Are Amazon Jobs Worth 1,400 Loads of Traffic? French Region Is Split
FOURNÈS, France — On a sultry September morning, Claudie Cortellini headed into the vineyards to survey the grapes that go into her family’s heady Côtes du Rhône wines. In recent years, she has fought to ensure a good harvest as the climate grows warmer. But these days, she is facing an even bigger foe: a giant Amazon sorting center slated for construction near her land.
The project, a concrete-and-steel behemoth that would span nine acres, promises to bring hundreds of jobs to the Gard, an agricultural region in the south of France. Tourists are drawn to the countryside to see a landmark of monumental beauty: the Pont du Gard, a 2,000-year-old Roman aqueduct that rises above the valley like a dusty jewel.
For Mrs. Cortellini and worried residents, however, the jobs are not worth the pollution and explosion in traffic the Amazon warehouse would bring.
“They say they want to contribute to the economy,” said Mrs. Cortellini, gesturing across her vineyard, Rouge Garance, toward the horizon where the warehouse would jut over 45 feet into the air. “But in the name of jobs, Amazon will do a lot of things that are damaging to the environment.”
The weedy plot carved out for Amazon — strategically near a six-lane highway — has become a point of contention in a bigger battle between rising environmental political forces and officials who say France can hardly afford to pass up opportunities for economic development, especially during a historically deep recession brought on by the coronavirus.
The Gard, despite picture-postcard beauty, has one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates. To people desperate for work, the environmental push to thwart Amazon — pointing to the stream of delivery trucks it will generate — seems out of touch with the hardscrabble reality facing families in the region.