EterNOT not Eternit!
On September 10, 2016, the world came to Casale Monferrato, a small Piemonte town which has, for many of us, become a symbol of the global struggle against asbestos tyranny.1 On a day of celebration and remembrance, the community joined together to mark a new future with the inauguration of the EterNOT park built on the former site of the notorious Eternit asbestos factory.2 Separated by distances great and small, campaigners for asbestos justice sent tributes to show their solidarity with their Italian allies.3 As the days activities got underway in the ornate surroundings of the Casale Monferrato council chamber, the decorative floral arrangements were on display at the front of the room.
From the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat.
From the Asian Ban Asbestos Network.
Explaining the motivation for these gestures, President Eliezer to João de Souza of the Associação Brasileira dos Expostos ao Amianto [ABREA/ Brazilian Association of Asbestos Victims] said:
The EterNOT Park has an emblematic meaning not only for people in Casale Monferrato. It is a homage to victims and families around the world who have suffered at the hands of Eternit and other asbestos companies. Brazilian citizens have also paid with their lives for Eternits profits. Even though we were unable to travel to Italy for this historic day, we wanted to demonstrate the unbreakable ties between Brazilian and Italian victims.
Echoing Eliezers comments, Fernanda Giannasi, ABREA co-founder, said:
For Brazilian policy makers this park is a slap in the face. While a beautiful new public amenity has been constructed on Casales asbestos ground zero, on the site of the oldest and biggest asbestos plant in Osasco is a Wal Mart hypermarket and Sam's club. The authorities and politicians in Brazil have not recognized our martyrs and have not shown any regret for the countless number of lives that have been lost.
From the Brazilian Association of Asbestos Victims.
Opening the proceedings, Mayor Concetta Palazzetti referenced the global solidarity on display in the chamber. Dr. Daniela Degiovanni, who has been at the forefront of the asbestos struggle in Casale for decades, reported on the reaction to the tributes as follows:
We all received with emotion the flowers from our global colleagues. The Mayor publicly acknowledged them and named all the associations. I saw many people approach the bouquets and read the words of congratulation and affection. We all know how important it is to remain united in this fight.
From the Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum UK.
From the Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia.
After the welcome, the proceedings were relocated to the 30,000 m2 public gardens where even more people were in attendance to hear the speeches and explore the amenities including the playground, bike path, statues and arena. Dr. Degiovanni estimated that 1,200 people took part in the activities on the day. The dedication of the park was, she wrote the culmination of a 15-year journey to create a public memorial: that place of death has now become a place of life and hope. It has today been returned to its rightful owners the citizens of Casale Monferrato.
In the vanguard of Casale Monferratos fight for justice has been the Association of Families of Asbestos Victims (Associazione Familiari Vittime Amianto/ AFeVA). Amongst the most stalwart of AFeVAs leaders has been Romana Blasotti Pavesi to whom a statue was dedicated on the day.4 Speeches were given by AFeVAs Bruno Pesce, Nicola Pondrano and Dr. Degiovanni, AFeVAs scientific advisor.
Romana Blasotti Pavesi (far right) with Dr. Daniela Degiovanni.
Musical and dance interludes were provided by local schoolchildren who also gave recitations and displayed artwork on the municipalitys struggle with asbestos. 5 A free public concert was held the following day in Casale Monferrato by renowned Milanese songwriter Roberto Vecchioni who told an interviewer that the new park was: a beautiful metaphor almost a Greek myth, the myth of Adonis gardens. Its a symbol, and symbols help us survive.6
Underpinning the festivities on September 10 was an indestructible resolve to finish what had been started: the fight for asbestos justice. To this end, it is of note to report comments made by Italys Minister of Justice Andrea Orlando to the assembly in which he referenced the July 2016 decision by the Constitutional Court which gave the green light for legal proceedings against Swiss asbestos billionaire Stephan Schmidheiny to continue; Schmidheiny faces accusations regarding hundreds of asbestos deaths in Casale Monferrato and other Italian cities. There is, Minister Orlando said a debt of justice that we have to pay. The Minister reminded the audience that in many parts of the world the commercial exploitation of asbestos continues. Following his speech, Mayor Concetta Palazzetti said that it was Casale Monferratos goal to be the first asbestos-free town in Europe and the first for mesothelioma research. The park was, she concluded a symbol [of] the hope of Casale the hope that with the government on our side, justice will finally be achieved.
September 19, 2016
1 September 10, 2016: A Day of Renewal and Remembrance. September 10, 2016.
2 Eternit and The Great Asbestos Trial. 2012.
3 These arrangements came from: The International Ban Asbestos Secretariat, the Asian Ban Asbestos Network, the Brazilian Association of Asbestos Victims, the Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia and the Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum UK.
4 Kazan-Allen L. In Appreciation of Romana Blasotti Pavesi! February 16, 2015.
5 Video of September 10, 2016 activities:
6 Roberto Vecchioni in concerto per il parco Eternot. September 9, 2016.
Also see: Interview with Roberto Vecchioni.