On Sunday, the French will once again head to the polls, this time to elect parliament. Opinion polls show Emmanuel Macron regaining a majority. But he has to reckon with two main opposition blocs: the Radical Right and the Radical Left. More voters are rebelling against the prevailing politics.
People are dissatisfied, especially in small villages in the countryside. In Auvergne, central France, the traditional parties were voted on. But this has changed. Now most voters are voting in protest.
Frank Petty, the mayor of the small village of Aleras, sees the anger among its residents. Deep anger that cannot be expressed. Demonstrations are taking place in the city due to the high cost of diesel 5 cents and the minimum wage of 1,200 euros. Here people earn 300, 400 euros. They don’t pretend, they go to work.”
Pettit says globalization is punishing these areas. “We’re competing with countries that don’t follow the same rules that we do and that’s why we don’t.”
“Is the government defending the interests of the French or the multinationals?” asks the mayor. “Farm lands don’t matter to them. This world isn’t economically interesting, and you can’t make money with it. So they left us.”
Fifteen kilometers away, Jerome Vacci works as a teacher in a one-class school. Eighteen children from the area are educated there. “There is a crack really. We experience nature every day and then the townspeople come and give our lectures. Saying we should respect nature, while they are in the city and respect nature based on protocols.”
“We were betrayed,” says retired farmer Philippe Gazanion. “We are by our simple values. We look like these stupid farmers who don’t understand anything. We feel that way. But they have to realize that we are still here and we are keeping the countryside alive.”
All the people he knew voted radically against the government. One council member says, “In cities, people benefit from globalization. We don’t play a role. That’s why we vote differently here.”
Planting lettuce in the middle
Lyon – sometimes called “Macron City” – is the prime example of a young and dynamic economy, as President Macron likes to imagine. In the second round of the presidential election, three-quarters of the electorate voted for the president, a number well above the national average.
The restored former factory serves as a breeding ground for creative startups. Young entrepreneurs believe in their president, in the reforms he wants to implement, and in the benefits of the European Union and globalization. They look on with astonishment at the vote of the French as patriots, and opponents of the vote. People who want to stop changing.
On the other hand, Hugo Jacomelli believes that France is quickly providing financial support and legal aid to entrepreneurs. He has developed vertical farms and will open his first lettuce farm this fall in central Lyon. He received an investment of eighty thousand euros for his company. “In a building of 300 square meters, we produce up to 3 hectares of farmland.”
Isn’t a lettuce farm a competition for farmers who are already having a hard time? Jacomelli does not think so: “The farmer who takes lettuce from the land no longer exists. Everything grows in huge Dutch and Spanish greenhouses, and then it is transported to France.”
Antonin Gay, the young CEO of WeCount that calculates companies’ carbon footprint, is optimistic about the future under Macron. His company already has contracts with a hundred French entrepreneurs. “We set a goal to respect the Paris Agreements. Between 2020 and 2030, the company must reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent. Then we work on how to achieve these companies one by one.”
Young entrepreneurs see division in their country, but hope that Macron can implement his reforms with a majority in Parliament. Jay: “And the climate problem is so important to the entire population that it brings us all together. Because we are all affected and we can all play a role.”
“Macron allows you to implement projects,” says Jacomelli. “Projects that can improve the world. This will eventually reduce the population’s fear of innovation.”
The split between the radical right and the radical left in France is evident in Auvergne.
Political division in France between the countryside and the city
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