Le paure degli Italiani

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Gli Italiani temono soprattutto che il mondo rimanga senz’acqua potabile. Tra una serie di potenziali pericoli legati a fenomeni di vasta portata, il rischio che le risorse idriche si esauriscano preoccupa quasi un intervistato su tre (31,6%), più delle epidemie, degli incidenti nucleari e della sovrappopolazione.
Tsunami, Sars, mucca pazza, Chernobyl: sempre più frequentemente, negli ultimi decenni, il discorso pubblico si e`arricchito di termini e immagini che simboleggiano le grandi paure del nostro tempo. Nonostante l’indubbio miglioramento della qualità e della sicurezza delle nostre vite dovuto anche ai contributi della scienza e della tecnologia, ogni giorno le nostre certezze sono messe in discussione dal verificarsi di incidenti, epidemie, disastri ecologici che sfuggono al nostro controllo, ci sorprendono per la loro violenza e la loro imprevedibilità e ci lasciano un senso di impotenza e di vulnerabilità. In un modo per certi versi paradossale, la nostra percezione dei rischi, la sensazione di essere esposti a pericoli sempre maggiori e’ divenuta progressivamente piu’ intensa. Cinema e televisione riflettono questo atteggiamento, con il moltiplicarsi e il grande successo di film a sfondo catastrofico, in cui uragani e glaciazioni improvvise causate dal mutamento del clima, disastri nucleari e virus letali creati in laboratorio seminano il terrore e minacciano la sopravvivenza della specie umana e dello stesso pianeta.
Ma di che cosa abbiamo più paura? Qual è il fenomeno che riteniamo maggiormente pericoloso per le nostre vite? Un’altra Chernobyl? La diffusione di nuove malattie? Gli effetti del cambiamento climatico? La sovrappopolazione?
Ebbene, rispetto a questi rischi gli Italiani appaiono più preoccupati per l’esaurimento delle riserve d’acqua potabile; quasi un terzo dei cittadini intervistati, infatti, ritiene che il maggior pericolo per la nostra sopravvivenza sia quello di restare senz’acqua (31,6%).
Al secondo posto, gli effetti dei cambiamenti climatici: uno su cinque ritiene che le calamità naturali dovute ai mutamenti del clima rappresentino il pericolo più significativo per la sopravvivenza dell’uomo. Seguono poi le epidemie causate da nuovi virus, temute dal 19,5% del campione e gli incidenti nucleari (18,4%). Una quota limitata, seppur non trascurabile, vede, invece, il principale pericolo nella crescita continua della popolazione mondiale (7,8%).
Vale la pena di notare che la percezione della pericolosità dei diversi fenomeni varia significativamente in funzione delle caratteristiche socioculturali degli intervistati.
L’esaurimento dell’acqua potabile, per esempio, tende a preoccupare maggiormente, da un lato, le nuove generazioni rispetto agli anziani (il 44% degli adolescenti contro il 19,7% degli over 65) e, dall’altro, le persone con un’istruzione elevata, più sensibili tra l’altro anche al pericolo della crescita della popolazione.
Il rischio di incidenti nucleari, viceversa, non riceve grandi attenzioni da parte dei giovani e dei più istruiti, ma è particolarmente presente alle fasce di età più elevate, le quali, uniche tra tutti gli intervistati, lo giudicano ben più pericoloso dell’esaurimento dell’acqua potabile (24% contro 19,7%). E’ possibile che queste differenze dipendano da fattori di carattere “generazionale”: in parte anche per la sua associazione con il secondo conflitto mondiale, in parte per l’ampio dibattito che in Italia ha portato al referendum del 1987, il nucleare e’ stato lungamente al centro del discorso pubblico sul rischio nella seconda meta’ del secolo scorso. Più complesso, invece, comprendere l’attenzione crescente, soprattutto nei giovani, per la questione dell’acqua.
E’ infatti divenuto quasi un luogo comune considerare l’opinione pubblica più sensibile a rischi caratterizzati da elevata drammaticità ed eventi specifici (catastrofi naturali, incidenti nucleari) più che a quei pericoli che si accumulano nel medio e lungo periodo – come, per l’appunto, la scarsità di acqua. Per di più, recentemente il nostro Paese non ha sofferto di reali e prolungati problemi di carenza d’acqua. Secondo un recente rapporto dell’OCSE (2002) siamo la prima nazione in Europa per il consumo di acqua e la terza nel mondo con 1.200 metri cubi di consumi l’anno. Va peraltro notato come, nelle zone che registrano difficoltà nella gestione e distribuzione delle risorse idriche, come il Sud Italia e le Isole, gli intervistati non mostrino una maggior sensibilità alla problematica; la percezione del rischio associato all’esaurimento dell’acqua appare del tutto simile a quella espressa dagli intervistati residenti nei comuni del Nord Italia.
Dunque, sotto un certo punto di vista, la diffusa percezione del pericolo dell’esaurimento delle risorse idriche può essere interpretato come indice di una certa maturità dell’opinione pubblica, che appare sensibile ad un rischio non immediato, ma che può aggravarsi nel tempo se non si prendono contromisure adeguate.
Naturalmente non è improbabile che un ruolo di rilievo possa essere attribuito anche all’agenda dei media: negli ultimi tempi, infatti, il tema dell’acqua si è guadagnato uno spazio speciale nei mezzi di comunicazione di massa, grazie al crescente interesse dimostrato per la questione da varie istituzioni; molte sono state le iniziative, le dichiarazioni e gli eventi in favore della salvaguardia delle risorse idriche e della promozione dell’accesso universale all’acqua potabile che hanno ricevuto ampia copertura mediale – si pensi ad esempio alla proclamazione dell’anno 2003 come “anno internazionale dell’Acqua” o all’istituzione della “giornata mondiale dell’acqua”.
La corrispondenza tra l’agenda dei media e l’agenda del pubblico italiano si può cogliere anche in riferimento agli altri fattori di rischio citati: è facile associare la presenza delle calamità naturali causate dal mutamento del clima – al secondo posto fra i fenomeni più pericolosi – al ricordo ancora vivo dello tsunami che lo scorso natale ci ha tenuti incollati alla televisione per giorni, mettendo in ombra, almeno in parte, le preoccupazioni per l’emergenza sars dell’anno prima. Lo stesso vale, all’inverso, per gli incidenti nucleari: negli ultimi anni non si sono registrati episodi tanto gravi da attirare l’attenzione prolungata dei media, mentre il dibattito si è concentrato sulla possibilità di reintrodurre il nucleare in Italia, ponendo l’accento fra l’altro sulle garanzie di sicurezza degli impianti.
Dunque, una parte considerevole di Italiani, in particolare giovani, appare consapevole dei pericoli posti dalla carenza di acqua potabile e la tematica è già ben presente nei media. Si tratta di due condizioni che possono indubbiamente favorire il futuro sostegno dell’opinione pubblica nei confronti di politiche ed azioni orientate ad un più attento ed equo sfruttamento delle risorse idriche; quantomeno oggi possono essere colte come uno stimolo per decisori politici e istituzioni pubbliche a rafforzare l’impegno nel promuovere campagne di sensibilizzazione sull’uso delle risorse e per la diffusione di comportamenti di consumo individuali e collettivi più responsabili e sostenibili nel tempo.

L’articolo è stato pubblicato il 25 maggio sull’inserto TuttoscienzeTecnologia del quotidiano La Stampa.
Articolo in pdf e note metodologiche sono disponibili in allegato.

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