Venice is sinking and the surrounding sea level is rising. In the last 100 years, Venice has sunk 11 inches. It doesn’t sound like much, but 11 inches is a lot when every building and square is bordered by canals or open water. If you visit Venice, you quickly realize that water is everywhere. You cannot escape the sound of water lapping against a bulkhead, the smell of water in the canals, or the sight of water as you walk across one of the countless bridges spanning the canals.
The situation has become intolerable. Venice now experiences 100 floods a year. The Venetians and the Italian government have finally taken action. Their plan involves construction of massive inflatable gates that will lie flat on the sea floor under normal circumstances, only to be inflated so as to block sea water from entering the lagoon when water levels rise. The project is, as you would expect, controversial. People have raised questions about its cost, its effectiveness and its environmental impact. Amazingly, due to political wrangling it took four decades for construction on the project to get started — even though the situation is growing increasingly desperate.
Venice is a beautiful city, filled with fabulous architecture, art, and history. Equally important, it is one of those cities that is a testament to the human spirit, human ingenuity, and human perseverance. Imagine building a city on marshland and seeing that city grow and develop to the point where Venice was a major sea power and center of commerce! Everyone should be interested in seeing Venice, in all its glory, preserved — and that means hoping that the project works. Mankind would be poorer indeed if Venice, like fabled Atlantis, were to disappear beneath the waves.