In the aftermath of the presidential elections, one thing is certain: political ecology has been unable to impose itself either in the debates or in the ballot box. The campaign’s phantom theme, mainly addressed through energy issues, failed to “new class aware and proud of itself”, which the philosopher Bruno Latour asks for. And yet, for some years now, the French population has become increasingly interested in ecological issues and strives more than ever to live in harmony with nature and to leave a livable world to future generations.
How come the ecology has not been able to unite around the positive, honest and kind imagination that drives it, faced with political forces brandishing dull neoliberal or racist rhetoric? And why not be satisfied with Emmanuel Macron’s new promises in the field?
The pitfall of green growth
Despite the ambition shown during the qualifying rounds to build an “ecological nation”, Emmanuel Macron has so far mainly shown that he is the champion of the start-up nation. President re-elected last Sunday with 58.5% also recalled his line in a striking chiasm at his meeting in Marseille on April 16 “our challenge is to make a greener economy, not less ecology savings”†
The message has the merit of being crystal clear. We need the next five years produce and work more strive for green growth at all costs and respect the rigid rules of neoliberalism. In short, continue to follow the dogmas that led us to this social and environmental emergency.
If Emmanuel Macron had the credit for renewing his ecological ambition between the two towers, it remains secondary to the need to grow our GDP. However, the decoupling between economic growth and environmental destruction is a chimera, as economist Timothée Parrique pointed out during his analysis of the latest IPCC report. We can therefore rightly expect a policy from “business as usual”, devastating to nature, unjust to the majority of the population and beneficial to a small elite.
Assume his radicality
The Green Party’s failure to arouse particular enthusiasm during this campaign stems from the line that emerged after the primary, that of an ecology of compromise that advocates no real paradigm shift. However, when trying to position itself within the framework of the current economic model, the environmental movement plays the role of a chaos attenuator at best and a useful idiot at worst. In other words, it’s not by trying to grapple with the narrow dogma of growth that we can enthuse the crowds around a new social project.
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To fully express its potential for societal transformation, political ecology must adopt its radicalism. And that requires two clear statements: the need to put forward a much more redistributive social model and the choice to plan ecological decline. One cannot go without the other. We cannot imagine advocating degrowth until the poorest social classes have been able to raise their standard of living. As the famous adage of Brazilian trade unionist Chico Mendes points out “ecology without class struggle is gardening”† This is exactly the tour de force that I believe the People’s Union has achieved during this campaign by bringing together a demanding ecological program with strong proposals in favor of the purchasing power of the most modest.
Thus, assuming a break with neoliberal dogma, political ecology will be able to bring about a coherent social and environmental justice project whose goal will no longer be GDP growth. Far from serving a vague idea of greening financial performance, political ecology can commit to concrete indicators: the reduction of the poverty rate, the non-artificial cultivation of land or even the ban on advertising polluting products.
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The convergence of social and environmental issues will show that political ecology is far from “punitive”, charting a path for the emancipation of individuals. Breaking with the current infernal productivism, it will be able to project a new imagination that proposes a new conception of happiness, based not on frenetic consumption, but on respect for oneself, others and ecosystems. Due to the radical paradigm shift it proposes, prosperous degrowth therefore offers great prospects for the future.