Thursday, April 2, 2009

Sustainable symbols

In France, it's fitting that the ministry of Jean-louis Borloo , which promotes wind energy, should have a long-winded name: Ecology, Energy, Sustainable Development and Land Use Planning (Aménagement du territoire). Yesterday, I noticed that this ministry has announced that this is Sustainable Development Week. Thank goodness they reminded me!

I was intrigued by the symbols in their banner. I see a low-energy light bulb, a plastic garbage bin and another plastic container that might hold anything at all, maybe garden compost. The tap symbolizes one of the world's most precious substances, water, and the bicycle stands for non-polluting transport. The house symbol is probably intended to remind us that we should pay attention to domestic energy consumption. That leaves us with an apple symbol. What, in fact, is it meant to symbolize? Maybe it's meant to promote fresh fruit and vegetables. Fair enough, but the Apple symbol also makes me think of a marvelous range of modern electronic gadgets that are not directly associated with fresh fruit and vegetables. Thinking that the sense of the symbols might be explained inside their web site, I accessed it... and here's what I found:

Hey, that apple symbol has evolved a bit, and it's starting to evoke explicitly the famous products that I had in mind. Is it thinkable that Borloo's ministry in France is promoting my favorite computer? Why not? The latest Apple products are relatively ecological, and I can vouch for the fact that the Macintosh is a tremendously sustainable tool. I imagine, too, that concerned specialists could use Macintoshes profitably to perform projects in land use planning.

Incidentally, the sustainable energy domain provided a theme for an excellent April Fool's Day joke yesterday, on the national TV news. The likable anchor man David Pujadas, who's good at keeping a straight face while making preposterous statements, announced that recent research has revealed that the countless wind machines scattered over the French countryside are slowing down the rotational movement of our planet, and that drastic steps will have to be taken to make amends for this unexpected situation.

One of the consequences is that our traditional 24-hour day is being stretched out into a period that's slightly longer, and that the nation's clocks and watches will have to be replaced sooner or later. Everybody knows that the French complain constantly about everything. The owner of a shop that sells clocks and watches, interviewed by a TV journalist, complained bitterly that this change is likely to leave him with a lot of unsellable stock. A radical solution would consist of reducing the height of existing wind machines, so that they create less drag in the upper atmosphere, with a reduced effect upon the speed of the Earth's rotation. This would have an unpleasant consequence, though. The tips of the giant whirling blades would pass just above the heads of motorists, cyclists, farmers in tractors, pedestrians and all the other innocent citizens of our Gentle France (douce France).

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