Chris came across some discussion on the web this week about whether it was better to talk about Global Warming or Climate Change. He cautiously prefers the term “climate change” because it carries with it the idea that global warming doesn’t simply involve an increase in temperature but also brings with it all sorts of other meteorological phenomena. And certainly we’ve had some very odd weather at the moment. In fact as we draft this on Thursday we have had four days of almost continuous rain coupled with thunder, gales and temperatures below 10°. There has been snow down to 1000m, wild seas and at least one tornado along the coast.
Now of course we can’t complain about the rain: there was widespread concern about the low rainfall last year and the water table is still lower than anybody would like. Given that the economy round here is dominated by the vine, the prospect of another dry year was being viewed with great dismay. But it’s bizarre that coming into the middle of April we are still donning coats and having the heating on. This is a season where the first brave souls should be baring almost all on the beaches, not wandering around grey-faced wrapped up in quilted jackets and waterproofs. The fact that it is normally so sunny here means that what in Swansea would be considered a unremarkable week is treated as a near catastrophe. As a gloomy pharmacist said to Chris, “Everybody gets depressed in weather like this.”
There was an indication this week of another sort of climate change. When you move to a new country you are surprised by those things that everybody takes for granted; but no less notable are those things that you would take for granted but which “the locals” find surprising. And this week there has been enormous consternation, indeed wrath, about the fact that President Macron addressed a gathering of Catholic Bishops. He didn’t admit to being a Catholic and he was careful to point out that they merely had a right to offer advice, but nevertheless the very fact that he spoke to the bishops has aroused enormous anger in certain political circles.
In France, la laïcité, “secularism”, is in a real sense, the state religion, and for over a hundred years an enormous gap has been carefully maintained between church and state. Yet la laïcité – like atheism generally – is something that while it may move heads, doesn’t do much for hearts. People defend it as a concept but it has no temples, no worshippers and consoles no one. No one seems sure the extent to which this meeting with the bishops reflects M. Macron’s personal beliefs or whether it is a shrewd – and he is remarkably shrewd – political move to woo religious voters who might otherwise be tempted by the extreme right. Nevertheless, not just Catholics in France but also Protestants have been heartened by his meeting with the bishops. The climate here too may be changing.