This research examines Piano Taranto (Taranto Plan), an on going civil society plan for economic transition from steel manufacturing to tertiary activities, tourism and agroecology via brownfield restoration and based on CE principles. It was launched by a coalition of environmental and community organisations and business actors on the morning of Taranto’s crucial May Day event of 2018, which was attended by institutions at all levels, and by thousands of citizens.
The Plan represents a significant effort at shaping a socially consensual solution to the jobs vs environment dilemma, and to severe financial, market, environmental and public health problems on the local scale – in short, to the unsustainability of a steel – based linear economy.
The study methods involve social ethnography and a deep analysis of the text in the context of Taranto’s historical, social, environmental and political settings and in the findings of previous researchers on history of workers’ and citizens’ mobilization within and around the steel-plant.
External supporting partners
Liberi e Pensanti
from theory to implementation on the ground
Taranto, a city in the Southern Italy region Puglia, has experienced a deep socio-ecological crisis in recent years, due to different and interconnected economic, health, social and environmental contradictions. It is the home to one of the major steel-making plants in Europe, known as ex-Ilva, which has strongly influenced the territory’s development in the last sixty years, causing first of all a deep increment of pollution in the area. However, Ilva’s impact cannot be reduced to the environmental problem as in the more classical interpretation of Taranto’s condition. Serious health’s issues direct and indirect costs and implications certainly constitute a central element for evaluation. At the same time, unemployment and forced migration determine a critical social situation, exacerbated by the negative impacts of a monoculture economy based on the iron and steel industry.
Piano Taranto, born as grassroot response to this predicament, is based on an analytical study of the iron and steel industry’s economical and health care costs, and oriented to the construction of a new economical future for the city. Assuming as necessary the steel-plant closure, it aims at providing a radical alternative to the invasive industries that are currently operational and which are highly polluting and, in recent years, even unable to deliver economic wellbeing and social inclusion.
Distinctive aspects of the case study
The research will analyse such a plan, which is an example of how grassroots movements have mobilize alternative imaginaries of transition, giving voices to unheard and neglected interests.
A distinctive aspect of the case study is represented by the nature of the Piano’s making process, which is a bottom-up experience of imagination for an alternative future. The grassroot process, through the Piano Taranto, has expressed a clear and strong vision of Taranto, based on the value of proximity’s sources, which contrast the top down governmental and institutional approach, oriented towards a 4.0 industry, incapable of overcoming both the monocultural approach and the socio-economic crises.
Another distinctive aspect is the complex and at time contradictory relationship between the associations and socio-political movements involved in the Piano Taranto’s and the history of the workers’ and citizens’ mobilization within and around the steel-plant.
On the one hand, the study aims to analyse the content of the Piano, on the other hand, it is determining the Piano’s making process, its historical evolution and political impact – particularly on social mobilization – and future perspectives.
As circular economy is an emergent concept and the study focuses on a bottom-up process in which people articulate their own visions of desirable futures, the conceptual dimension will also be also valued. Moreover, Piano Taranto mobilizes alternative visions articulated by communities that are negatively impacted by the exploiting and disruptive mono cultural steel economy and have actively engaged different types of knowledge and unique forms of expertise in a participatory setting.
The case study fieldwork rely of a number of interviews identified following five broad categories of stakeholders corresponding to different rationales for involving them and type of information, data e insights to be collected:
a) People belonging to civil society organizations and citizens who have contributed to the elaboration of Piano Taranto.
b) People belonging to civil society organizations and citizens who have endorsed Piano Taranto.
c) Confederal Unions, Social or Community Unionism; Rank-and-file Unionism; Public institutions.
d) General Confederation of the Italian Industry; public environmental agencies; relevant political parties.
e) Experts, scientists, research institutes, reporters, journalists.
The identification of the stakeholders to be interviewed has conducted by the research team in collaboration with local partner Comitato Liberi e Pensanti (Taranto’s Free and Thinking Citizens/Workers Committee), who also act as the main contact entity in Taranto, mainly through Virginia Rondinelli.
Liberi e Pensanti is a committee born in July of 2012, after the local prosecutor’s office had requested the legal confiscation of the “hot area” of the Ilva plant. Ilva’s owners and managers were accused of serious criminal offenses and violation of Italy’s environmental regulations.
The Committee is composed of Taranto’s citizens, many of them current of former Ilva workers, who are engaged in building a different future for their city and protecting the natural and cultural potential of the territory from the threat of a top-down industrial policy.
The research team is composed by Stefania Barca, Emanuele Leonardi and Ilaria Boniburini.
Stefania Barca is Distinguished Researcher ‘Beatriz Galindo’ at the University of Santiago de Compostela (USC).
Emanuele Leonardi is Assistant Professor at the University of Bologna.
Ilaria Boniburini is JUST2CE WP2 post-doc researcher.
The social ethnography to be carried out in Taranto takes advantage of the outcomes of previous research conducted by Stefania Barca and Emanuele Leonardi from 2015 to 2018, which dissects the history of workers’ and citizens’ mobilization swithin and around the steel-plant.
The deep understanding of the complex and multi-stratified history of workers’ refusal (but also complicity, at times) with the highly polluting facility enable the research team to truly adopt a gender-based and decolonial approach alongside the perspective of environmental justice as a class issue. This researcher positioning allows to bridge the environmental and social inequalities divide.
On the other hand, the fieldwork will benefit from Ilaria Boniburini’s urban and sociological researcher experience between Europa and Africa. In addition to that, she has a clear vision of Taranto’s social, urban and economic condition due to her direct and living experience in the territory in the last years.