Wednesday, November 25, 2015 – Saint-sur-l’École to Issy-les-Moulineaux
It takes me over 30 minutes to travel the road along the vast expanse that is the Palace of Versailles and its grounds. I have no interest in stopping, feeling offended by the ostentatious display of wealth and power, knowing at what cost it came in terms of human and environmental degradation.
For humanity to survive and thrive in the New Climate Era, this type of wealth concentration must become a historical relic. Once the world is headed on the right path, when it has abandoned fossil fuels and is going full steam ahead with renewables, the next critical issue of the day will be income inequality.
Today, I trade forest pathways for suburban sidewalks. The rain continues, but there are plenty of places to stop, warm-up, attempt a conversation.
In Viroflay, I come to a very small shop. The owner, Jean-Michel, is out front, using a long, hooked stick to lift his wares off the awning, as the rain seems imminent. It is an odd shop, such as I remember on the streets of the town near my grandmother’s farm in Ireland. Jean-Michel sells toys for kids and also various things one might need around the house. Amazingly, he has exactly what I’m looking for!
We talk a bit. Like everyone in France, he knows how important is the upcoming climate summit. During my time there, I am his only customer, and I wonder how he makes a living. I am very grateful for the stick tips, and Jean-Michel obliges a photo in front of his shop.
Toward the end of the 17-mile day, as rush hour is filling the sidewalk with commuters scurrying to get to the train system, the rain comes hard and fast. I am in no hurry, so I duck under an awning. During my 5-minute stay there, a couple presumably from the Mideast stops in to share the dryness with me. He is very conversational, very engaging. We make small talk until his wife quickly whisks him away in the rain, making a dart for the subway entrance.
A woman in her forties stops by “my” awning (yes, I’ve now laid claim to it), smiles, says something I don’t understand, and is off again in less than 10 seconds. Maybe she only thought she was bothered by the rain.
My third visitor is a woman who is also in no rush. She is trying to locate a street. She asks me for directions, and I tell her that even though I don’t know the area, I am powerfully equipped with a map on my phone. I am able to point her in the right direction, and now feel as if my claim to the awning is not merely a matter of privilege, but earned.
As I wrap up the day’s walk, I see more and more billboards announcing the climate summit, urging strong action. They reinforce the reality I’ve come to understand: climate change is not a controversy in France. People are on board, unified, and want something done.
The day’s walk ends as the clouds are beginning to break. A full moon peeps through the clouds, in short order revealing its full glory over the ancient, beautiful, and still functional architecture of Paris.