As the rest of the world turns . . .

french_farm_house.jpg. . . the USA opens a sleepy eye and rolls over.

France recently engaged an unlikely coalition of farmers, fishermen, trade unionists, captains of industry, environmentalists, scientists, and politicians to develop a blueprint for a new “green revolution” in sustainability. Against all odds, it appears to have worked — so far.  As reported in Nature (and also here), The group came to consensus on the following key points:

• All newly built homes to produce more energy than they consume by 2020. Renovate all existing buildings to save energy. Ban incandescent light bulbs by 2010. Reduce greenhouse-gas emission by 20% by 2020.      

• Increase renewable energy from 9% to 20–25% of total energy consumption by 2020.

• Bring transport emissions back to 1990 levels. Reduce vehicle speed limits by 10 kilometres per hour. Taxes and incentives to favour clean cars. Shift half of haulage by road to rail and water within 15 years. Develop rail and public transport.

• Reduce air pollutants quantitatively.

• Create a national network of ‘green’ corridors and nature reserves.

• Increase organic farming from 2% to 6% of total acreage production by 2010 and to 20% by 2020.

• Ecological groups to be stakeholders, like trade unions, in government negotiations.

• Create a body to review planting of genetically modified crops on a case-by-case basis.

“Environmental progress in France lags badly behind that of some of its European neighbours, such as Germany and Scandinavia. But [President] Sarkozy [Editor’s note: a conservative] made the greening of France a major plank of his election campaign this year. He has since created a superministry for ecology, biodiversity and sustainable development, with responsibility for the powerful sectors of transport, energy and construction — a first in France, where ecology was previously off the political radar . . .

As the weeks went by, groups found common ground, says Guillou. ‘There was a chemistry that worked.’ Everyone realized they were facing a real problem, adds Jouzel, echoing the words of Jean-Louis Borloo, minister of ecology and sustainable development: ‘We have no alternative but to radically change the rules and bring about an environmental revolution.’”

Now comes the hard work of negotiating with France’s voting public which side of the sword they find less painful. But the mere fact that these daunting challenges are being openly recognized, discussed sanely, and that important difficult choices are being offered in the public sphere, is revolutionary in itself. 

How about another American Revolution?  Calling the US Government — anybody home there?

 

About Emmett Duffy

I am a Natural Patriot and an ecologist with expertise in biodiversity and its importance to human society. My day job is Professor of Marine Science at the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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