Monday, May 24, 2010

"We are not here to bemoan our plight, we are here to promote our trade"

Now that we are developing the ability to manufacture at the molecular level and perhaps even create new forms 0f life (see last week's posts), is it possible as James Lovelock predicts that someday our food will come from counter-top nano-machines and farms will be rendered obsolete? (GW)

French farmers bring rural reality to Champs Elysées

Paris avenue transformed overnight to highlight crisis in agricultural sector

By Lizzy Davies

May 23, 2010

As the busiest, most traffic-friendly road in the French capital, there is usually very little that is field-like about the Champs Elysées, or Elysian Fields.

Today, however, the cars that usually speed through the famous avenue were brought to a halt and the cobblestones paved over with grass as la France profonde took over the most urban landscape in the country.

By bringing in 8,000 plots of earth and 150,000 plants to the city and installing them, amid sheep and cattle, along three-quarters of a mile of the thoroughfare, struggling farmers are attempting to highlight an aspect of French life which they believe is too often overlooked by Paris.

In the ravages of a crisis which has seen production costs soar and product prices fall, representatives of the agricultural sector say farmers are being brought to their knees.

But William Villeneuve, president of the young farmers' union, insisted the greening of the Champs Elysées was more a celebration than a protest.

"We are not here to bemoan our plight," he said. "We are here to promote our trade." The farmers wanted to make French consumers reflect on "what they have on their plates" and how it got there, he added.

Organisers of the event, which cost private investors €4.2m to stage and was due to run today and tomorrow, said they hoped to attract up to two million people to the newly bucolic avenue running from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde.

From wheat and mustard to grapevines and Limousin pigs, the avenue's pavements have been carpeted with lorry-loads of produce from all over France, among it 650 fully grown trees and a vast array of flora intended to symbolise the country's biodiversity.

Gad Weil, an outdoor events planner co-ordinating the Nature Capital event with the young farmers' union, said the spectacle had brought people together in order to showcase Gallic agriculture.

"Lorry drivers, truck drivers, farmers, woodsmen, events planners: these men don't usually work together, but here everyone is doing so with a smile," he said during the night-long operation that transformed the Champs Elysées into a long strip of greenery. Visitors were able to buy plants and produce for themselves, as well as tasting regional specialities and, this afternoon, taking part in a mass barbecue organised by Paris butchers.

For the 55,000 members of the young farmers' union, the stunt has a more serious purpose. Agricultural workers are one of the most alienated sections of Nicolas Sarkozy's electorate and, as a steep fall in revenues causes anger to grow, farmers have used increasingly eye-catching means to draw attention to their grievances. Last month, more than 1,000 cereal farmers drove to the capital on tractors to protest against their plummeting standard of living.


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