23 November 2021

Translation: Georges Sand on the Environmental Rescue of the Fontainebleau Forest by Artists outside of Paris - Part 2

The Edge of the Woods at Monts-Girard, Fontainebleau Forest, Théodore Rousseau

Therefore, the great plants are central to life, spreading their benefits near and far. And while it is dangerous or harmful to live under their direct shadow eternally, it is well-proven that foregoing the oxygen they release would fatally change the atmospheric conditions that support human life. It would be like removing large fans that recirculate the air and break up the electricity over our heads; it would also be impoverishing the soil and it subcutaneous circulation, if you will.

Cultural forces scrape, comb and cleanse this delicate bark. This is a necessary kind of upkeep; however, certain parts of rocky or forested areas must be spared this monumental razing and thus conserve the moisture that fertilizes the subsoil over great distances. There is very little visible water in the sands and rocks of Fontainebleau, but the subsoil that has made it possible for trees to live there for so long possesses an unusual richness with extensive repercussions. If you remove the trees that, through their shadows, provide the earth with the coolness their roots drink, you destroy a necessary harmony, essential to the environment you inhabit.

But let us not narrow down the scope of the issue. Not everyone is capable of conducting a detailed study of the oak trees and sandstones of Fontainebleau. Not everyone even wants to try, but everyone has the right to admire the beauty of such things. And there are many more people who are able to feel such beauty than artists interested in communicating it. Everyone has a seedling of intelligence and poetry within them, things that do not require a great deal of education or specialization. Therefore, everyone has a right to admire the beauty and poetry of our forests, and especially this one, one of the marvels of the world. Destroying it would be, morally speaking, legal theft, a truly savage attack on this right to intellectual property, which makes whomever possesses nothing but the sight of beautiful things equal to and, sometimes superior to, their owner.

There should be certain limits, dictated by nature, to the craze for individual property. Can we claim that those who have the means to buy it can share, sell and monopolize the atmosphere? If this were possible, can you imagine each proprietor sweeping his corner of the sky, piling the clouds in his neighbor’s yard, or according to his tastes, parking them in front of his property and demanding a law that would prevent those without money from watching golden sunsets or the amazing splendor of clouds chased away by a storm? I hope that this “happy” era will never dawn, but I believe that the destruction of the beautiful forests is an equally monstrous dream and that we should not withdraw the great trees from the intellectual public domain more than we should do away with their salubrious effects on public hygiene. They are just as sacred as the fecund clouds with which they constantly communicate; we must protect and respect them and never give them up to the barbaric whims or egotistical needs of the individual. Beautiful and majestic until their deaths, they belong to our descendants just like they did to our ancestors. They are the eternal temples whose powerful architecture and ornamental leafs always renew themselves, the sanctuaries of silence and reverie, where successive generations have the right to go and reflect, searching for this serious notion of grandeur, which every human being can feel and needs deep inside.  

Read Part III

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