We Don’t Need Steel Jungles, But Green Cities

09.08.2021, by Giacomo Luperini

Milan needs to choose its identity and must do so quickly: will it be a city of steel and light pollution, or a green city boasting the largest urban gardens in Europe?

Two hundred and forty-three posts per square kilometer, more than double the one hundred and ten that are the national average. Milan has a pole for every thirty of its citizens. Some areas in Milan feel like a veritable urban jungle, full of street signs, lamp posts and traffic lights, a messy kaleidoscope of flashing lights, light pollution, brightly colored signs and hard steel, almost completely swallowing and eclipsing the city’s architectural beauty and the fragility of its greenery.

Just think of Piazza della Repubblica, with its more that three hundred poles and traffic lights in a few dozens square meters, or of Piazza XXIV Maggio, where a mere thirteen trees are dominated by eighty-three traffic lights; even some of the symbols of the city, such as Porta Ticinese, are entirely swallowed by a cold spiderweb of steel.

This comes at a high cost for the city’s inhabitants, from an economic, and aesthetic point of view, not to mention its impact on their quality of life. To give just one example, every single lamppost erected by the city administration sets the community back an average of fifteen thousand euros, while also reducing the space available to the humans and trees of the city, contributing to the rise in local temperature and resulting in undeniable ugliness.

In 1982, sociologist James Q. Wilson published his Broken Windows theory, in which he drew a connection between a rise in criminal behavior and an increase in environmental neglect and disrepair. To put it very simply: beauty ennobles humanity, while ugliness creates violence and a couldn’t-care-less attitude. One might then be compelled to ask: why not plant trees and stop erecting structures that come at such a high cost to society? Not least because, according to urban signage expert Enrico Bonizzoli, over 40% of Milan’s street signs (almost one in two) are useless, wrong or redundant.

Other articles on the topic, written by people who surely know more about the reasons behind these city-sanctioned eyesores, mention an “administrative will to avoid lawsuits or appeals”. That is to say, an excessive, damaging zeal.
Truth be told, here at Ponderosa we mainly deal with culture and music from all around the world, but we are deeply rooted in Milan and believe in a different Milanese soul, showing itself every day and increasingly aiming towards a greener city, more tailored to human life and necessities.

In 2019 the city administration declared a state of climate and environmental emergency and began to increase its focus on “green” policies, from a reduction in soil exploitation to an rise in sustainable mobility, even planning the largest urban garden in Europe, which will stretch from Figino to Trenno and include over 53 hectares of greenery.
To sum up: Milan is being pushed and pulled in two opposing directions that show no opportunity for dialogue, and is about to be forced to choose what it will become in the next few crucial years, a true watershed moment in the fight against climate change.

The future is knocking louder and louder, will we be ready to answer it as we must?


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