In autumn, the warm water in the sea evaporates more easily, and when it comes into contact with the cool air, it condenses into clouds full of rain. This is a mechanism that feeds on itself, generating large amounts of atmospheric instability.

At the end of October 2018, an area of extreme atmospheric depression of oceanic origin formed over North Italy, generating a violent extratropical cyclone. Italy reported heavy rainfall, but then the sirocco also arrived - a warm wind coming from the African coast. When the dry air of the sirocco mixed with the humid air of the cyclone, it was a catastrophe.

Between the 26th and the 30th October 2018, Storm Vaia arrivedan intense wave of bad weather hit Lombardy, Veneto, Trentino-Alto Adige and Friuli-Venezia Giulia, causing heavy rain, landslides and gusts of wind up to 180 km/h.
Hundreds of Fire Brigades worked on over 5,000 interventions, including 40,000 consumers with power outages and dozens of rescues, with land teams and helicopters. In three days, there was 700mm of rain: an estimated 2.8 billion euros of damage.

The combined action of rain and strong gusts of wind heavily affected 494 Municipalities, damaging a total of 42,500 hectares of forest and blowing down 8.6 million metres cubed of trees - the equivalent of around 7 times the amount of wood for industrial use processed by Italian sawmills in a year. 

It was the most significant damage to forestry heritage ever recorded in Italy, and what's more, it was in the very part of Italy where the forests with the most wood stock and the highest forest productivity are (around 2/3 of the wood used for processing in Italy comes from here). And that's without forgetting their fundamental environmental and tourist value.

A large majority of the fallen trees were removed, and almost all the wood was sold, primarily abroad. However, a small percentage, around 10-20% of the fallen trees, were not removed, and continued to cause danger for nearby trees that had survived the storm. After Storm Vaia, the increased presence of damaged trees spread throughout the forests led to a growth in endemic European spruce bark beetle populations: a small insect that lives under the bark, digging intricate tunnel systems that interrupt the flow of sap, inevitably leading to the death of the plant in a short space of time.

And this is where the initiative we want to speak about comes in: VAIA Cube - a natural amplifier for smartphones, handmade by local artisans with the wood recovered after the storm. A wood that was valuable in the past, used by luthiers because of its resonance, and now a material restored to dignity and a new life. This is the initiative of a team that plans to plant 100 thousand new trees in the Dolomites - one for every Vaia Cube sold.

Federico, CEO and Co-founder of VAIA srl, remembers when the warning was issued on Monday 29th October 2018, communicated by a bulletin from the Civil Protection:

“In the preceding days, a few municipal administrations had warned against drinking tap water due to the swelling of the rivers, which had put a strain on the filtration and purification systems. While water rationing is common practice in many areas of Southern and Central Italy, it is a rare occurrence in the province of Trento, which normally has no problems with water supply and generates 90% of its electricity consumption through hydroelectric power plants.”

Marianna, VAIA's Event Manager, was at the cineforum at the Pergine Theatre when the extent of the emergency became clear to everyone:

“It seemed as if the entire city was in a blackout. The Fire Brigade was working hard to remove a fallen tree from the road. I thought it would be better to quickly go home, hoping not to get stuck on the way. Barricaded inside back at home, the silence was broken only by the whistling wind and the groaning of wood as it bent and snapped. All we could do was wait until the morning to see what we would find!”

“The noise of the trunks breaking, trees falling everywhere, close by; the impression that the mountain was about to collapse”: these are the most repeated sensations, still vivid in the memory of those who experienced them.

Dawn revealed the effects of the disaster, clearly and unequivocally. The wind continued to blow throughout the next day, but the signs were already visible. Only the pictures can do justice to the level of devastation, and often the only antidote to the incredulity is to go to the scene.
We interviewed Giuseppe Addamo, Co-founder of VAIA.

How did the idea for VAIA Cube come about?

“We like to define VAIA Cube as a 'symbolic' object, created as a metaphor to amplify our desire to face the challenge of climate change. Indeed, the meaning of 'Vaia' has now changed: from an exceptional weather event, it has become an artisan product Made in Italy, a project with a circular economy and a vision for the future. Our vision is to create objects that are useful for mankind, but also for nature, by recovering precious raw materials, involving actors in local industries, and creating a positive impact on the territory where we work.

We met during university - either by chance or by fate, as we always say - and when the storm hit the Dolomites, we decided to begin this wonderful project that then became VAIA. Federico Stefani, who was born in Pergine Valsugana, one of the valleys hardest hit by the storm, gradually got all of us involved, forming the team that everyone knows today.” 

How is your mission structured, and what are the steps?

“We believe that the truly innovative idea at the foundation of our project is wanting to be an example of a real circular economy, in which 'producing' does not mean exploiting or taking away resources, but instead restoring them to the territory and the ecosystem, and regenerating it. This is why we plant a new tree in the Dolomites for every VAIA Cube sold, closing a circle that always has nature at the centre. Today, we have planted almost 70,000 trees in planting events that are open to the public, where our community has truly had the experience of putting a sapling in the ground to take care of today, and then leave for future generations.”

What is the next development for the project?

“We have various new things coming. We are working towards future VAIA-designed objects, and we are also planning interventions with other raw materials and in other places, because we believe that our business model is applicable in many other contexts. We will also continue important partnerships with international brands. But to find out what will happen this year at VAIA, you need to follow us, to see what has happened, what we are doing to repair and what we are going to do to rebuild: maybe you too will be able to plant your tree.”


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N° 11


The firefly knows the secret to producing light without heat.
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