Going Green in the City of Light

Written by kvfawcett on September 6, 2010 – 11:08 am -

Most people are all for going green until it costs them something or limits their freedom, merci beaucoup. Yes, here’s to a more sustainable environment—but what’s the price we’ll have to pay.

For a third year now, National Geographic has assembled a Green Guide to make living a more environmentally aware life easier and to help create some ways of achieving it. With GlobeScan, the Geographic is looking to develop an international research approach to measure and monitor consumer progress towards environmentally sustainable consumption. Sounds good? Sounds right? You bet and the 2006 carbon dioxide emissions results prove that the poorer the country, the less impact it has on the environment.  Not surprising: the poor have less—and less to waste, to burn or to throw away.

Most developed countries are recycling glass and paper, promoting alternative forms of energy, trying to cut down on water usage, utilizing recyclable building and storage materials, and screwing in light bulbs that are longer lasting and consume less energy.  But this is just the beginning.  We need to utilize cleaning materials that are ecologically friendly and not throw out things because they’ve been used once, substitute paper or cotton for plastic and use “green” products because we care about future.

But living a green life—even a pale shade of green life—isn’t easy and doesn’t come naturally to us, (especially Americans) any more. Europeans have always been more energy conscious since electricity is expensive and why pay for lights and heat that aren’t needed? Until relatively recently, many of my French friends didn’t have dishwashers and would hang just-washed clothes outside or use an indoor clothesline. Most Europeans drive smaller cars. It’s not only a question of gas but also finding a parking space.

Now, I should study the label on every detergent I buy. Do I even know if the chemicals in this product or that are harmful?  Where am I supposed to store the dead batteries and the defunct smoke detector and all the other dangerous junk (who knew it was dangerous?) before I throw them out? And where did I put all that stuff, anyway.

Some may have hybrid cars, use High Occupancy Vehicle lanes, but other people can’t adopt the entire kit and caboodle—and hybrids still use gasoline and only gasoline over 40 miles per hour. As much as I chastise myself over my carbon footprint, I’m not going to stop traveling by plane. Nor am I going to unplug my modems each night to save some electricity. I will wear a sweater when the apartment’s temperature is colder than I like and even a pair of socks or furry slippers in the house. So I’m pale green at best.

And now there’s a huge hoopla in Paris courtesy of Paris’s Mayor Bertrand Delanoë. First, he narrowed some major streets by adding bike lanes. He was a big proponent of closing off others and turning them into pedestrian walkways. Many people loved it while some vendors are still cursing this move has ruined businesses.

When the mayor mandated in 2002 that Paris was going to have a plage (beach) for four weeks on the Right bank of the Seine, some drivers may not have been happy, but figured that not everyone could go to the country so they’d grin and bear it.

But now, the Mayor is adamant that he wants to close the Left Bank expressway that goes from the Musée d’Orsay to near the Eiffel Tower. That’s a total of 1.2 miles. Paris’s City Council will vote on the ban this July and, if passed, that part of the city will have a new look and feel in 2012 when there would be 35 acres of new cafés, parks, permanent foot and bike paths, sports facilities and floating islands complete with palm trees. Parisians would be able to pretend they were someplace exotic—if they’re not seeing red.

Taxi drivers and people who use the Quai de Branly are ballistic. Closing this area would displace approximately 30,000 cars each day. It’s been the fastest way to get from here to there. Here’s an example. A friend staying in the 11e arrondissement had an appointment with a doctor in the 16e—that is, point A and point B are both on the Right Bank.  The métro was having a problem, so he grabbed a cab.  The driver asked which way he wanted to go.  He said, take the Left Bank then cross the river again. The driver, from Senegal, beamed, saying, “You really know Paris, don’t you?”  The trip took twelve minutes—and the driver only ran one light.

Bonjour Paris readers were polled about closing the road by the river. Some think this will be great and a boon to tourism and make the city more livable. Others are more than annoyed, saying that traffic is already a mess in Paris and this will only exacerbate the problem. Not everyone agrees you don’t need a car in Paris, especially if they’re in a service business and don’t want to be dragging things on the métro or waiting for buses. Many say they don’t live near a convenient métro and don’t want to be jam-packed in with other riders.

David Tussman, a frequent Paris visitor, who lives in Berkeley, CA, said, “This is a fabulous idea. How many people really need to DRIVE in Paris? Tearing down the Embarcadero freeway in San Francisco after the earthquake in 1989 totally transformed the waterfront and remade the city. The area along the Seine is horrific now with all the traffic and this will be a gigantic change for the better.”

Some Bonjour Paris readers think Delanoë should have his head examined. What do you think? Is this too much a theme-park notion or really a green idea?

© Paris New Media, LLC


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