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Warming Up to Seduce Parisians

Monday afternoon there was an opportunity, thanks to the French-American Foundation, to see a special preview presentation of the film on global warming by Al Gore, “An Inconvenient Truth.”

It opens with scenes from New Orleans after Katrina at the height of the flooding and devastation. Luckily I had a pack of tissues on hand to catch the tears. Gore ran clips of New Orleans Mayor Nagin in those first few moments when he was yelling profanities at a government exhibiting gross ineptitude to come to the rescue (without of course, the profanities). (Did you know that the number of category 4 and 5 hurricanes has almost doubled in the last 30 years?)

I was riveted to my seat, not only because Al Gore is a first class presenter or that the film was brilliantly produced, but because the subject matter is long overdo being addressed. Quite frankly, it scared me to death.

While he was expounding on the excesses of American consumerism which outnumber every other nation (the average American generates about 15,000 pounds of carbon dioxide every year from personal transportation, home energy use and from the energy used to produce all of the products and services they consume), I was thinking about how the Paris landscape is changing to control and reduce that same consumerism.

In the latter part of the 1800’s, when Paris was already of almost two million inhabitants, Baron Haussmann widened the streets to transform Paris into a “modern” city — with the objective to eliminate disease and sewer odor, while adding lighting, sidewalks, and allowing for a better flow of commerce. It has been described as “an attempt not to subdue but seduce Parisians.” More than 20,000 residences were destroyed to make way for all that modernism.

Now, almost 150 years later, those same streets face the danger of contributing to an unhealthy environment and overall to global warming affecting our and our children’s futures.

With Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoë at the lead, a member of the “Groupe Socialiste” and “Radical de Gauche,” the environment is a major issue in today’s city planning. Everywhere you venture in Paris these days you will find construction underway to narrow the streets, reduce the parking, widen the sidewalks, and add trees and lighting, with the same objective as Haussmann — to “seduce Parisians.”

If I depended on a car to go to and from work, I probably wouldn’t be as much in favor of the measures to make owning and driving a car so miserable in the City of Light…but I don’t, and happily. Last week with a friend who keeps a car here, after circling for almost an hour to find a parking place near any of the half-dozen restaurants that came to mind, we opted for parking anywhere possible and discovering a new and different restaurant near wherever we had landed. That turned out to be a great and rewarding adventure, having discovered Le Cambodge (10, avenue Richerand, 10th, 01.44.84.37.70), a Cambodian restaurant that was not only authentic and absolutely delicious, but amazingly inexpensive! The funny thing is that it turned out to be just a few minutes walk from home. My comment: three cheers for lack of parking!

There are many other signs of conservative consumerism on the French landscape, that have existed for a long time. The French and Europeans clearly use less electricity, less gasoline and waste less. Perhaps originally it was more economically driven, but they design efficient appliances and cars, and see through simple ideas that make a difference — like the lighting that automatically goes off once it’s n

o longer needed — have you seen the short-term lighting in almost all the apartment hallways in France?. Another example is the “chaudière” (water heater) which heats only the water that flows through passing it on to the bathrooms, kitchen and radiators that heat the apartment, so not only the hot water never runs out, but there’s no tank heating water that doesn’t get used. I’ve never seen it, but maybe you know…does this simple concept even exist in the States?

After seeing “An Inconvenient Truth” I realized that we all need to work harder to combat the problem of global warming which is very real. It’s why thousands of people in Europe died in the heat wave of 2003 and why New Orleans is no longer the thriving city it once was. It could put Manhattan almost entirely under water if there is a melt down of ice from the poles and Greenland. And it could mean that there’s no advantage to investing in property in warm climates destined for an inhabitable environment.

An Inconvenient Truth” is out on DVD as of November 21st, so be one of the first to have it and show it to whomever is willing. Join the global warming virtual march at http://www.stopglobalwarming.org and visit the City of Paris Web site to see all it’s doing in the name of environment: http://www.paris.fr/. Just start to participate. The most important thing you can do, too, is elect officials who agree, not deny there is an issue.

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris
Email [email protected]

P.S. Read all about yesterday’s Parler Paris Après Midi (with photos) where we gathered for coffee and conversation and a barrel of laughs. See /parlerparis/apresmidi.html, then mark your calendar for November 14th when we meet again!

P.P.S. Welcome “Les Arts et Métiers!” — the newest addition to Parler Paris Apartments… an architecturally designed and very cozy, spacious one-bedroom apartment situated in the heart of Paris just at near the Musée and Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers. It’s available for rental short and mid term to up to four. For pictures and more details available visit: /parlerparis/apartments/rentals/artsetmetiers.html

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