1000 km

Biblio (105) A typology of French rural areas

Just a map, by the French Commisariat General for the Equality between territories (I know, it sounds like taken from an Ayn Rand’s rant against the State as concept). The municipalities of the country are divided in three groups:

  • Rural areas near cities, coasts and urbanized valleys. The best connected areas, somehow linked to the dynamics in big urban areas. 26% of the French population.
  • Old rural areas with weak population densities. For those familiar with historical French geography, the “empty diagonal” is still there… 84% of the French are there, enduring a weak economy.
  • Agrarian and industrial rural areas, with 9% of the french population. Mostly on the northern half on the country, and waiting for Paris to grow to take them…

So, in the end, 56% of French living in urban units over 10.000.

Maps (6) Tabula Peutingeriana

All roads lead to Rome...

All roads lead to Rome…

Romans had a clear practical sense that led them to build a large road network. One of the first known maps is the Tabula Peutingeriana, a middle ages copy of a Roman itinerary map, so there was a mr Michelin or mr Rand- Mcnally at the moment… In fact, it is closer to a network graph than to a contemporary map, as there is no attempt to render the geometrical shape of the land, and “not to waste paper” the Mediterranean becomes a sort of long river. Despite that, Italy is already boot-shaped, and it is interesting to see how the current lands are depicted. The original map covered the Empire from Portugal to India, but the first page (Iberian peninsula, parts of Maghreb and the British isles) was lost and rebuilt in 1898.

The document is a parchment scroll, 0,34 m high and 6,75 m long, so it does not make easy to show it on a screen. An original image of the document can be seen on the Biblioteca Augustana (Augsburg University), at http://www.hs-augsburg.de/~harsch/Chronologia/Lspost03/Tabula/tab_manu.html (a latin language website), and a clearer image, integrating the lost Iberian peninsula page, can be consulted on Wikipedia.

The reconstruction of the lost Iberian part of the map. You can see Gibraltar (columne ercole), Lisbon (Olisipona) and my home region around Brigantia

The reconstruction of the lost Iberian part of the map. You can see Gibraltar (columne ercole), Lisbon (Olisipona) and my home region around Brigantia

Poliorcetics (2) The Maginot line

Zona noreste de la línea, en torno a Luxemburgo

Northeast zone, around Luxembourg

The name has been used with some frequency, and after 1940 it has been often mentioned in unfavorable terms. Some people say military strategists are always a war behind real events, and the Maginot line is often invoked as a proof.

Vauban invented for Louis XIV the concept of “Pré Carré”, a safe national space protected by border forts. When the Maginot line was conceived the horrors of WWI were still recent; a conflict in which the stabilization of fronts for years led to a complete destruction of woods, cities and people. The idea of a static war was the argument supporting the most sophisticated trench, as to ensure a total block from Switzerland to the sea, regardless of the landscape or territory in each section. But this territorial fortification was overwhelmed by a completely different form of war, which also had advocates in France (a certain Charles de Gaulle), but one for which the army was not ready.

After the war, this large trench, with its many bunkers, was perceived for some time as an asset for a different kind of war: bunkers could be used for a nuclear war, according to some, but finally NATO saw no use in it. The forts were sold to civilians from the 1970s

Despite the exhaustive aspect of the layout, I have seen no reference to border cities; I suppose they were protected by the fortifications, and urban planning was almost none at that time.

Biblio (25) Water policy in France

3- EAU FRANCE-world water forum

According to data from the World Water Forum (Marseilles 2012), in 2030 the per capita use of water in the world is set to rise by 40%, and 47% of the world population will be in areas under water stress. Agriculture will take about 70% of the resource, and industry and energy 10%. The amount of renewable fresh water that could be obtained by person will have dropped to less than a third of the 1950 figure, to be around 5.100 cu m (largely due to population growth). The UN website publishes interesting statistics.


In this context, the water policy in France is based on the 1964 Law on watersheds (eight large watersheds in the European French territory and five in the overseas territories), the 1992 Law that establishes the balanced management, and the 2006 law on water and water environments. The Grenelle 2 Law sets the measures to control losses in transportation and to reduce the use of phytosanitary products. The management of flood zones is based on the 2007 European Directive on the issue.

The French system integrates public participation in the definition of the Schémas Directeurs d’Aménagement et Gestion des Eaux (SDAGE).

Biblio (19) Urban planning and food- the larger foodshed

The following maps show the most recent data concerning maize production in different parts of the planet, according to FAO’s statistical website. It is interesting to see what happens where you live, for a wide array of productions… It is also interesting to read The State of Food and Agriculture 2010-2011, a flagship yearbook by FAO, which this year focuses on women in agriculture and the relevance of closing the gender gap for development.