The wolf and the farmer
The way we grow crops and raise livestock creates one set of problems, but resolves others. In Italy, it’s giving many animals back their habitats
Will intensive farming save the planet?
“Nature in Italy has not done very well over the past 400 years”: it sounds like a provocation, but isn’t. Professor Luigi Boitani of Sapienza University in Rome, one of the world’s leading experts on wolves and perhaps the greatest expert on nature conservation in this country, knows what he’s talking about after dedicating his research in recent years to the study of nature in Italy.
Although our low-lying areas, and especially our coastlines, have been devastated in recent decades, in the hills and mountains the forests have quietly returned to cover slopes previously occupied by fields and pastures, and with the forests have come small and large animals that we might think only exist in television documentaries.
This is the other side of the Italian economic development that began in the boom years: people left the villages behind and moved to the cities, abandoning farming to go and work in factories and offices. Farming, meanwhile, became intensive, for both good and ill: on one hand it creates environmental problems, but it also resolves others, because it produces much more food with much less land.
However, is it a good idea to let agricultural and pastoral cultures dating back millennia die away? Could they be saved in any case? Is it right to abandon so many areas? How do you measure the health status of an ecosystem? What will Italy look like tomorrow?