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GLANCE

Christmas trees and tourists: The damage from France’s ongoing drought

With the majority of France now facing water restrictions and warnings, the damage of the long summer's drought is already being seen across the country.

Christmas trees and tourists: The damage from France's ongoing drought
Scorched corn fields in Longue-Jumelles, western France. Photo: AFP

A total of 83 out of France's 96 mainland départements now have some kind of water restrictions in place, and although temperatures have dropped since the record-breaking days of late June and July the consequences of the drought are visible everywhere. 

Farmers are having to find solutions to replace the scorched grass usually used for grazing.

READ ALSO Drought alerts in France – here's what you can do to save water

Map: Propluvia

“When you have temperatures up to 40 degrees, you can water the grass all you like, your pasture will still resemble a yellow doormat,” Michel Masson, a farmer in the Loiret region, told Le Parisien.

“Lots of farmers have already exhausted their winter stock to feed their herds.”

Forests, too, are turning red across France due to rising temperatures. Around a third of the country is covered by trees, but forests are beginning to suffer the consequences of repeated heatwaves over the last few years and the recent dry winter.

Fir trees suffering from the drought in Masevaux in eastern France. Photo: AFP

In the Masevaux forest in the Vosges mountains in eastern France, around 10 percent of the trees died of thirst over the course of six months, Cédric Ficht, director of the Mulhouse branch of the National Forests Office, told Europe1.

Many of the trees which decorate French homes at Christmas are grown in the Vosges, but local newspaper Vosges Matin reports that some producers have lost up to 80 percent of their freshly-planted trees this year because of the drought.

The lack of rain has also had an impact on groundwater tables.

Earlier this month, thousands of fish were found dead in Capestang, near Béziers in southern France. The fish supposedly perished from asphyxia due to low water levels provoked by high temperatures, France Bleu reports.

Parts of the bed of the River Loire have dried up. Photo: AFP

Low water levels have even forced the closure of the Canal du Centre in central France since August 6th.

The mayor of the Fragnes commune told France 3 that the closure would cost the village “tens of thousands of euros” in lost revenue, as fewer tourists arrive by boat.

Restrictions on water usage have been in place in some departments since as early as mid-May.

Many areas, particularly in central France, are on a red 'crisis' alert. This means water can only be used for drinking water, sanitation and public health uses.

To find out what restrictions are in place where you live, click here.

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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Snobs, beaches and drunks – 5 things this joke map teaches us about France

A popular joke 'map' of France has once again been widely shared on social media, sparking endless jokes at the expense of certain regions of France.

Snobs, beaches and drunks - 5 things this joke map teaches us about France
Image AFP/cartesfrance.fr
But while the map – created by cartesfrance.fr – is clearly intended to be comic, it teaches us some important points about France’s regional divides, local stereotypes and in-jokes.
 

 
 
 
Here are some of the key points.
 
1. Everyone hates Parisians
 
The map is purportedly France as seen through the eyes of Parisians, and contains a series of snobbish and rude generalisations about every part of France that is not maison (home) in the capital and its surroundings. The great majority of the country is labelled simply as paysans (peasants).
 
The general stereotype about Parisians is that they are snobs, rudely judging the rest of the country which they regard as backwards and full of ploucs (yokels) apart from small areas which make nice holiday destinations.
 
Like all sweeping generalisations, this is true of some people and very much not of others, but one of the few things that can unite people from all areas of France is how much they hate les parigots têtes de veaux (a colloquialism that very roughly translates as ‘asshole Parisians’)
 
 
2. Staycations rule
 
Even before Covid-related travel restrictions, holidaying within France was the norm for many French people.
 
As the map shows, Parisians regard the southern and western coastlines as simply plages (beaches) which they decamp to for at least a month in July or August. In the height of summer French cities tend to empty out (apart from tourists) as locals head to the seaside or the countryside.
 
 
In winter the Pyrenees and Alps are popular ski destinations.
 
3. Northerners like a drink
 
There is a very widespread stereotype, although not really backed up by evidence, that the people of Normandy, Brittany and the Nord area like a drink or two. Many suggest this is to cope with the weather, which does tend to be rainier than the rest of France (although has plenty of sunshine too).
 
 
Official health data doesn’t really back this up, as none of these areas show a significantly greater than average rate of daily drinkers, although Nord does hold the sad record for the highest rate of people dying from alcohol-related liver disease.
 
What’s certainly true is that Brittany and Normandy are cider country, with delicious locally-produced ciders on sale everywhere, well worth a try if you are visiting.
 
 
4. Poverty
 
The map labels the north eastern corner of France as simply pauvres – the poor.
 
The north east of the country was once France’s industrial and coal-mining heartland, and as traditional industries have declined there are indeed pockets of extreme poverty and high unemployment. The novel The End of Eddy, telling the story of novelist Edouard Louis’ childhood in a struggling small town near Amiens, lays out the social problems of such areas in stark detail.
 
However poverty is not just confined to one corner of France and the département that records the highest levels of deprivation is actually Seine-Saint-Denis in the Paris suburbs.
 
5. Southern prejudice
 
According to the map, those from the south are either branleurs (slackers) or menteurs (liars). 
 
This isn’t true, obviously, there are many lovely, hard-working and truthful people in southern France, but the persistent stereotype is that they are lazy – maybe because it’s too hot to do much work – and slightly shifty.
 
Even people who aren’t actually rude about southerners can be pretty patronising, as shown when south west native Jean Castex became the prime minister in summer 2020. 
 
Castex has a noticeable south west accent which sparked much comment from the Paris-based media and political classes, with comments ranging from the patronising – “I love his accent, I feel like I’m on holiday” – to the very patronising – “that accent is a bit rugby” (a reference to the fact that TV rugby commentators often come from France’s rugby heartlands in the south west).
 
 
In his first year as PM, Castex has undertaken a dizzying schedule of appointments around the four corners of France, so hopefully the lazy myth can now be put to bed.
 
And anyone tempted to take the piss out of his accent – glottophobie (accent prejudice) is now a crime in France.
 
For more maps that reflect France, head to cartesfrance.fr
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