Practicability, the editorial by Franco Michienzi

We are at a moment in time that demands concrete actions able to enact real change in our lives

by Francesco Michienzi

WELL READERS, YOU CERTAINLY DIDN’T HOLD BACK FOLLOWING MY INVITATION TO SUGGEST ‘LOST WORDS’ IN OCTOBER’S EDITORIAL! The term that cropped up most often was ‘practicability’ or ‘tangibility’. I imagine its landslide victory stemmed from our current desperate need for concrete actions and tangible certainties, as opposed to long strings of lofty words, which provide false hope for a while before tipping you into the void of their meaninglessness. Practicability refers to something substantial, immediately perceptible and verifiable, and tangible actions translate into tangible outcomes.

While on one side there are crowds of young people following Greta with chants of ‘Enough blah, blah, blah who ask governments to act, on the other there are people like Italian prime minister Mario Draghi, who claim to be making tangible decisions and carrying out tangible work. The current political climate undoubtedly favours pragmatism over spouting nonsense, yet there is still plenty of hot air being created. “We need to think systemically about the sea”. At conferences dedicated to the sustainability of our oceans and aquatic ecosystems, people are demanding we think in systemic terms, which means both imagining ourselves as part of a system and planning shared actions. And there is a lot of talk about regeneration because nowadays working on sustainability involves understanding the need to restore natural capital and ensure a greater balance between the amount we consume and what nature can provide.

«The Genoa Boat Show is a constant. It was there in times of difficulty, and it is there in years of incredible growth, like this one, driving on Italy’s recovery. The number of people it employed directly grew by 2.4% in 2020;  growth in production turnover of over 23.8% is forecast for 2021, and I’m sure that by the end of this year the number will be even higher, surpassing Ä6 billion». Saverio Cecchi, presidente di Confindustria Nautica

The topic of humanity’s depletion of natural resources and its ability to build non-destructive socioeconomic systems in harmony with nature is being discussed more and more vociferously, yet there are still very few tangible actions being taken in this area. Think, for example, about a commercial ship with six permanently-on engines with an overall capacity of 1.8m cc and 75,600 kW of power, the equivalent of 5,400 Volkswagen Golf TDI cars, which consumes 390,000 litres of diesel a day, approximately 142,000 tonnes per year. If the topic of generating harmful emissions is presented badly, we risk proposing populist solutions that are anything but tangible.

The Italian minister for ecological transition, Roberto Cingolani, lists numerous upcoming projects that aim to restore aquatic ecosystems, which he views as a natural resource and an integral part of the Italian economy. These include protecting biodiversity, carbon capture using water systems, decarbonising ports and defending and restoring the biodiversity of major Italian rivers like the Po, not to mention carefully collecting rainwater as a way of tackling the increasingly frequent dry seasons. Cingolani believes that «we can use the sea, water and rivers as tools to revitalise a hydrogeological ruined landscape». These are all praiseworthy ideas, but they will have to overcome the rituals, procedures and general sluggishness of Italy’s system of government. What we need is more tangibility, speed and efficiency, and more decisions based on pragmatism and solving real-world problems. We require an approach to politics that crosses ideological divides, where the aim is not simply to hold onto power, and which fights privileges of position, political squabbles and superficiality.

«Italian boating combines technology, design, great skill and taste. I believe what we need now are the responsibility, courage and ambition, three concepts I think Genoa now embodies». Giovanni Toti, Presidente Regione Liguria

I hope the Italian minister of infrastructure Enrico Giovannini’s words on the importance of the boating sector for the country, spoken at the most recent Genoa Boat Show, were more than just rhetoric and an attempt to please his audience: «This is an important day for Italy. The success of this show is proof of the success of this city and this sector. We know we need to further develop our port infrastructure and our leisure boating industry. Supporting this sector also means supporting employment. For a long time, Italy has not given a clear signal of what it wants to achieve, but now it has an idea of where it wants to be in a few years. I appreciate there may be some scepticism, but events like this one can, and should, prove the doubters wrong, showing that Italy has made a cultural leap forward. That’s why we have included over Ä4 billion in the national recovery and resilience plan to strengthen and transform Italian ports, funds that have never been available before».

And while the 61st International Boat Show was getting underway, work continued on the city’s new East Waterfront, the realisation of a dream – designed by Renzo Piano – of a district where the sea is given back its rightful space, and which will be home to a large urban park, a shipyard, homes, offices, student accommodation, retail, aparthotels and a revamped sports centre. Marco Bucci, the mayor of Genoa, declared: «The city is preparing to host even better events in the future; this area is changing rapidly and, looking to the future, we have invested Ä400 million here to turn Renzo Piano’s grand design into reality: all the canals will be finished by next year, the buildings will be ready in 2023 and in 2024 the Sailing Centre will be completed, along with the cycleway and footpath that will link the Porto Antico area with the new Fiera district. In 2023 we will host a future-proof Boat Show that will be the envy of the world: on the sea and about the sea, with boats that can be put out into the deep for testing. We are designing Genoa for the next 20-30 years». Let’s hope these positive words translate into something truly tangible.

(Practicability – – November 2021)