154 155 In a course of study, a method is a set of rules and useful operations, allowing the result to be achieved with certainty . It includes attitudes, rules and procedures making it possible to deal with every detail of the subject of investigation. The importance of having a method lies in its ability to accompany in the full observation of a phenomenon, in the analysis of its measurable elements and of its qualitative features. The method par excellence is the scientific one, the only known way to discover the rules of operation of the reality that surrounds us, the only one really able to really go deep into the topic by observing, deducing, experimenting, verifying. A perfect example (with a multi-step analysis, to be addressed both on the object or on the relationships between it and the external environment): a pedestrian at the traffic light. Rule is that you can cross with green light. But a method also involves looking left and right, prior to entering the intersection. Here lies the full importance, in the possibility of controlling every aspect of a phenomenon, without stopping at the mere rule or trend . It is at such times that the researcher could make a mistake, when the result seems to be obvious, when trivializations can occur. And when a solution sounds already served, observing carefully allows to avoid glaring errors. A first, concrete example of the need for a method fully lies in the issue of sustainable energy . Chapter: solar panels , excellent representatives of the concept of renewable energy, but smelling like symbols of a new crime against nature and humanity. In terms of sustainability, photovoltaic modules seem to be unappealable; however, their dismissal and the search for minerals needed for their functioning doesn’t appear to be equally fair. Waste trafficking is the fourth largest source of income for crime – after drugs, counterfeiting and human trafficking. It is at this very moment that solar panels lose their aura of sustainability. The European Union has a devastating impact on the environmental economy of sub-Saharan Africa: Lagos is the most emblazoned African port of call, where Italy boasts warehouses and docks ideal for storage and embarkation. Sixty thousand tons of waste of electrical and electronic equipment sail on an annual basis through Lagos (data released by the United Nations 4 and commented as the phenomenon’s tip of the iceberg). Photovoltaic panels are part of this tonnage, both because they are expensive to be disposed of, and because they are direct funding recipients for the reuse of European panels within African communities. Our scraps are thus loaded as new, allowing this to transit more easily through customs. By specific treatment steps, 76% of glass, 10% of polymers and other reusable elements such as copper, aluminium and silicon are recovered from the total weight, which does not foresee any significant environmental problem. However, at the moment, there is no economy of scale able to offer a cost capable of competing with certain types of consciences, and in a few years the 2010-2013 boom’s PV systems will expire. Problem ready to detonate. In addition to dismissal, the risks undermining the sustainability of photovoltaic plants come from their production and from the search for those minerals required for their functioning: Democratic Republic of Congo and cobalt, Guinea and bauxite . Managing certain subsoil assets does not take place under the aegis of international standards, and where economic benefits for a community should be ensured, corruption and exploitation become rampant. Complaints of these realities are a constant from the IISD - International Institute for Sustainable Development , an independent body with venues in Canada, in the United States and in Switzerland, author of the Green Conflict Minerals 5 dossier. Thus speaks Clare Church, IISD researcher and co-signatory of the study together with Alec Crawford: «This problem must be taken into account by those same voices that, correctly, promote a green economic transition». Emblematic words about the urgency of a method to open up a peripheral observation, able to go beyond what could intuitively be right. Because, without denying the goodness of any initiative, the risk is that consequences could be worse than what good intentions aim to solve. Still concerning environment, another useful field of study is that regarding urban gardens . First we talked about disposal space, now questions are asked about the cultivation space and the possibility that what seems to be a panacea, may really be able to be so. The SustUrbanFoods project is funded by the EU, coordinated by the University of Bologna and aimed at investigating and supporting the benefits of this kind of urban biodiversity: less waste, less transport, 5 Clare Church, Alec Crawford, Green Conflict Minerals: the fuels of conflict in the transition to a low-carbon economy – IISD report , 08/2018 – available online @ www.iisd.org 4 Irene Galan, Dark skies, bright future: overcoming Nigeria’s e-waste epidemic , UN Environment Programme, 08/07/2019 – available online @ www.unenvironment.org carlo zauli environmental method vs. parlour environmentalism: some necessary steps on the road to sustainability