Environment: Dark Days in Sunny Italy

For 700 years, four gilded bronze horses have majestically guarded St. Mark's Cathedral in Venice. The horses survived Napoleon's looting armies and two world wars, but not the dirty air generated by petrochemical plants on Venice's mainland. The bronze is now so pitted and weakened that the horses must be removed from St. Mark's Square. Humans are removing themselves as well. The young in particular are fleeing, and Venice may soon resemble a crumbling geriatric ward.

What is happening to Venice is symptomatic of a widespread malaise: much of Italy has become an environmental...

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