La journée sans voiture

La journée sans voiture

By Adam Biles

Something odd happened in Paris on Sunday. With the flick of her mayoral pen, and a few strategically erected barriers, Anne Hidalgo banished cars from the city’s most congested thoroughfares — the Avenue des Champs Elysées, Place de la République, Boulevard Saint Germain, the Canal Saint Martin…

At first hesitant Parisians stumbled from their flats, bleary-eyed, onto their newly-emptied, newly-safe streets. It was reminiscent of the closing minutes of a B-movie, when the hordes of rampaging monsters — that brought terror to the city, poisoning the air with their sulphurous breath, devouring children at random — have been vanquished, and it is safe to emerge from hiding once again.

The sky seemed almost unnaturally blue, the air felt astonishingly clean. We could hear each other talk. Marquees housing charities and associations sprung up like mushrooms in the vacated spaces of this temporary utopia — giving lessons in recycling, yoga, responsible cycling and billy-cart construction, to cite just a few among hundreds. Most striking, though, was how quickly the city adapted, how quickly it forgot. Pavements, zebra crossings and petrol pumps looked suddenly like relics of a bygone age, like something Riddley Walker or characters from Station Eleven might stumble upon and only half understand.

carless paris 1

Sustainability is very much on the agenda in Paris this autumn, as the world waits with baited, smog-tainted breath for the outcome of the Paris Climate Conference, beginning in November. Sunday was a small example of how intelligent gestures — both large and small — can combine to bring about genuine change.

carless paris 2

Below you’ll find a reading list compiled by our booksellers, which includes titles addressing the current crisis, as well as novels that imagine how the world might look if we don’t take action soon. All available from our online store.

Silent Spring by Rachel Carson

This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein

Small Is Beautiful: A Study of Economics as if People Mattered by E F Schumacher

The Drowned World by J.G. Ballard

Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban

Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel

The Book of Dave by Will Self