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martedì, novembre 18

Un’Altro Po

I made this journey called Un’Altro Po, or Another Po, to help us save this great river. It was accomplished with zero negative impact on the environment, by going up the Po with oars and sail, and by using only the resources donated to us during the voyage. Its purpose was to make people aware of this river that is dying, and of how to live in a way that is both light and slow. It helped to show the limits of a frenetic development that has made us forget our true nature as human beings, and to learn how to decrease our needs and live well on little.

I want to live in a better world, but even more, I want a better world for those who come after me, not only people, but all living things. The Po is a beautiful river that for centuries has been a source of both life and death. It has nurtured rice fields, vineyards, and fisheries, but it has also caused destructive floodsnot out of malice but because of the nature of the powerful, natural resources of this planet. We humans also know how to bring life and death; we are sometimes destructive due to stupidity, malice, and carelessness.

I passed by this river, like all of us in this part of the world, the Padana of Northern Italy, many times, and I paid little attention to it. Yes, I knew it was the longest and biggest river in Italy. But at the time I didn’t find that very interesting. Now I do. And I think that almost all of us in Italy have forgotten the importance of this river. We’ve thrown all kinds of things into it. We’ve forgotten to thank it for all it has done for us. Now many birds and fish have had to leave it, since it has been made uninhabitable for them.

I went up the Po with a little rowing and sailing boat made, with passion and ancient knowledge, by my friend Roland Poltock. The boat I used is a Ness Yawl, a miniature version of the kind of boat the Vikings once sailed in. I wanted to meet the people who have bonds, lives, stories, connected to the Po. I wanted to hear what they thought of the river and what has happened to it. And I hoped others would join me and share a part of the journey. It didn’t matter who they were, if they boatmen, politicians or prostitutes. I wanted to navigate the waters with others and create as little pollution as possible. Many people did help, not only my friends Roland Poltock, Damiano Carraro and Bruno Porto, but generous souls who became interested in the journey. They opened their homes and extended their friendship to me and my companions.

We went in May and June, 2008, leaving from Venice on April 30th, 2008, and stopping in Chioggia, Porto Viro, Crespino, Santa Maria Maddalena, Felonica, Revere, MottaBaluffi, Plesine Parmensa, Cremona, Monticelli D’Ongina, San Zenone Po, Piacenza, Soprarivo di Calendasco, Pavia, Bastida, and finally Balossa Bigli a few kilometers outside the Piedmont region, and 130 kilometers from Torino. It was a difficult journey, rowing upstream, and at times we needed to disembark and push.

During the Trip

The fundamental objective of the project was to build a dialogue about respecting the Po, from an environmental as well as from a cultural point of view. We met with people in the principal cities located along the Great River. We invited people on board who wanted to row or simply to travel with us for a time, to experience the effort and the intimacy of the trip.

There was a daily broadcase by Radio 24 by way of GR extralarge 13 and by podcast that listeners could download on the site 222.radio24.ilsole24ore.com and on our site. In progress are both a documentary and a photo book that can act as a guide for those wishing to take a recreational trip on the Po.

How the project was born

The idea for this project sprang spontaneously from a dream of Giacomo’s to act and use his own power to try and effect some kind of change about how we view and treat the river.

This is what he could do: make a voyage along a river which at one time was a source and carrier of life and now has become almost dead and useless. It was to be a voyage using oars and sails–something almost anachronistic in this day and age. But he had to travel in this way, to reverse the frenetic course of ‘progress,’ which has blindly made us forget that which were are and that which is really good for humanity.

Giacomo is a simple person who has worked at various professions in his life; he-s been a traveller, a researcher, and a domumentary filmmaker. He who knows how to get by with little and today he lives largely on a boat in the Venetian lagoon.

The trip was dictated more by instinct than by calculation, and came out of the classic model of a journey which both needed and brought about sponsorship. Giacomo didn’t ask for anything, but gratefully received whatever people offered along the way. The experience existed outside the mechanism of the marketplace, and people helped from the goodness in their hearts, because they wanted to, not because they thought they could get something back. But they did receive enjoyment, naturally, from helping and from participating in this endeavor.

Giacomo undertook the voyage without the pretense of trying to teach anything, but with the objective of shining a light on that which we’ve forgotten. The Po, the river, is a metaphor for life, and the voyage was a way of clearing the useless superstructure that weighs us down; that is, the false security of material possessions. Giacomo wanted to experience, and to show others, the wonderful feeling of freedom that can be felt from being transported by the current and by using the strength of oneÕs own arms to move in harmony with nature.

“A journey can be a key to finding our real nature and leaving behind the heaviness of unneeded things, of enjoying how we can give and receive,” says Giacomo. “True happiness doesn’t come from having things, but from having the knowledge of how to attract good things to us. Prosperity is really a way of living and thinking.”

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