A fragile spring

Today the fountains sprang into life in Paris.  Who, in what office, decides such things?  Is it keyed to ambient temperature, the way a horse will suddenly shed sheer pounds of its winter haircoat on the first warm day?  Today was suddenly jacket-tossing warm.  One swallow may not make a spring, but surely a fountain can, bursting out after a dull parched winter.   The air-borne water is clean, for a while at least, until the pigeons have all taken their baths.  And we have air to breathe, fresh bread to eat, and the kids laughing, running free in the protection of the park, Place des Vosges.

But all the world is connected now and we all know what is happening where and unless you are six years old it’s a fragile spring.

On the radio early this morning the talking heads were shouting (disgraceful, the way French men shout at each other without listening to each other) about whether and how far to shut down the nuclear industry.   A painful outlook: nuclear energy is one of the few remaining high tech areas where France excels.  An exportable expertise.  It’s all about the experience curve, in a small country deriving over 30 percent of its energy consumption from uranium.  Next door across the Rhine, Angela Merkel, a pragmatician and a physicist herself, has lost no time putting Germany’s reactors on warning.  Are the Europeans, who don’t live on a major fault-line, over-reacting?  Pandering to public panic?  Or are they taking the incalculable risk to heart?

On the radio a quiet voice says Europe’s main dilemma is spent, radioactive fuel.  I nod, remembering, drinking hot coffee from the electric machine to the racket of jack-hammers starting up in the street.  That used to be the question: where to put the hot trash?   Up in outer space?  Down in ancient salt mines?   Or swept under the rug.

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