Sunday was October 10, 2010 (10/10/10) and the organization 350.org, founded by Middlebury scholar in residence Bill McKibben, declared an international day of action for the environment. Sure enough, there happened to be a community project in Saint Pierre organized by an American and former Greenpeace volunteer. About a dozen of us got together and cleaned up the city beach. Here’s what we found:
To contrast the 350 Day of Action, October 12 has been declared a national day of rallies and protests against a retirement reform bill being pushed through the French Senate. I attended the local “grève” (strike/rally) in Saint Pierre with about 700 loud, spirited labor union members.
The French LOVE their grèves. For instance, the largest port in France (Marseille) has been on “grève” for over a week, meaning almost no ships have been allowed to load or unload their cargo. Many stores have had shortages of goods, and the ship traffic around Marseille is a mess.
5,000 miles away in Saint Pierre, the demonstrators are asking for retirement benefits starting at age 60. The reform currently going through the Senate aims to push that age back from 65 to 67. They might be asking for too much. Considering all the social assistance available to residents of this country, their demand is absurd. Even I, for instance, will be receiving over 150 Euro a month from the government in housing assistance. Whatever, parades are fun. There should be more parades in the world. (10/14 Edit: I misunderstood. It is currently at 60 and will be pushed back to 62. Their demand makes more sense now.)
No news on the volcano.