It's the world's oldest profession, or so they say, and it seems like law enforcement has been attempting crackdowns on the prostitution biz almost as long as it has been around. The buying and selling of sex is notoriously tough to get rid of once its been established, leading some cities and municipalities to create legal red-light districts (Amsterdam being a world-famous example). But in central Italy, in the Abruzzo area, the police who monitor the Bonifita del Tronto road have had enough of the illegal sex pickups there. And they're not going to take it anymore. 

According to The Guardian, who originally reported the story, after decades of arresting johns, arresting prostitutes, installing cameras, and mounting 24-hour police presence on the road, all to no avail, their newest tactic involves cutting trees down alongside the road, and lots of them (69 acres to be hilariously exact). By deforesting the areas surrounding the 10 miles of roadside where approximately 600 prostitutes (who are mostly Nigerian, but also Chinese, Brazilian, Romanian, and other nationalities) ply their trade, local police hope to eliminate the sex business once and for all, since it is in these forested areas that prostitutes and their clients get down to business. By eliminating the cover of the trees where they 'work,' authorities believe they will eliminate the problem entirely, wiping out the thriving local business. 

Environmentalists see this 'solution' as potentially causing more problems than local authorities will solve by taking the trees down. Three groups, including the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) have come out against the plan, citing the trees' important role in absorbing CO2, creating oxygen, and keeping pesticides and herbicides from local farmers' fields out of the Tronto river (the Bonifitida de Tronto road runs for about 10 miles along the river). Without the natural barrier of tree roots and vegetation between the river and the fields, chemicals and runoff will wash right into the river, creating pollution that will wash further downstream and eventually into the Adriatic Sea, a body of water which already suffers from particulate pollution. Because the local composition of riverbanks is clay and clay-mixes, the pollution could be particularly bad, as this type of earth, due to its fine grain size, tends to wash away easily. 

It remains to be seen what the local reaction to the plan will be, as the police chief in this region is well-known (and popular) for his strong-arm tactics, having "...won national fame for shooting at a bank robber whom he then chased and caught," according to The Guardian. Italy isn't the only country across the pond dealing with public sex complications; in Puttenham, Britain, locals are up in arms (but many are also somewhat accepting) of "dogging" - the practice of sex outside - in a park near a highway that has become a popular coupling area. There too, suggestions of cutting down trees and brush so that fornicators won't have a place to hide, have been raised. But so far, all that has been done in that case is to erect signs that encourage visitors not to engage in "activities of an unacceptable nature." 

Starre Vartan ( @ecochickie ) covers conscious consumption, health and science as she travels the world exploring new cultures and ideas.

Italy to reduce prostitution with .... deforestation?
Abruzzo region wants to force sex workers out by clearcutting hiding places; environmentalists object.