You may have read my article about the film Demain which I had heard about continuously when I came to learn French in France. We did an analysis of it in one of my intensive French lessons for adults at the EasyFrench Immersion School and I also read about it when I was searching for some highly recommended documentaries to watch. Demain won the 2016 Best Documentary at the César’s which is one of the top award ceremonies for dramatic productions in France. It’s a highly forward-thinking work looking into how we can fight climate change and delivers a more hopeful message compared to the usual panic inducing documentaries you come across. The idea behind this approach is to inspire people to act rather than to scare them off into distraction or denial. I learnt this from the interview we listened to as an exercise on my French immersion course when we were working on oral comprehension and this came from one of the directors himself, Cyril Dion. The other chief was Mélanie Laurent and the two talented directors certainly had an impact on me. I was left with a strong drive to get involved and help in any way I could.
I was searching for something to do besides the regular things of recycling and watching what I consume etc. It’s not as easy when you are doing a French language stay for sure because there are certain things that are involved in living greener that are made easier by living in one place for a longer period of time. You can buy bulk groceries from particularly environmentally conscious supermarkets for example, here with my French host family we are all sharing a fridge and I have opted to arrange my own food which is cheaper but means I can’t bulk buy. If I can’t bulk buy I have to go to the shops every other day or so, if I have to go every other day or so it’s difficult to always go to the shops I want because they are normally less convenient to get to unless you happen to luck out with where your French host family lives. So yes of course it is still possible but things become tougher and eventually practicality does win out but I try and resist for as long as I reasonably can.
I wanted to do more and really get involved so I could feel like I was part of the solution and not the problem. This is when I found out that the city of Montpellier was taking part in a tree planting project, the first of its kind. ‘Festival 1 million d’arbres’ or the festival of a million trees is a program that is designed to raise awareness and proactivity of climate change and the positive things we can do to help. Obviously as you could probably guess the main thing that they discuss in the project literature is the impact of the loss of trees on the environment both locally and globally through deforestation and industrialisation in general. For example, some of the woodland near Toulouse is currently being cleared for a dam project and it has become quite a controversial topic with all sorts of eco-activists combatting against the project. The festival organisers hope to not only raise awareness of the problems but also in a similar fashion to that of the directors of Demain show what ordinary folk can do to get involved; whether that’s Montpellierains or people learning French here like me and the other students from the EasyFrench School in Montpellier.
The project invited people to several districts all around the city to take part in planting trees and generating all of the positive effects that come from that and also enjoy the personal feeling that comes from being involved in it. I joined them at the site near Parc peyrou to help plant my very own tree and it was an amazing feeling.
To know that long after I have finished my French language stay here in Montpellier there will still be a tree growing here that I have planted and after hearing all the positive effects as described by the organisers of the event it is a pretty amazing feeling. I recommend to all of you coming to France to learn French to get involved, for the world and for yourself!