Notre maison brûle

For the dverse prompt. I couldn’t get the despair and disgust I feel into a poem. This is an observation, quoting Jacques Chirac, probably the most noteworthy thing he ever said. Deny it if you want.


Notre maison brûle

and we look away;

the airflight is only a justified holiday,

the cruise only a well-deserved dream,

the heating turned up high

so we can wear tee-shirts at Christmas

is only comfort,

let the bath water run and run and run.

The car is only practical

and strawberries in January is fun.


Notre maison brûle

but we turn up the heat

and we turn on the taps,

we eat what we shouldn’t

and feed plastic bags to whales,

bottle tops choke seabird chicks

and families scavenge in open middens.

We dole out death with plastic and pleasure

but we have good reasons.


In an Alaskan town we watch a polar bear starve.

We wipe away a tear

and turn the heating up a notch.


Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

56 thoughts on “Notre maison brûle”

  1. We all need to do a lot better by this planet.
    I think you managed to get a lot of emotion into the poem, and you did it without making it sound too preachy. That last stanza especially is the perfect balance.

  2. AH, you touch a chord with this one — the way we justify our actions (both collective and individual) is exactly the reason why we are here today — it’s easy to be swayed by the pictures and facts that we come across and forget them once our “pleasures” and “comforts” take precedence. That ending made me sigh.

    1. It’s like sending ‘thoughts and prayers’. It’s a salve to bad consciences. Safari killing holidays for rich westerners, shark fishing idem, the off-the-beaten-track holidays so we can go and pollute some ‘unspoilt’ corner of the world, rubbish on Mount Everest. And that’s without mentioning the horrors we perpetrate on our fellow human beings. If you want proof there is no god just look at your average selfish, greedy human being.

    1. I think we know what we’re doing, but we don’t care. As individuals we refuse to give up what we consider our rights, and the leaders of the planet know they’ll be dead when the shit hits the fan, so why sweat about it?

      1. It’s pure selfishness. Grab what you can and the devil take the hindmost. I’ve started to think that I don’t want to have grandchildren. I can’t see my children living this one out.

      2. I do all the time, I rarely use the car unless it’s really unavailable. I do like to drive but I do try. We do try hard to recycle everything but the local council make it almost impossible. Also very careful with water. I believe you are the same but we are mostly the odd ones out.💜

      3. I think we all have a very unrealistic idea of what is necessary. It isn’t enough any more to recycle the superfluous junk we buy, we’re going to have to stop buying it altogether, and the jobs that are lost will have to be absorbed elsewhere.

      4. And when did you start to buy stuff in packages? Fresh produce comes from the market and the rest, if it’s dry, can be bought by weight and put in a paper bag. I know everyone wants to save time, but so they can do what? It isn’t saving the planet.

      5. Thankfully supermarkets are now starting to sell dry goods in paper bags and liquids in reusable containers. Fruit can be bought loose. It’s slow but it is a start.💜

      6. I don’t understand why people object so much to taking a basket to the market. And does it really matter if the lettuce and the herbs sit on top of the carrots, and the potatoes and onions fight it out at the bottom?

      7. Not at really we put them all together when we cook. The trouble is the big stores demand perfect fruit wrapped in plastic. I have noticed that the European countries handle good better than The US or the UK.

  3. Ya’ know, back in the 60’s early 70’s conservation of resources, environmental issues were right up front – and people – including school children understood about recycling, and not wasting water and stuff….then…what I want to know is what happened? Who dropped the ball? Why is talk, talk talk and posting on social media about the only thing that comes close to showing concern about the environment? Mounds of litter – all this plastic? So much buy new ( which uses resources in huge amounts) instead of repurpose/reuse – buy classic instead of toss after one season or when trend has run its’ course When and why did that become OK?
    Sadly the most concerned and actually taking actions seem to be the ones who were always concerned – and have been practicing living gently for decades.
    Mass marketing, countries who do not care like China, Russia, India – and companies pushing more and more “newer” “better” merchandise are all part of the problem. Big business wants expanding markets for cheap goods and rapid turn over of goods – even if it’s not good.
    Darn right to be mad

    1. I think you’ve got the answer there. The market has taken over from common sense, ethics, morality. We think we absolutely can’t live without something that didn’t even exist ten years ago, can’t live without a couple of foreign holidays a year, without a car per each member of the household, without pineapples and mangoes and bananas, meat every day of the week. I could go on forever. And everything has to be new, changed every season. It has happened because enough people are affluent enough to be able to indulge their fantasies. The rest of the world looks on with envy and copies as far as they can. Mad? I’m sickened.

      1. It’s also the hyper-consumer attitude pushed by entertainment and reality shows and what we used to call “Everyone wants to be Paris Hilton” complex. Each wants – and deserved – to have all the stuff, show it off (on social media)without having to struggle any time at all working to get it. Immediate gratification- also pushed by bank cards, easy loans….
        Somehow the clock seems to have spun back to the materialism of the early 50’s…seems it’s like nature and the environment – human attitudes have cycles…or show memories.
        Quite a concern with all the younger ones coming up buying and tossing and collecting branded items to prove the are worthy. Lots of talk – but even the tiniest things that help just ignored. Why? And how?
        Yep, sick.

  4. And it’s a four alarm blaze Jane. This poem kicks butt — love it. Perfect reflection of our stupidity, and it won’t change, not per any evidence I see. Great write!

    1. Thanks Rob. Nothing will change if it’s left to individual choice. It needs legislation, coercion, and what government is going to do that? Each time the government here tries to limit transportation by road, the road haulage companies block the motorways and they back down. They won’t close down nuclear reactors because there are jobs at stake etc etc.

  5. Jane, you struck a deep chord here. There is something to be said about doing without, such as the case during wartime and the Great Depression. People valued everything much more. A pot of beans cooking with salt pork and a slab of cornbread for dinner, and people were grateful. These days, we are a society of excesses, which in turn is hurting our planet.

    1. I don’t think it should be optional any more. The rich countries waste their own resources and exploit resources in poor countries, dump their waste in some poverty stricken country that needs the revenue, and refuse to rein in their consumption. It needs legislation otherwise nobody will give up their comforts.

    1. I wish that we could all agree not only that there’s a huge problem, but that our notions of comfort and necessity have to change. It isn’t a necessity to overeat, take vacations in exotic places and destroy them, use the car when you can walk, wash the bloody thing every weekend etc etc.

    1. We are the bosses. Religion tells us, business tells us, our political leaders tell us. Every idiot sitting behind a bar tells us. A sixteen year-old kid from Sweden is prepared to stand up to world leaders and rub their noses in it and all they do is patronise her.

  6. Wow that video is so disgusting. Your poem hits it right on the nail- we know it is happening yet we are blind to it. We think its the probem of other people. Sad to say it but we just continue turning up the heat and tap, living out our pleasures.

  7. Your satire really comes through in this one, Jane. The atrocities of being right is the right to think we can do as we please and get away with it!
    Well done!

    1. Allowing and even encouraging people to believe that there is no problem, that if there is it comes from excess fertility in the poor countries (scientifically proven to be false) and in any case, it is the god-given right of the privileged to squander, waste, exploit and still go to heaven…

  8. I remember back in the seventies, when I was a student, campaigning for better care of the planet and all that is on it. I wrote about it too. But only a small percentage of people listened because the rest only thought of themselves, their own pleasure and comfort. Your poem tells it like it is. People these days think it’s their right to have a holiday abroad, no matter what: pay for it on the credit card; to fly to wherever it’s hot, disregarding pollution and climate change; as with everything else, they know their ‘rights’ but don’t want to take responsibility. They don’t know what to do now it’s all coming back to slap them round their faces, and they haven’t got the wherewithal of basic skills and knowledge to live the way their ancestors did.
    Sorry, Jane, I’m ranting now! I don’t want bottle tops to choke seabird chicks or plastic to harm whales.

    1. Rant away, Kim, I’m standing on the soap box next to yours. It’s greed and selfishness that motivates most people, even the ones who smile and say, but I’m against sin. Nobody seems to be prepared to deprive themselves of the least little thing in the general interest. That child, Greta Thunberg is my heroine. She should be the role model of all young kids not…no, I won’t name names. You can fill in the blanks with any number of fat, half-dressed, half-arsed celebrities.

  9. Perhaps the Bible was misspelled? The “make the earth substowe” caused a lot of evil. I find it astonishing that my own country suddenly wants to protect the earth. After decades of damage to the environment by the German car industry, with political support.

  10. It is our sin and selfishness that is so destructive to civilization and environment…we need to change our ways. You’ve got me thinking, Jane.

    1. That’s the problem. If you ask the average householder in our rich countries to eat less, use their cars less, cut out air travel, don’t holiday in exotic locations, cut down on the gadgets, the heating, the air conditioning, they will say, it’s my right to what I like with my money. They will blame (wrongly) the problems of the world on the poor countries for having too many children. I don’t see sin in that but arrant selfishness and greed. If we don’t change our ways nature will change them for us.

    1. The really depressing thing I find is that if you were to tell the people in the shops and on the markets that by bringing a shopping basket they would avoid using dozens of plastic bags that might well end up suffocating a whale or an albatross chick, or a cow, most would just shrug and say, it’s easier to take the plastic bags. They even when the consequences are put to them, they aren’t prepared to make that tiny effort.

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