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France’s Future, Economy & Environment: a Pragmatic and Optimistic Outlook

Well hello there!

Hope everything is awesome at Willamette, even though I have very little doubts about this according to my personal experience, and that y’all are enjoying life!

Coming back from picking grapes in Alsace (a pretty bucolic region in the Northeast of France), I do have a few things to tell you about our economy, our job market and my country’s environmental efforts, and will do my best to keep it nicely clear and organized.

So, if you please, I will start with what my country is good at producing and exporting. As I said, I just came back from a job grape picking in a wine producing region of my country, which is, as you probably already know, one of the world’s top wine exporting nations. The tradition of making wine is deeply rooted in several of our regions, such as Alsace, Champagne, Côte du Rhône or Bordeaux. Even though exports dropped recently due to a diminished demand from countries like China, we’re still a leader in the market, and the quality of our vinified products is not to be proved anymore.

Map of France’s main wine producing regions

Other alcoholic products, such as Cognac or Calvados, are also pretty popular and still good elements of our exports.

As a European leader in agriculture, France also produces and exports a lot of dairy products (mostly cheese, when they’re not banned…I’m looking at you again, Uncle Sam!), wheat, colza (used in production for edible oil and biofuel), vegetables like beets, and fruits such as apples, grapes or some others.

Luxury products are also doing well as far as exports are concerned, with world famous brands such as Dior, Chanel, Longchamps, Louis Vuiton and other ridiculously expensive stuff. They keep being highly popular as they target wealthy customers not really suffering from the global crisis, and because they keep conveying the classy image of French refinement – not relevant nor appropriate anymore, if you want my opinion on the matter. Anyway, as regards to economics, we’re proud to have these jewels contributing to the radiance of some French symbols (talk about that fancy “French Touch”..!).

Directly tied with this last point, France has an everlastingly growing industry that some of you might have already benefitted: Tourism. My country is undeniably attractive for tourists from everywhere in the world. With the most visited monument on the planet (no need to name it, you probably guessed yourself already), France also has a very typical culture, a super rich History with chunks of legacy scattered all around the country, and a strong identity shining worldwide. Thanks to these assets, we keep being competitive in this field of the economy, which is why I keep this in the back of my head for my professional future in case my main plan doesn’t work out, or in case I want to try something new. But I will come back to this later.

Because there is one more industry that I do have to mention (even though I’d rather not) as it is my duty to tell you the whole truth: France is one of the world’s biggest exporter of weapons. Supplying countries in Northern Africa, Eastern Europe and in the Middle East, this aspect of our economy is often hidden but contributes tremendously to our GDP…

On the other side of the balance, France imports all of its oil (of course), and tends to lean towards natural gas, even though the European government recently banned underground extraction in order to prevent environmental damages. We also import a lot of chocolate, coffee and exotic products, and if you’re lucky, you MIGHT find some peanut butter on a random shelf somewhere..! New technologies (with a lot of imports in the sector) are also increasing exponentially, and even though consumption is decreasing pretty much everywhere (like the car industry going through a significant crisis), people keep buying digital stuff.

As you may have heard in the media recently, the French economy in general is not doing that great. Unemployment is on the rise, industries are having troubles and keep firing workers (generating strong protests against such decisions), and overall the mood is somehow pessimistic. However, there are reasons to hope for; or at least, that’s my belief! Innovative actions can improve the current situation, and we can spot a bunch of local and regional initiatives popping up all across the country (local organic farms, sharing networks, little villages coming back to life with all the shops being renovated, etc.), and don’t worry, our bakeries are doing perfectly fine, most definitely!

I personally would like to work into a field that is still relevant in our trouble age: international business. Indeed, all around the world, companies are growing, with more and more producing and selling eco-friendly, fair trade, organic products, vegetarian/vegan food (a market slowly rising here), healthy alternatives to promote fulfilling lifestyles respecting living beings and the environment… I mean, ya know this kinda drill, Willamette! Well, that’s what I believe in; I believe in businesses as forces for good, not solely aiming to maximize profit at any cost, but also working with a sense of duty in their activity, paying attention to environmental and social impacts, and finding innovative ways to solve today’s and tomorrow’s challenges. In the US, “Benefit Corporations” (aka “B Corps”, www.bcorporation.net), such as Patagonia or Ben & Jerry’s, are involved in this kind of business, and my goal is to join this movement, and why not, eventually, import it here and make it stronger worldwide, to participate in significant changes through providing alternatives to people, and ultimately, play my part in the transition to make this world a better, sustainable and more harmonious place.

Yes, we have reasons to believe, and yes, things are already being done to improve our society. As an everyday biker myself, I can tell that I see more and more people leaving their car in the garage to bike whenever they can (even though it’s still a minority in my region, I must admit). In our cities, you will see a lot of people walking their way around, and using public transportations, thus reducing traffic and aiming towards healthier urban lifestyles.

Finally, even though public policies in the past decades heavily promoted nuclear power as a source of energy (electricity that we also export around us to other European countries), wind power is gaining ground bit by bit. A local example illustrates that trend: in Normandy, the region’s government in partnership with a conglomerate of companies initiated a project of building a wind farm offshore, in the French-British Channel, with 75 wind turbines, which would provide clean energy to cities and towns on the Norman coast as well as economic and employment outcomes (learn more on the project’s official website, here: courseulles-sur-mer). Furthermore, I saw in the past few years more solar panels on houses, a trend once again encouraged by government subsidies and tax exemption strategies, easing the steps towards transition.

Offshore wind farms projects scheduled for this decade in the North of France

In conclusion, I would say that, even though France is (*ahem* once again) late on these things, we’re catching up and are getting better as a nation to adapt to the challenges of this century, with a growing will for change. And it is now a well known fact that if you want to see a change in the world, you have to embody it.

So be the change, Willamette!

BONUS: For those interested in Economics, or good music, or funny videos (or all three at once), I recommend this awesome video; I found it smart and entertaining. Check it out, & enjoy!


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