French astronaut Thomas Pesquet shocked by the magnitude of natural disasters

French astronaut Thomas Pesquet shocked by the magnitude of natural disasters
French astronaut Thomas Pesquet shocked by the magnitude of natural disasters

At 400 km high, the French astronaut Thomas Pesquet has been a particular witness to the natural disasters that have shaken the Earth in the last six months.

From the International Space Station (ISS), where he concludes his second mission, the astronaut reveals to AFP his concern for the future of the planet, a few days before the start of COP26.

Q: What images of natural disasters have struck you the most?

A: Hurricanes and forest fires. I’ve never seen anything like it. Fires of an incredible magnitude, with columns of smoke visible from space for days and days … It was shocking to see the energy that was released and the damage suffered by people who were unlucky enough to be in their path. We also saw a succession of extremely impressive tropical storms, you could see through the eye of the cyclone. They are walls of clouds of phenomenal power, more and more frequent, more destructive.

Q: Seeing the Earth from up there for the second time in five years, has it reinforced your idea of ​​its fragility?

A: Yes, clearly. Seeing the planet from the window makes you think. But seeing it once is enough: just spending two days in space, the simple act of taking distance, seeing the fragility of the atmosphere, that soap bubble that preserves us from the impossibility of life in space, that incredible oasis. … that marks you for the rest of your life.

And when we see the long-term changes (obviously beyond five years), you can’t help but feel involved. That is why I tried to commit myself more to the environment, as FAO’s ambassador for the protection of the planet.

Q: What worries you most in the short term? What urgent measures must be taken against a warming climate?

A: What is most worrying is that we are unable to reach an international agreement, and that economic issues take priority over environmental issues. It is a short-term reasoning, since in the long term the profits of companies are directly threatened by climate change.

When you observe that the Australian Great Barrier Reef has not entered the list of world heritage in danger because of government pressure, you think that the priorities are not correct, and that is worrying.

The first thing to do is listen to the experts, who dedicate their entire lives to providing answers at the local, regional, national and global levels. You have to try to apply them.

The number one priority is getting off carbon. We must give priority to renewable or decarbonized energy … And then apply mandatory measures, that is, the international agreements to which the countries have committed. That is what a forum like the COP is for.

© 2021 AFP

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