Lyon We showed up at the Alternative Bar close to what we thought was showtime to meet a half dozen of the organizers of what was billed as a showing of the documentary and a “debate” on various questions it might provoke. They said there were more people on the way, and so we chatted and waited. Seven PM came, and eight PM went, and although the film didn’t begin, to our amazement, the crowd swelled. When we finally began on this leisurely schedule, the house was packed. We counted fifty that had somehow squeezed in, and it could have been another twenty if there had been room. There was a large picture window, and person after person came up, read the sign out front, peeked in, and then abandoned all hope and went on their way.
By 930PM, we cut The Organizer off somewhere around 2007, and the questions began. Many in this largely young crowd were environmentalists. They had specialized in direct action. Before the film one of the organizers told me about a national action in Paris where they had joined 2000 others earlier in the year to protest at governmental and corporate headquarters in the center of the city. Increasingly, they had recognized that they lacked a sustainable base that was widely representative of the broader population. Certainly, this is a challenge for many climate and environmental movements, so it was encouraging to hear that they were trying to build bridges to our affiliates the Alliance Citoyenne, ReAct, and our emerging independent union in Lyon, UNITI.
The bar was a money maker, I was told. They were in a busy part of town, rent was a bit over 1000 euros, the staff was all volunteer, and they sold beer and wine. It was a meeting place for their issues and others. Sometimes they hosted events like this one and showed movies. One of the organizers said the bar was part of a wider movement in parts of Spain and France. Very interesting! Sadly, they reported, it did not do well enough to allow them to pay a staff person, but they hoped for the future.
The debate was not a debate, but a question-and-answer about how one starts small and grows. The notion of “community” is not widely accepted in the same way in France, so part of the questions sought to parse how the concept translated, and whether it was geographical or much broader as we understood it to be. I had been briefed that there were already some tentative conversations about possible partnerships between our organizations and their efforts. We encouraged those discussions. There’s great potential for such a partnership, and, as the documentary indicated, climate and environmental concerns are everywhere for our communities now.