#1207. Pooling my thoughts on climate change

By pascaljappy | Opinion

Jun 07

June 4th. 41°C, 106°F on the thermometer, in the South of France. Certainly the hottest weather I remember ever experiencing here, this early in the year. Thankfully, we have a pool.

Shadow selfie by the pool


Gentle ripples of pure white sunlight diffract in shifting diamond outlines against the pale blue background of 7 feet of refreshing water. The gentle clattering a bottle of Brangelina’s Miraval pulled out of the ice, shortly followed by the satisfying gurgling of the salmon beverage pouring into the glasses as the saussages finish sizzling on the barbecue, a couple of meters away. Beautiful like a hedonistic haiku.

Well, maybe at the neighbour’s it is. Here, the picture is quite different.

The pool is 18 years old and in some severe need of maintenance. My wife and I built this pool. With our bare little hands and naive inexperience. We relished the challenge. 2 weeks of patience and painstaking work later, we were swimming in our own work of art. That pool has figured in many photographs published on DS. So seeing it being ripped apart by a team of pros, to fix little cracks and prepare it for a couple more decades, brings mixed feelings.


It’s never pleasant to see something you value being torn down. Like when a kitten chooses your 2000 piece puzzle as her own private holliday on ice. Or when we watch our revered tech barons, and their armies of hoodied cronies, tear down society to pay for their superyachts and electric monster trucks, to the applause of mainstream media.

But there’s more than that.

The reality is I don’t want to rebuild it.


The giggles of our kids over more than a decade of summers still echo in my mind. I have no regrets. But how things have changed since the digger took the first bite out of our top soil, all those years ago.

As I type those words, the sound of choppers overhead is almost constant, with authorities trying to spot the first signs of smoke as our forests embark on their – now yearly – ritual of burning themselves to the ground. My little village was recently featured on national TV as local centenarians report never having seen our rivers so completely dry at this time of year, which they are now. Within a few months, millions of innocents may have lost their lives to famine, thanks to the combined humanitarian efforts of Vladimir Putin and – far more importantly – ordinary people, myself included, unwilling to change their ways enough to really curb the problem.

There are no two ways to put it: repairing and filling up this puppy is stepping firmly into the wrong side of history.


So, will I fill it up? Of course I will.

A quick glance at Google Earth soon reveals the foresight of the powers that be, in this neck of the woods. Almost every house has a pool. Very few have solar panels. It should so obviously be the other way round. A sad joke. One of the big surprises during my month in Phoenix AZ, a few years ago, was seeing communal pools everywhere. 10 houses, a large pool, a guard, neighbours having fun together. Not everywhere, but in the middle market areas where we lived, it was certainly the norm more than the exception. Such thinking has not yet reached our shores. Of its distant communist past, France has only retained crippling taxes and a knee-jerk reaction to personal freedom, but not the sharing of resources, not common infrastructure, not public transport, not …

So our sacrifice would change nothing to the equation, and what would I do with that large empty chunk of concrete? Open a communal skate park? 😉


Besides, my wife swims a lot. It’s how she unwinds after long and testing days at work (life ain’t easy for doctors at the moment, 75% of the healtcare sector is in burnout, over here). And I’m now a granddad, so this pool will host young giggling life again soon. Plus, we do a lot to preserve the environment in other areas of our lives, and we don’t use tap water for the pool, but a canal that is still flowing well. Still, though …

So yeah, mixed feelings.

The silver lining in this gloomy disassembly is the opportunity for photographs. The cracked concrete and surface repairs create endless patterns that awaken the inner Zao Wou-Ki in me. I really like the last photograph above, and might have that printed quite large. It highlights the role of chance in creating good work, and the necessity of change in any story. Visually, it works for me 🙂


The sidewalls and ripped out fittings lend themselves to a domestic urbex exploration in monochrome that the current brutal light complements well.

It doesn’t change the fact that something that felt like the right thing to do 20 years ago is coming back to haunt me now, but at least, photographing it it lets me express what I cannot settle in my mind or articulate. And that is also what photography it about.


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  • Peter Krusell says:

    Very thoughtful article. I share the emotional stir from your favorite photograph. Positive that you and your family will have wonderful memories as a result of your efforts during the warm summer days ahead. Sincere thanks for taking the time to express your thoughts on the current situation, affecting us all in so many ways. Very best to all.

  • Pascal Ravach says:

    I would also print that famous photograph, it feels so familiar… I wonder why 😉

    • pascaljappy says:

      Famous ? It reminds of me Enki Bilal’s drawings and Zao Wou-Ki’s paintings, also of a bomb exploding, but I’m not sure what you are referring to.

      • Pascal Ravach says:

        Same Enki Bilal… and my own photographs of walls, they too always reminded me of him; I have his albums since the first day; Zao Wou-Ki was unknown to me, but I saw a couple other artists with the same mood as « our » walls… not that many, actually, but the ressemblance is strong.

        • pascaljappy says:

          I suppose decay is a universal subject, found everywhere, but with specificities due to local conditions. So it must be a powerful draw for a lot of photographers 🙂

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Nostalgia feeds the heart that feeds the mind. But it doesn’t fix the cracks. Repairs are an inevitable price for all the things that we possess. Including our own minds & bodies.

    My friend Kathy’s husband installed a concrete pool, taking up most of the backyard – then died. She’s been looking after it and cursing it ever since, but she takes in boarders to supplement her pension and they love it, so she hasn’t filled it in.

    I’m afraid the grandchildren would not appreciate it as much, if it reverts to lawn. I suspect you’re stuck with yours, as well.

    But on the subject of the global fossil fuel crisis, I can’t help you much. I’ve already got solar panels, and despite being retired for the past 20 years, I’ve already saved over half what I need to replace my ICE with an EV – I’m just marking time, till Toyota produces a suitable one. Hydrogen cars will probably replace them eventually, but that’ll see me out. And I’ve already slashed my carbon footprint!

    • pascaljappy says:

      I would like to convert it into a water tank. Our rains fall in very short and intense periods, then we go without them for a long time. Our last significant rain was last November … Although that’s unusually long, we often go 4 months without rain. So, collecting 100 000 liters of rain in the pool for the summer months would be my preference. But I’m not the only one here, and others actually enjoy the pool.

      We have solar panels too, and will be adding some soon. Plus wind vanes if good ones ever appear at reasonable prices. It’s a start 😉

      I’m not so hot about the EV thing, though. I bought into the whole Tesla promise in 2016, when Musk announced the Model 3. I bought mine on day 1. Free recharges for life and all. But then, I canceled after a couple of years, as the car was going to be delivered. Batteries are an absolute nightmare, and green electricity doesn’t exist in most countries. Plus, you’d need an acre of solar panels to charge a car. And, recently, an article on the slave trade and horrendous pollution linked to cobalt mining, added to the non-recyclability of batteries … all that has steered me away from EVs. I’m sitting this one out and praying that Toyota manages to push hydrogen. Ineos are talking about it too, as soon as 2025 or 2026. Let’s hope this turns into a reality. It’s just a matter of public investment in infrastructure, as the technology is here.

      • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

        Well – I could make do with ONE hydrogen “pump”. I’ve driven all over Australia already, and I don’t feel like doing that any more. My driving is now all within 10 miles/16 Km of home. I doubt if I’d have probs charging an EV, but then we don’t have large mileage on the car – so we’re not in the same league as some of the other people going in this direction.

        And while I’ve heard and read a lot of “anti EV propaganda/information”, I’m not convinced they’re “bad”. But intuitively, if the hydrogen is “green”, then it would seem a less noxious contribution to the future of the planet and I’d cheerfully go that route instead.

        Why don’t you have two duck ponds – one for grandchildren and one for your water supply? We installed a rainwater tank years back, to supply the drinking water in the house – and I was worried for a long time whether it would see us through the “dry summers” we get here – but we’ve never managed to drink it dry yet. A hundred thousand litres sounds one hell of a lot, for the house – bearing in mind winter does come usually, you’re surely not just picking an annual consumption figure? I suppose you also need water for the lawns and gardens. Hmm. Maybe an E-powered condenser, sucking the moisture out of the air, and piping it to your storage! What do you do with rainwater now?

      • Mer says:

        Yep – the companies making a fortune out of cobalt mining in the Congo have no regard for the locals – except for those that needed bribing to get a foot in the door. Sadly, it’s a resource that, if managed properly, could have brought some much needed prosperity and development to the region. Typical mining, always making a mess of someone else’s back yard.

        Not looking great for climate change according to this article . . . https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/jun/08/gold-rush-for-gas-production-threatens-to-lock-in-global-heating


        • pascaljappy says:

          No, it isn’t. And nothing will change as long as the greediest and most oppressive people in society are given the keys to our futures … By the way, we’ve decided NOT to fill the pool. This autumn, when – if – rains have started falling again, we’ll reconsider. There are worse hardships, right?

  • Nancee Rostad says:

    Thanks for sharing your emotive and evocative thoughts on climate change and how it has affected your corner of the world, Pascal. And another thank you for punctuating your words with your fabulous images! Serendipity is your muse once again! Of course my favorites are the pool abstracts – just wow! Your b&w images truly convey the seriousness of the situation while being artfully elegant at the same time – kudos, my friend.

  • PaulB says:


    I like your use of the abstract to document the state of your earlier efforts. The images bring art to the aging and decay that is inevitable to anything constructed by man. Not to mention instilling no small bit of visual envy in those of us that try and fail at similar efforts.

    Your wife is not alone in suffering from burnout. My cousin is a Doctor in Florida and he, and the staff at his hospital, is also feeling the effect of burnout. The effects are real and severe. It is bad enough that it is affecting their physical health and people are simply leaving health care as a profession regardless of their age.

    So rebuilding the pool may be essential to supporting your wife’s health by giving her a distraction from work.

    Remember your efforts and the experience of your original work, while enjoying the new. Memories are made from experiences. Have fun.


    • pascaljappy says:

      Hi Paul, thank you for this !

      “Memories are made from experiences.” Yes, indeed. Plus, we tend to remember the more pleasant aspects, in time. So that will make a great memory, eventually.

      So sorry about your cousin, I hope he gets to rest and feel better very soon. Governments are very guilty in this situation. If a private company had a 20% burnout situation, the state would be all over its back with commissions and investigations. But the French government has repeatedly pushed healthcare workers under the bus and is continuing to do so with absolute abandon, and total cluelessness. Hospitals are closing down because doctors and nurses have resigned everywhere. This won’t end well.

      Much of the work in the colour photograph was to find a shift in hues that made the grey look blue and the beige look brown. Then I increased saturation a lot and a added bit of contrast. There was no plan, just playing around with sliders to find something appealing 🙂


  • PaulB says:

    PS. I second having a print of your favorite image made. Both for the memories it will bring and the conversations it may start.

  • Michael Fleischer says:

    Hi Pascal, that second-last picture is really Pascaliciously fantastic. Turquoise yummy.
    The somehow haphazard patterns & colours seem both authentic, modern and yet has an ancient feel to it. Must look good in a healthy size + passepartout & thin frame!
    PS, thanks for the diverse “weekend links”.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Thank you very much Michael 🙂 Yes, that is also my favourite photograph and it seems to evoke similar thoughts in many people. Sometimes you strike lucky 😉

      The links will be back this weekend!

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