In 2013, a few olive trees near Gallipoli, in Lecce province in the heel of Italy’s boot, seemed to be dying of drought even though there was water. Turned out they had a disease caused by a nasty bacterium, Xylella fastidiosa, and it was the first time this particular disease had been identified in Europe. Plans were quickly drawn up in an attempt to control the disease, and equally quickly disrupted by selfish growers and activists, aided and abetted by vote-hungry politicians.
Instead of killing maybe 3000 trees, more than four million have died in the past six years, and the disease is completely out of hand. When I was in Puglia in 2015, having just got interested in the story, it was quite exciting to see the occasional dead tree, marked for removal. This year, I was sickened to find whole landscapes, once covered with the glittering silver of olive leaves, brown and lifeless.
I knew there was trouble. I didn’t know that seeing it with my own eyes would make me so angry and so despondent.
How did it happen? Take a listen.
All the best