This is the ‘Mer de Glace’, an alpine gletcher sliding gracefully down the flanks of the Mont Blanc massif- an impressive sight for a through-and-through  Dutchwoman like  me. My frame of reference being flat. As in ‘la Hollande est tout plat’  i.e. ‘the Netherlands is wholly flat‘. 

So I met with a River of Ice – a dwindling River of Ice. If ever I needed a reminder of the effects of global warming, our visit to the ‘Mer de Glace’ gletcher was it. One goes up the mountain by train, then descends to the gletcher by cable car – a very very steep one. Then one descends 440 steps – no, I didn’t count, the number was pressed on me. Every few steps a sign shows what year the gletcher reached to the level one is at. It was like walking down a giant graph, and it made me feel  like an ant – and an idiot ant at that.

Having walked down all the 440 steps in single file, I visited the ice cave cut into the end of the gletcher. Which was different – ice is such an unsubstantial substance, seen and lighted from below…  And glacier melt is cold. Anyway, I then made it uphill again and ordered a cappuchino at the Mer de Glace Cafe. And enjoyed a wonderful ‘tarte aux myrtilles’ with it. This all goes to show how really really shallow I am. Fiddling while Rome burns … but what can one single ant do?

In my defence, I must confess I’ve gotten a bit weary of the Huge Worldwide Environmental Problem. I’ve lived through (in no particular order)  the ‘silent spring’ scare, the nuclear war threat, the idea of acid rain decimating our forests, land sites polluted by god knows what, the prediction that natural resources would be exhausted by the year 2000. And see what actually happened: we successfully banned DDT, we got lucky and communism fell, acid rain turned out to be a fallacy, the polluted sites are cleaning themselves aided by some smart-ass bacteria we did not know about, more natural resources being discovered than were factored into the model the Club of Rome used. Need I go on? 

Still, like a dutiful ant, I do my bit for the environment. To wit: a.  buy stuff secondhand or not at all;  b. eat less meat c. buy products that are about to be dumped because of the idiot  sell-by-date thing  d. separate waste religiously; e. few airmailes; f. few carmiles; g. garden organic and compost; h. clean organic (minimal chloride); i. heat only kitchen and living room in winter. My latest crazes: j. won’t buy cut flowers any more as growers use lots of insecticides and transport them using lots of airmiles;  k. check groceries for in-season-ness and grown-close-by-ness and so reduce my ecological footprint. Things I’m considering: l. go veggie m. go live in tiny house (with big garden). 

Best thing for the environment –  n. become a kamikaze ant? Which is way too gloomy a thought. I put my money on: a. better opportunities for women (schooling, jobs, access to health care); b. worldwide urbanisation  and c. intelligent application of technology. So, all in, I just might be an optimistic ant, too. 

Later: forgot about the plastic soup. Which will be eaten by the machines of Bryan Slat [here], a young Dutch environmental activist who had a series of brilliant ideas. Oceans free of plastic by 2050 – I may even live long enough to see this happen.

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