France #8: thoughts on the French countryside & ag production (views from the train)
We were in Southwestern France somewhere in the space between the two brighter sets of lights. Population of France: ~67 million people, 11.9 million in the greater Paris metro region (upper middle of this image)
As we traveled through the French country side, I was struck by simply how much agriculture land we saw- sloping fields as far as the eye can see, broken by hedgerows and trees. The occasional herd of cows (mostly white). Old buildings and huts, passed by bridges and roads. Big hemmed in rivers, confined to their paths by levees and banks.
The European Union had been threatening to fine France for its non-point source runoff from agriculture a few years ago: run off from farm fields and stormwater.
Given the very historic ditching, diking, and draining of land, I have no idea how one would ensure that nutrients and soil remain in place, esp. as the storms here are also becoming more severe. A week before we came, parts of France received 198 mm (8 inches) of rain in 6 hours, causing massive flash flooding. Just a few days after we left, southern France, Italy, and Spain were hit by Storm Amelie, which caused widespread power outages and flooding.
In researching more on non-source runoff for this blog (and since that's one of the things I'm researching while I'm here), this piece on regenerative agriculture may offer a way forward: investing in soil health ensures productivity, decreases nutrient runoff, and helps absorb water and prevent floods. There is a need to finance the transition, but such financing may be far cheaper than simply trying to respond to storm after storm.
Back to thoughts on travel. We happened to be in southern France during a period of grace... we were surprised by how warm it was (daily temps from about 18-21 Celsius, or a pleasant range around the 70s F). We woke on our last day in Provence to 50 and raining- a good day for traveling.
As the train headed north, the fog and clouds gave a quiet to the day—ghost cows and shrubs sped by.