04 November 2021

Translation: Georges Sand on the Environmental Rescue of the Fontainebleau Forest by Artists outside of Paris - Part 1

Theodore Rousseau, Forest of Fontainebleau, 

Here is a letter I received:

“The President of the Republic most favorably received the artists’ petition; nevertheless, the tender for most of the lots took place on the originally planned day.”

“In order to prevent such great mutilations in the future, the signatories of the petition formed an artistic committee for the protection of the Fontainebleau forest, and, in order to better clarify their goal, unanimously voted on the following resolution:

“The forest of Fontainebleau must become part of our national and historic monuments, and it is most important to conserve it so artists and tourists can continue to admire it. Furthermore, it’s current division into two parts, of artistic and not-of-artistic interest, should not be accepted. The content of this letter cannot be used against its authors.”

I don’t really know what has happened as far as the forest of Fontainebleau is concerned, but that is not important. I am not criticizing something of which I am unaware, but supporting every effort made to conserve this natural monument, which the petitioners have very logically classified among our national monuments. Dividing it, selling it, would be destroying it, and I do not hesitate to swear that that is sacrilegious. It would be yet another shameful act to add to the fires that consumed Paris. 

It is indeed a sad era when, on the one hand, riots have destroyed the archives of civilization, while, on the other hand, the State, which represents order and conservation, destroys or threatens the great works of time and nature. Whether both are transformed to ruins or cash does not minimize the reality of the destruction, and I am not sure I can say that, in comparing both these vandalisms, the one carried out in cold blood, legally, and after deliberation would be the more stupid or shameful. 

The petitioners who are asking me to join my efforts to theirs, and to whom I hereby pronounce my adhesion publicly, are right to invoke the needs of the artists and the enjoyment of tourists; but there are yet other reasons to invoke, because public opinion is made up of the perfectly disdainful mediocrity of the small number of lovers who are attracted to nature. I think we can aim a little higher on this issue and appeal to the experts to show that our centuries-old forests are an essential element of our physical balance, that they conserve in their sanctuaries principles of life that we cannot just neutralize with impunity, and that all of the inhabitants of France have an immediate interest in not allowing France to be denuded of its vast shadow-casters, its humidity reservoirs that are necessary to the air they breathe and the soil they work.

An illustrious friend, the world-class poet that has just passed away, Théophile Gautier, lived with paradoxes he did not just blindly believe. One fine day, he said to us that, as compared to us, plants were sucking up our breathable air, and that his personal hygienic ideal was to live in a garden made up of asphalt-laden alleys with upholstered chairs and constantly lit houkas in place of flowerbeds.

Someone asked him to take note that, while plants absorb part of our air supply, they also give us back a hundredfold nutritious molecular elements without which we would die. He knew this very well, because he knew a lot, and he could uphold theses against himself that no one else could have better argued.   

Read Part II       

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