Pentedattilo - one of few or one of many

Pentedattilo – one of few or one of many

Calabria – a toe of Italy – is home to two peculiar towns – ghost towns. Roghudi Vecchio abounded following disastrous floods and Pentedattilo emptied due to damages caused by an earthquake. Nowadays, ghost towns are rare tourist attractions or forgotten ruins, but in future they may become a norm. If that happens, we may be those to blame.

Ghost towns of Calabria

At the end of September I set off for a little holidays trip to Calabria, Italy. The region is located in south of the country. It’s not a well known tourist destination. Among highlights of Calabria there are several beautiful towns and beaches, but also prominent ghost towns.

I have visited Pentedattilo – a ghost town located on the south-west of Calabria, close to Sicily. The town has been severely damaged in 1783 by an earthquake making most of the people leave their houses. At the moment the town is no longer abundant. Some buildings are now serving as tourist infrastructure. The last inhabitants left in 1960s.

Calabria is home to another prominent ghost town – Roghudi Vecchio. It’s more difficult to reach and therefore it’s a lot less visited. It was emptied in 1973 following two catastrophic floods.

Change on the horizon

At the moment these towns are touristic highlights. However, this can change dramatically and a lot faster than you may think. Plenty of towns and cities currently thriving may become uninhabitable soon. The reason for this is – us – the human kind. Ghost towns are one of the most significant possible result of greenhouse gases emission and other consumptive factors done by our civilisation.

There are several direct causes of the ongoing climate change that can make some parts of our planet hostile to humans. We’re going to quickly discuss these causes which may lead to largest displacements and migrations.

Extreme weather events

Extreme weather events are one of the most important consequences. Changes in global weather patterns are already happening. The average temperatures on the planet has already risen. This leads to changes in local microclimates. For instance, some places get more rain than in the past or the precipitation is more abundant. Others experience stronger winds and warmer air. These factors result in stronger and more frequent hurricanes. There are heat waves going through Europe and new temperature records were registered again in 2019. It’s important to reckon both high and low income countries are exposed to extreme weather events, however, the low income countries are more vulnerable. They are less capable to handle the loses, they have limited or no hazard-reducing infrastructure and may find it more difficult to establish early warning systems.

Pentedattilo by Maciej Zawieja
Pentedattilo by Maciej Zawieja

Unbearable temperatures

Probably the most obvious consequence of rising temperatures may be emergence of places which will simply become too hot to inhabit. The maximum temperature humans can bear is defined by combining it with humidity in so called heat index (HI). With 100% humidity 35 degrees is already the barrier humans can remain in extensively. According to independent by the end of this century parts of the Gulf countries may be extensively affected.

Another effects of combined higher temperatures and changed weather patterns are draughts and following water shortages. This may particularly hit the already dry regions like south-west USA, but not only. A prolonged period of draught in Ireland can easily lead to a water crisis. The country is relying on rainfall as its water source. Once the rainfall won’t fall the reservoirs will run out quickly. Also countries indigent in groundwaters may find themselves in trouble.

Ice retreat

The cause and effect chain initiated by greenhouse effect leads to melting of glaciers and ice-sheets. Regions once covered with glaciers like the rainbow mountains in Peru are now ice-free. Huge chucks of the Antarctic ices detach and form enormous icebergs. Just a few days ago an iceberg of a size of Greater London area has broke off. These icebergs are then floating towards warmer waters and melt fast. As a result there is more water in the oceans.

Currently the sea level rise at the rate of 30 cm per century and it’s accelerating. It’s crucial to look at the data how did the Earth do in the past when the average temperatures were higher than now. Last time the average temperatures were 2 degrees higher the sea levels were about 5 meters higher than nowadays. According to NG if all the ice on the poles and mountain peaks melts then the seas level will rise by about 66 meters. If this happens many of our great metropolis will end up deep underwater and – of course – left empty.

Calabrian subset by Maciej Zawieja
Calabrian subset by Maciej Zawieja


However, not only costal locations and low level lands will be affected by water. Some regions may experience frequent flooding and eventually – like Roghudi Vecchio – they will become too dangerous for people to inhabit.

There are also indirect consequences of rising sea level and floods to the human kind. Once water would take over currently cultivated and urbanised lands then many of dangerous and potentially lethal substances may be released to environment. This could lead to large scale contamination of certain regions and water sources effectively pushing humans into migration. The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster won’t be an isolated case anymore. These and other factors may influence the general condition of human population, causing sicknesses, epidemics and death.

Wrapping up

All the mentioned consequences of ongoing climate crisis are likely to push us out of our homes. Moreover, the list of consequences is not exhaustive. In 2019 these are still mostly predictions, yet we can already observe anomalies and evidences to the climate change all around the glob. Earth is filled with ruins and remains of fallen ancient civilisations. The town of Pentedattilo has left me with mixed feelings. On one hand, I was amazed with its non trivial location and charm, but on the other hand I have started thinking of how fragile a town is when challenged by nature. If we poke the planet, then the planet will stay alright, but it may poke us back by wiping us out. Therefore, let me leave you with a question to think about: “how and when may our civilisation fall?”

Written based on IPCC reports, news and own experiences. In the following articles and movies I’ll have a closer look at different aspects of climate change and sustainable solutions to mitigate the harm.

Source: graph, based on the comparison of atmospheric samples contained in ice cores and more recent direct measurements, provides evidence that atmospheric CO2 has increased since the Industrial Revolution. (Credit: Luthi, D., et al.. 2008; Etheridge, D.M., et al. 2010; Vostok ice core data/J.R. Petit et al.; NOAA Mauna Loa CO2 record.)