The window on the high-speed train to Naples, Italy, frames an idyllic picture — rolling hills, sun-covered vineyards, and fertile farmland. But beneath the fertile soil of this region lies something insidious, an amalgam of industrial, hospital and nuclear waste that is spiking cancer rates and spreading alarm across Southern Italy.
The setting is Campania, Italy, and the Naples coastline, former playground of Roman emperors. The region’s natural beauty has been spoiled by the trash on its streets. Piles of garbage line the highways, farmland, and playgrounds. Heaps of waste under overpasses, filled with industrial by-products, are torched in large fires with billowing poisonous black smoke, a practice perfected by organized crime. Now, after decades, the consequences are emerging — reports of tumors, scientific studies suggesting links, testimony of mob turncoats pointing to millions of tons of dumping. Everyone is scared, inhabiting what feels likes a living graveyard.