The Chronicles of "Changing Natures"

© Unsplash by Abhishek Koli

#1 "Changing Natures" at the Fête de la science (October 2022, Paris)

October 2022. Jardin des Plantes of the National Museum of Natural History.

People stroll between the tents, children are looking for fun activities to discover the science in progress at the Museum. 

"What do you do here?" people of all ages ask us, glancing at the trailer running on a loop on our computer and at the various photos posted on the walls of our tent.

"Here? We're talking about the changes in nature. Do you remember, a few decades ago, when we used to go on long journeys by car? We had to stop every 200 kilometers to wash the windscreen and still see something, given the amount of insects stuck on it?

- Oh yes, that's true!" a lady replied, laughing. So what do you do with these insects?

- We don't do anything with them, but we're interested in your memories of the changes in nature, what you can tell us about them. And your objects from the past, which you can show us and which bear witness to these changes.

- Changes in nature, hmm? For me it's mainly the changes in life around the changes in nature. You know, yesterday was my 80th birthday. When I was a kid, I was in a big family and we didn't have much. So you know what my mother used to send us to do at the end of every summer? She would send us out to glean!

- Gleaning? asks the stand's host, who was born in 1982 and who has never heard of gleaning in her life.

- Well yes, gleaning meant picking up the ears of wheat that were left on the ground after the mowing, we were allowed to pick up everything that was left in the fields. And that, from the day the combine harvesters arrived, was over, there was nothing left to glean..."

Les Glaneuses, estampe de Jean-François Millet (1855-1856). Institut national de l'histoire de l'art, document placé sous “Licence Ouverte / Open Licence” Etalab, https://bibliotheque-numerique.inha.fr/idurl/1/17632 
 

Meanwhile, children pass around postcards, look at them, and start drawing and writing on post-its what they think of them.

Two friends stopped by the trailer “Changing Nature” produced by the Institut National de l'Audiovisuel. One lives in a remote part of Thailand, the other says he is an environmental transition activist. We have a lively discussion about the changes in nature:

"For me, the changes in nature are the amount of waste. My grandfather lived in a small village, he had a vegetable garden, a farmyard, rabbits. In the village, there was a place where everyone came to put their rubbish. It was a pile, that's it, a pile of rubbish in the village. Well, it was a very small pile. There wasn't much to throw away at home!

- I live in the middle of the countryside in Thailand, so it reminds me of a situation I experienced in France when I was a child. Stray dogs are everywhere and it's dangerous! I love walking in the countryside, but people think I'm crazy because of the dogs..."

A singer stops in front of a picture of butterfly hunting taken from the Somme archives, he tells of his experience of running a singing workshop with elderly people living in nursing homes. He notes that what touches his audience are the songs that tell the story of life before. For him, the changes in nature are all in song, and this archive photograph reminds him of "La chasse aux papillons" by Georges Brassens, for example.

La chasse aux papillons au bord d'une rivière, photographie par Riquier (1890-1900). Archives départementales de la Somme https://archives.somme.fr/ark:/58483/qcdjvft89lxn 

Here, a photo enthusiast tells us about his photo bank of Parisian vegetation, which has changed completely since the ban on the use of pesticides in cities, and there, a couple living on the shores of Lake Geneva shares with us the history of the variations in the use of this area, which a few decades ago was not very popular because it was humid, and was home to dense populations of mosquitoes, but which has gradually become more valuable as urbanisation has progressed...

What about you? Does environmental change mean anything to you?

Contribute! Share your documents and stories, interact with "Changing Natures" user community!

To go further...

The programme "La science, CQFD" of Thursday 27 October 2022 talked about the decline of the insect population... You can listen to it again here (in French)!

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