Venice is undoubtedly one of the world’s most beautiful cities. Walking these ancient streets and squares one cannot but be astounded by the architectural masterpieces built by the Venetians over the centuries.


The Basilica of San Marco overlooks one of the most beautiful squares in the world. It is the main tourist attraction and a favourite backdrop to many a movie. Unforgettable the scene from “Moonraker”: After being pursued by Drax’s henchmen down the canals in Venice, James Bond approaches St. Marks Square on a gondola. He activates a skirt on the boat, turning it into a hovercraft that allows him to travel on the square to the astonishment of everyone around.


But St. Marks Square is only one of the many wonders to be admired here. Looking across from St. Marks Square is the magnificent baroque Basilica of St. Mary of Health (Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute), a huge, domed church built on a spit between St. Mark’s Basin and the Grand Canal. It was founded in 1630 as a tribute to the Virgin Mary and took 57 years to complete. It was built as a tribute to the Virgin Mary for freeing the city from the plague. And every year on November 21 the locals pay tribute to her, praying for good health.


Venice is literally built on water and the people have learned to live with regular floods. But in recent years the frequency of those floods has increased. Last year the city was flooded several times. A group of mobile flood barriers have been constructed at the entrance to the Venice lagoon in a project started ten years ago and scheduled to be completed in 2015. http://goo.gl/axO9rb


Will it be enough?


The city once boasted several hundred thousand local inhabitants. Now it is just over 50,000. It is not only the high property prices but the cost and discomfort of having to protect your house against the flood waters that is driving the people away. The first exodus began after the catastrophic flood of November 1966 that virtually submerged the city. At the same time more than 20 million tourists came to the city every year. As a major generator of tourist income the city is worth protecting.


Meanwhile another United Nations Climate Conference is taking place in Poland of all places. The country has shown little inclination in the past to do anything about curbing carbon dioxide emissions from its coal-fired power stations. To the contrary it is taking the tack of many climate change sceptics. The outcome of this conference is predictable. Too little is being done too late and the longer we wait, the more difficult it is going to get to save cities like Venice and many low-lying island nations.


There seems to be a parallel between the denial ism in the climate debate and personal health. It is beyond doubt that smoking, junk food and lack of exercise will shorten your life. But the human being seems incapable of relating such information to the future. “So what, as long as I can enjoy my Bic Mac in front of the TV now…”


In the same way we ignore the warnings from climate scientists that if we don’t radically reduce emissions we are going to have a very hot and uncomfortable planet by the end of this century. We are playing roulette with ourselves and the future of our children. Its time to wake up!