National Geographic : 1989 Jul
term as the Socialist President of France. I wonder if the office decor reflects a designer's whim or the personality of the occupant. The walls and ceilings-opulent 18th-century tapestries and ornate Empire paneling deco rated with carved cherubs. The desk-a blue lacquered table with no drawers. The lamps -black designer versions of halogen units that might light a draftsman's work table. Is it the eclectic mix of a man rooted in the past but at ease with the future? He's known to be brilliant, author of 14 books, a passable poet. Persistent for sure. As a wounded prisoner of the Germans (Stalag prisoner number 21716), he failed at two escapes-succeeded on the third. Likewise, as a presidential candidate he was defeated twice-won on the third try. I find him a warm, if reserved, host. Quick, precise, moderate, concerned, and sure of himself. Not surprisingly, as a key draftsman of 1992 he talks more about the future of Europe than the past of France. "As of the first of July, I will be presiding over the European Council. I have set myself four goals. First, encourage the monetary union. Second, develop social protection. Third, initiate real environmental protection, and fourth, develop a European culture through the audiovisual media. We have sat ellites that will cover all of Europe." Was that rumble the Metro passing or de Gaulle tossing in his grave? A common culture for all Europe? "Yes," answers the president. "First we must learn to be Europe, to say what is spe cific to us, and second, to protect the diver sity among Europeans. Take the Gaelic language. Who will save it if Europeans don't? And Flemish. Hungarian. Finnish. The first important language that would be threatened is German, then French. ... All this is liable to be lost with total saturation by American films and Japanese technology." It's true that the French now see as many American films as their own. In an attention getting non sequitur the president included TV as one of the pollutants in the earth's atmosphere. "Images come to us from space. They are thrown to whom? By whom? We don't quite know. These people and organizations re spond to criteria that have nothing to do with the aesthetic or the ethical. Neither beauty nor morality-no morals. We must do some thing about it immediately. The intelligence and sensitivity-especially of a child-are shaped by these pictures." OR THE EUROPEAN SPACE PROGRAM, 1992 has already arrived. France pro vided the technical know-how and political impetus for the European Space Agency to develop the Ariane rockets. These are marketed by Arianespace, the world's first commercial space transport company. When an Ariane 4 is launched from French Guiana, it carries parts supplied by 11 of the 13 member nations of ESA. And even though French and English are the two official languages of ESA, its day-by-day lin gua franca is English. Not just the English language is coming to France. With work only half done on the "Chunnel" under the English Channel, money is already crossing. In 1987 English investors bought 50 pieces of property near the French end of the Eurotunnel at Sangatte. In 1988 they bought 550. Mitterrand repeatedly returned to Euro pean or worldwide issues and his four points. "Environmental problems should get more attention than others, because it is a question of survival. ... As man is ultimately stronger than nature, he tends to forget that he is part of nature, that he is nature. And so, in fact, is committing suicide." "Does the world know that?" I ask. "Not yet. Neither the industrialists nor the peasants. Everyone wants to produce more. No one realizes what's at stake. When fac tories pollute and the fish die, the penalties are minute compared with the damage. But at least there is awareness in government. NATIONALGEOGRAPHICPHOTOGRAPHER JAMES L. STANFIELD I - ... Unite!