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What Manchester Taught Me About Being French — And European

Shifting questions of belonging and identity in the shadow of Brexit and EU elections.

Parade in Warsaw, Poland, by members of the Robert Schuman Foundation
Parade in Warsaw, Poland, by members of the Robert Schuman Foundation
Mathieu Pollet

PARIS — "From now on, you're France's ambassadors..." It was a memorable line from an otherwise forgettable welcoming speech at the Alliance Française, in the British city of Manchester. It was September of 2017, barely more than a year after the Brexit vote, and I was about to start the year as a foreign language assistant, thanks to an international cooperation-based program.

I would soon find out that being a FLA — as we were called — was much more than just teaching French. Unwittingly, for scores of young British people, I became the embodiment of an entire country, the person they could rely upon in conversations to say: "I know a French guy who…" And for me, that wound up urging me to (re)consider what it was that did or didn't make me French.

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Artificial Satellite Pollution, Perils For Biodiversity In Space And On Earth

Exploiting space resources and littering it with satellite and other anthropogenic objects is endangering the ecosystem of space, which also damages the earth and its creatures below.

Image of the small satellite NanoRacks-Remove Debris satellite deployed into space by the ISS

Thomas Lewton

Outer space isn’t what most people would think of as an ecosystem. Its barren and frigid void isn’t exactly akin to the verdant canopies of a rainforest or to the iridescent shoals that swim among coral cities. But if we are to become better stewards of the increasingly frenzied band of orbital space above our atmosphere, a shift to thinking of it as an ecosystem — as part of an interconnected system of living things interacting with their physical environment — may be just what we need.

Last month, in the journal Nature Astronomy, a collective of 11 astrophysicists and space scientists proposed we do just that, citing the proliferation of anthropogenic space objects. Thousands of satellites currently orbit the Earth, with commercial internet providers such as SpaceX’s Starlink launching new ones at a dizzying pace. Based on proposals for projects in the future, the authors note, the number could reach more than a hundred thousand within the decade. Artificial satellites, long a vital part of the space ecosystem, have arguably become an invasive species.

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