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French weekly magazines review
The "martyrdom" of Nicolas Hulot. Lobbyists versus environmental protection. And how to combat depression. All this and more in the Fench magazines this week.
For those posh French weeklies which know a hot story when they see one this week's cover story is a no-brainer.
'Tragic hunting accident at the Elysée," declares the satirical weekly Le Canard enchaîné, with tongue in cheek. "Hulot shot down and Macron winged."
Or, as the cartoon beside the text has it,"Hulot leaves the government ship. A small step for ecology. A big shock for Macronism." That's a play on the words of US astronaut Neil Armstrong upon taking a step on the surface of the moon in 1969; "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."
This, of course, is about the resignation last week from his post as France's minister of ecology of Nicolas Hulot, the celebrated environmental activist whose appointment last year added some glamour to the new government of Emmanuel Macron. He was a powerful symbol of its commitment to tackle major environmental issues.
Coming on top of Macron's other headaches, a scandal or two in his entourage, faltering economic growth and budgetary woes, Le Carnard says Hulot's abrupt departure after less than a year in office "poses not only an image problem for Macron but also a serious political problem."
The paper say Hulot was displayed by Macron as "a trophy". Now the president's political opponents, "newly converted to ecology", can seize upon his complaints.
"Because the weather is increasingly stormy for Macron," Le Canard says, "and this resignation will further worsen the climate." That's a lame joke about climate change but we get the message.
The cover of left-leaning Marianne pictures Hulot with hands bound and his naked torso pierced by arrows. It recalls Sandro Botticelli's painting of Saint Sebastian, an early Christian martyr killed in AD 288 during Roman emperor Diocletian's persecution of Christians. Nowadays, Sebastian is the patron saint of archers. Figure that one out.
Hulot also was martyred, Marianne believes, "the victim of multiple lobbies". The cover headline is 'How they killed Hulot." And the tags attached to the arrows in his chest offer some clues:
- "Monsanto." The agro-chemical conglomerate which pioneered herbicides and genetically engineered crops, sometimes referred to as "Frankenstein foods", is a bête noire of environmentalists. After all, these are the folk who manufactured Agent Orange, a defoliant widely used by the US military during the Vietnam war, blamed by many for causing deformities among the offspring of people exposed.
- "Nuclear." Nuclear power produces more than 70 percent of electricity in France, the highest percentage in the world. But 20 of France's 58 reactors are offline because of safety concerns.
- "Petrol." Hulot upset French oil giant Total by refusing to permit the reopening of a refinery.
- "Ceta." The free trade agreement between the European Union and Canada. which came into force last year. Hulot has routinely opposed Ceta, saying he was very worried by free trade treaties that "expose us instead of protecting us".
- "Hunters." The "darlings" of Macron, according to Marianne, secured a halving of the cost of a hunting licence, along with the right to kill previously protected species. A consultation process is underway to set quotas for birds such as skylarks and blackbirds.
Inside the magazine there is chapter and verse on all this and more, what Marianne calls 'The stations of the cross of the minister of ecology", along with a box dishing the dirt on "Macronism, the universe of lobbies."
The magazine quotes Jean Jouzel, a climatologist who is close to Hulot, as saying "Protection of the environment was a task that Hulot found impossible with Emmanuel Macon."
Don't lie to yourself
The cover of l'Obs also pictures Hulot, with the headline "A clap of thunder" and "A resignation to change the system."
Inside l'Obs says that despite some undeniable victories, notably the scrapping of controversial plans for a new airport in western France, Hulot was often obliged to concede defeat.
"Symbol of the environmental engagement of Emmanuel Macron, the minister finally threw in the sponge 'in order not to lie to himself anymore'." says l'Obs. "His theatrical departure [he announced his resignation to journalists before informing the government] is a hard blow and a challenge for the Elysée, which faces a perilous return" [to work after the summer break].
Finally, Le Point's cover story promises "The guide to anti-depressants."
Which, under current circumstances, might come in handy.