The grey days of England hang over my head. I see scars of industrialisation and the urban sprawl. It makes me realise just how important our attitudes towards the environment really are. I am a French expat living in London, England and working with children. I miss my home country desperately, but I left there almost ten years ago because it was not very ecological. I thought England would be greener, but I was mistaken. In some ways it’s worse.
I did a little research on the most sustainable countries in the world and found that Iceland, Switzerland and Costa Rica take up the top three places. To my surprise, France was on the list as well. England was not. After much consideration, I have decided to move back home, in search of a more sustainable lifestyle. I am sure that with a little hard work I can settle back in. But how has France managed to turn it all around?
Since Sarkozy came to power, there have been increased steps towards sustainability. In 2010 a ban on incandescent light bulbs came into play and back in 2007 Sarkozy pushed for a ‘green revolution,’ vouching that France would be international green leaders. And, thanks to modern environmental policies, they are well on their way.
When I go home, I don’t want to have to rely on a car. They’re expensive and terrible for the planet. Thankfully, France is already known for its fantastic public transport. We have a multi-level public transportation system which includes the metro, commuter train, bus and the tram system. To add to this one of the key transport proposals that stands out in the Grenelle de l’environment is to give priority to public transport for over 1,500 km of bus routes, tram lines and cycle lanes.
Furthermore, the use of pesticides is going to be reduced by 50% within the next 10 years and public sector canteens will see a 20% increase in the availability of organic foods. I am a big supporter of organic farms and very much against the idea of using genetically modified products. It just doesn’t seem right. In a step towards sustainability I’ve been spending time growing my own fruit and vegetables, as much as the UK weather permits! When the time comes to take the leap and buy property in France, a sizeable garden is going to be essential. My little balcony here in London simply isn’t giving me enough space. After all, what’s the point in heading home for a more sustainable life if I can’t actually self-sustain?
France is not alone in its aim for sustainable living. Here in the UK the Government pledged to be the ‘greenest government ever’. Sustainable development has been a key part of the Coalition Agreement, which stated that we ‘need to protect the environment for future generations, make our economy more environmentally sustainable, and improve our quality of life and wellbeing.’
However, it takes both the government and the citizens to make a difference. The problem is, whilst people in the UK are aware of climate change, it’s not at the forefront of their mind. Brits are, understandably, more concerned about the recession and unemployment. The UK Department
Of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) recently published results from its first ‘Public Attitudes Tracking Survey’ and they found that few see energy supply or climate change as the biggest challenges facing Britain today (3% said energy supply and 2% climate change vs 43% unemployment!). There’s no denying those statistics!
Whilst I’ll miss British eccentricity and the brilliant sense of humour (which I have only grasped after a ten year stay) I can’t help but feel that the country still has a lot to do to achieve sustainability. I worry for my children and for their futures, I think we must all do what we can to nurture our precious planet and treat its beauty and power with the respect it deserves. I only wish that everyone else felt the same.
(cc Marion Doss)