|Carrara marble mountain/Francesco Pegollo|
I am working on a story on how out-of-control marble quarrying is destroying the Apuan Alps, the people who live there and a culture that has developed over the past 2000 years around this amazing stone.
Carrara's quarries are the largest in the world and produce the whitest and most beautiful marble. It is from this stone that Michelangelo carved his tender Pietà and magnificent David, and artists from all over the world – from Henry Moore and Isamu Noguchi to Louise Bourgeois and Anna Chromy - have been bewitched by it.
But now, most of the marble formed over millennia in the Apuan mountains high above Carrara is no longer turned into great works of art or proud buildings, but ground into a fine powder - calcium carbonate - which is used in everything from cosmetics and toothpaste to paper, paint and food stuff. Carrara marble is now literally squeezed from a toothpaste tube.
“We don't want to reduce Michelangelo's mountain to calcium carbonate,” says Elia Pegollo, an environmentalist. “Our mountain belongs to the world, to humanity. It has spoken to Michelangelo and sculptors from all over the world. We want our mountain to be able to speak again and our marble to be used in a noble way.”
From close up, the high vertical faces and giant benches of the open cast excavations are both frightening and breathtaking. They look like colossal white cathedrals on the moon.