This blog is written by Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Posts appear Monday & Wednesday.
The Paris climate summit is many things, including a cultural spectacle wrapped in lightweight media fluff.
I’ve been in Europe for a week. As one might expect following the November 13 Paris terrorist attacks, airports here are now patrolled by soldiers equipped with machine guns.
But it’s the holiday season. Lights are twinkling, Christmas trees are being sold on sidewalks, and the shops are crowded. I flew to Paris not to report on COP21, the official climate conference, but to participate in a counter-conference that presented alternative points of view. The slogan for that event is a quote attributed to George Patton: If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.
In the French media, COP21 is receiving the kind of attention associated with the Olympics or a film festival. Politicians have been extensively photographed, and pages upon pages of coverage have been devoted to the proceedings. Whether regular Parisians notice or care is another matter.
I stayed at a lovely, three-star hotel in the 9th arrondisement for four nights and saw no indication that global warming was on the minds of the families and shopkeepers going about their lives in that neighbourhood. Paris, the world’s top tourist destination, is suffering financially as a result of the terrorist attacks. There has been a slew of cancellations, and new bookings are down dramatically. It will be a lean holiday season for some some.
Speaking of media coverage, special editions of magazines have been published to commemorate COP21. The women’s magazine, Elle, has released a gorgeous edition that costs €10.
Kate Pouliquen, Elle‘s editor-in-chief, obligingly ends her opening remarks by mentioning the COP21 start and end dates, plus the address of the French government’s website for this event. A few pages later, Melanie Laurent (an actress) interviews Sylvie Guillem (a ballet dancer). Described by the magazine as “an uninhibited conversation held against a backdrop of urgency and indignation,” the interview is published a second time in English toward the back.
People familiar with the New Age Bullshit Generator – in which a computer program strings together total nonsense that nevertheless sounds semi-profound – will find similar content in this edition 0f Elle. According to Guillem,
If as human beings we want to continue to stand on our two legs, we have to step on the brakes and shake up polite discussions.
In a magazine sponsored by Rolex, whose watches sell for tens of thousands a piece, Guillem denounces “senselessness and waste.” Moreover, she appears blissfully unaware of what the New York Times once called the magazine industry’s “dirty little secret” – that millions of copies are destroyed each and every month, unsold and unread. Guillem tells us that
Consuming less means renouncing a certain degree of comfort. And that’s very hard in a world where politics say exactly the opposite…
According to her, humanity is “in the process of massively destroying the planet” and “it’s tiresome to have to convince people that you’re only out to save their lives.” This woman is an archetype, a sublime representative of the highly-emotional, alarmingly misinformed environmental activist.
Glacier experts can insist until they’re blue that there’s no scientific reason to believe glaciers are at risk of vanishing this century, that such an idea is preposterous. But Guillem inhabits a different planet, and Elle gives her a platform to spout unmitigated rubbish. “It’s no longer a problem of environmental awareness,” she says, but
a matter of survival…in 25 years there won’t be any more glaciers. In 50 years, no water or fish. That’s what we’ve succeeded in doing! We can’t wait any longer!
If you dare, you can read the whole, incoherent mess here.
Another COP21 commemorative magazine was published by Air France, and is being tucked into the back of airline seats throughout the fleet.
The entire issue may be flipped through online. A premier contender for the ‘Gibberish Posing as Wisdom’ award emanates from the pen of its own editor-in-chief, Aude Revier:
Embrace the earth, watch over its fragile splendour, tend to its melancholia and its joys; and then strive, little by little, to change the course of destiny. Cast aside our doubts. Transform ourselves, to transform our lives. And rethink the future to reinvent the world.
Since this is a French-to-English translation, I suppose one should be charitable. But in a blind test, if presented with the above quote and these ones, produced by the New Age Bullshit Generator, could most people really tell the difference?
My Paris hotel, the Eden Opera, was a gem. The rooms are spacious and well-appointed. The wifi is excellent (and included in the room price). Staff members are helpful, friendly, and speak English. I recommend it highly.
My airfare was paid for, in advance, by the counter-conference organizers. Accommodation, meals, and transportation costs in Paris – as well as here in London (where I’ve met with fellow journalists Christopher Booker and Matt Ridley, among others) – have been charged to my personal credit card.
Should you be in a position to help defray these costs via a small donation, my own holiday season will be somewhat merrier.