Leave no trace

Paris, sept 13 th 2013

Paris is considered by most Americans as a most beautiful city, so much so that they take no grudge at the filfthiness of the streets, littered with dog poo, cigarette butts, papers and all kinds of refuse. To a point that the tourist has to make a choice between admiring the beauties of our city and splashing every 5 minutes into pee and shit, or keeping clean shoes but having the eyes focused on the pavement. Coming back from 6 weeks in the US, a parisian can only feel ashamed and sad by his city. Why is it that our capital, the flagship of our culture, the humus of our superiority complex, ranks among the filthiest cities in the world , along with Calcuta, Lagos and Athens?
The answer is: Culture. Americans have developed a “leave no trace ” culture that makes them feel guilty if they pee in the middle of nowhere in Arkansas or Wyoming, let alone if they throw a cigarette butt on the sidewalk in New York. In France, people hold roads and streets to be garbage cans. It is public, therefore it is not my problem and “they” will take care of it. In America, “they” is us. Culture.
Each year the Tour de France shows images of competitors throwing away their food package after eating while riding, thus giving the worst example to millions of TV spectators, particularly amateur cyclists who will feel entitled to do the same on their next sunday morning ride.
Politicians of course bear a huge responsibility: environment and ecology are no priority when the unemployment rate reaches 10%, and the mayor of Paris , although enemy of air pollution and favoring bikes, never cracked down on dog owners who don’t curb their dogs or teenagers who throw away their Mac Do basket in the streets.
Along with a huge effort to become as bike friendly as American cities, Paris should clean its act in terms of street hygiene. Biking goes with clean, green, peaceful, respectful, relaxed. Let’s hope that one day Parisians and tourists won’t have to hip hop between dog’s poo when they walk in the streets, instead of looking up to the marvels of our capital.

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One Response to Leave no trace

  1. Mike H says:

    Philippe; I agree that Paris is a dirty city. We were surprised by that on our visit there. However, the USA is not as clean as it appears. In a car, Americans can zoom down the roads and see very little trash in the grass along the roadsides. But on a bike, at the slower speeds and closer proximity to the pavement edge, there is a great amount of trash. In some areas it is almost a continual stream of paper, bottles and cans. The worst offenders? Miller Lite (beer) drinkers and MacDonald’s (restaurant) patrons. I don’t know why, but perhaps it is economics: lower incomes equate to less education equates to less knowledge and less respect for the environment, maybe? Any other opinions?

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