian lagoon. Somers Cocks does concede that the mobile dams nearing completion could protect Venice from high-level flooding. Yet Somers Cocks speculates that sea levels will rise even more than currently predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and raises the spectre that Venice could be flooded “twice a day, every day” requiring permanent dam closures.
It is a shame that such a prestigious publication has missed an opportunity to engage with new proposals for the development of the city and instead reinforces a tired cliché, climate alarmism and anti-tourist prejudices.
Here is a link to the article by Anna Somers Cocks about Venice in the New York Review of Books: