“The Notre Dame is burning!”, “Notre Dame is on fire!”, “Flames threaten the 850-year-old historical French cathedral”. Bad news travel fast and sooner or later the world knew that the Notre Dame de Paris had caught fire, with the most prevalent theory being that it was an accident during renovation works that caused the blaze.
Within a matter of days, the French president promises that the monument will be restored within a 5-year period and at the same time donations start flooding to fund the rebuilding of Notre Dame. Fundraising websites, campaigns and other initiatives are carried out and the global community is taking action, with individuals contributing as much as they can. What is astonishing though, is that in less than a day after the fire, a handful of France’s billionaires donated over $600 million. The donations expanded far beyond anyone’s expectations , with the LVMH Group, L'Oréal, Air France, Total, Apple Inc., the International Olympic Committee and even the Russian Ministry of Culture joining efforts. As in today, the pledges for the reconstruction of Notre Dame have surpassed $1 billion, and even though such a mass mobilization should be positive news, it has sparked controversy amongst citizens.
The main cause of the outrage is the recent realization that the same amount of money that has been accumulated for the rebuilding of France’s historical monument within a matter of days, could suffice to solve major environmental problems around the world, such as the cleaning of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Meanwhile, the wildfire season is lengthening globally. Fires are on the rise, climate change and global warming are endangering the planet’s lifespan and think of it differently, we are facing a “whole Earth version of Notre Dame”. It is no secret that the environmental crisis is threatening the sustainability of the planet and people just have not taken the matter seriously enough. Initiatives regarding the protection of the planet have been hindered by the lack of funding and here we are, finding out how quickly funds can really be found when a certain need arises. Others expressed their anger saying that these funds would be better utilized in taking care of the poor and the homeless and accused the French government of neglecting the issue, implying they value the restoration of the building over the standards of living of the French. Many even wondered why the Russian government so eagerly sought to help while, many of the historical Russian churches that were destroyed were never rebuilt.
Do these facts imply that the money gathered for the reconstruction of Notre Dame should not be used as such? No. The rebuilding of the French monument is of great importance, not only to the French citizens, but to the world. However, it indicates that somewhere along the line, we shifted our perspective on how we see things. The abovementioned facts do not undermine the tragedy that is the destruction of Notre Dame. They are, however, a reminder that more light needs to be shed on problems worldwide and they are a call for an orchestrated effort, starting now.