One bitter 'victory' - A story about pollution (Part 2)
Yesterday night, we had crêpes with B. and Y. at the Bellevue, a friendly crêperie.
B. is Bernard, our farmer friend I talked about in my previous blog.
There were a lot of customers and so we had plenty of time to talk. And talk we did.
We talked about our children. They have two sons and one daughter. They also have 7 grandchildren ranging from 3 to 13 years old. Of course, since we’ve be around for quite a long time now, we know every one of them quite well.
One of their grandchildren is an amazing classical piano player. He’s a wonderful boy, so filled with a deep inner happiness one seldom sees in a child his age.
So we talked about our children and politics of course. A true french meal can’t avoid small talk about our politicians. France is going through weird times. Since we agree about almost every issue, it was a relaxing time.
Bernard was the one to open the ‘debate’ about pollution. It took a long time. But he did start the discussion about the liquid sludge waste issue.
He asked me whether or not I had an inkling where the spreading would be done. I answered that I imagined they had rescinded their contract with the city hall.
Wrong, wrong, wrong.
He said that all the waste that was to be spread in our fields would end up in theirs, including the large one behind their beautiful home, very close to their well.
He sounded almost relieved to have made this decision. But we were not happy with it.
It would still be polluting, wouldn’t it?
‘Well’, he said ‘they have to get rid of the waste so someone has to do it. Why not farmers? It pays well after all.’
It always amazes me when someone who is supposed to be very close to nature can’t see the harm done to the very world he’s getting his living from.
His world before being mine.
The farmer is the closest person to the land, the soil, whatever name we want to give it. And yet he does not understand the dangers (which I don’t believe is true because Bernard is very bright).
He doesn’t want to see the dangers because he needs to make a living. Even if to make a living, he’s destroying the potential future of the earth and his own world, this world that already belongs to his grandchildren.
Of course he’s not completely guilty. There are home and world market pressures. We are greedy consumers. But the producer (the farmer) does not get as much as he should from his hard work, at least not in France. So to make ends meet, it’s obvious that an offer as juicy as the one from the city hall is to be accepted.
I’m very stubborn. I was quite relieved that the fields close to the sea wouldn’t get polluted but I had to make another point.
The government has recently conducted a study about farmers’ health, especially in Brittany (where pollution is really high both from manure and waste spreading). They have noticed that cancer rate is getting much higher in Brittany, especially among countryfolk. Life expectancy is also much lower in rural areas than in the rest of France.
They also found out that several cancers are widespread in those areas (prostate, lungs, breast and colon), all of this probably due to heavy and unchecked pollution (fertilizers and pesticides) for years and years.
Another terrible illness is also unusually common to those areas: Alzheimer’s disease.
You see, Bernard’s wife, a very wonderful and sweet woman, is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. The onset was very brutal. (She wasn’t even 60.)
This was four years ago. I’m very close to her even though nowadays, from time to time, I’m not even sure she really knows who I am. At least she’s still very sweet to me which I’m really grateful for. Because she’s no longer very kind to most people.
Her health and mind are deteriorating quite fast. This is really heartbreaking.
So last night, I took my courage in both hands and I said: ‘Bernard, what about cancer and...’
He looked at me, very pained: ‘It hasn’t been proved yet.’
What can you answer to this?
End of discussion. We turned to other subjects, safer issues which did not obliterate the pollution problem.
Maybe next year, he’ll find reasons to refuse the city hall offer. But if he does say no to them, they will find other farmers to do the dirty job. We’ll never see the end of this.
Unless our town council becomes more efficient in its waste control.
After all, we have one of the most beautiful golf courses in France and maybe Europe. Now we have a brand new thalassotherapy complete with first class hotel rooms... but it was not allowed to open its treatment space since the sea water they were pumping out is too polluted.
This could be a funny story but it is not. This is truly symbolic of Northern Brittany.
Natural beauty so marred by (almost) imperceptible and creeping pollution.
*Good Luck, and Good Night*