You are often referred to as “the icon of young people fighting for the planet”. However, you state in your book that the “climate generation” does not exist. For what ?
I do not subscribe to this label of “spokesperson for youth”. However, if this incarnation in spite of myself makes me uncomfortable, I am aware that it is useful in the fight I lead for the living because it allows ideas to meet bodies. Intimate stories are stories that mark us and can act as triggers. This is why I chose to deliver a part of myself in this essay and to expose my vulnerabilities. Then, if I refute the notion of “climate generation”, it is because the fight against the destruction of life concerns everyone and that evoking a generational divide is above all very useful for dividing us. I am not at war with the “boomers” and I refuse to consider that the fracture is between my grandfather and me. This is not a confrontation: on the contrary, our fight is part of the continuity of the struggles of previous generations and the rights they have acquired. The subject of the preservation of life on this planet is not generational, it is political.
In this book, you invite us to “rethink fear” in order to “get out of our powerlessness”. How to avoid paralysis in the face of the ecological emergency?
Fear in the face of the ecological emergency creates apathy when we relegate it to the intimate, as is mostly the case today. The eco-anxiety and helplessness that many people feel are the symptoms. In response to this, I think it is important not to forget that originally, biologically, fear is a mechanism that allows us to react to get out of a dangerous situation. When we are afraid, our body sends us signals and releases hormones allowing us to take action. It is above all a vital impetus, the feeling of fear is a healthy response to a sick world and it is advisable to seize it to mobilize collectively. Today, when it is time for the climate emergency, there is a break between those to whom we have given our legitimacy to take care of public affairs and the silence, sometimes contempt, that they send back to us . The social contract appears to be broken, and to get out of our powerlessness, we need to focus on the one big fear that deserves our attention.
Your criticisms crystallize a lot on Total and the figure of its CEO, Patrick Pouyanné. Aren’t you worried that your pitch will sound simplistic?
The complexity of our ecological transition lies in the way we decide to inhabit the world differently. As early as the 1970s, the fossil fuel giants – including Total – were the first to hire the best climatologists and discover the impact of CO2 emissions on global warming. Only, instead of changing their trajectory or acting accordingly to preserve the planet, they chose to create doubt by funding studies to try to demonstrate that the origins of climate change were other and that the solutions were elsewhere. It is their strategy to spread the idea that responsibility is diffuse. Of course, this is partly true, and mentalities must evolve towards new consumption, food and transport habits, but the reality is that we don’t have much time left. Therefore, we must be radical to change the structures of society and allow more eco-responsible behaviors to become widespread. The real question to ask is who, today, organizes this system which emphasizes fossil fuels and destroys living organisms. The answer is simple: our leaders and the multinationals to which they bow. To attack Total, Shell, BP or Exxon is not to simplify the fight but to save time by taking it to the root.
How is this balance of power organized?
Actions of civil disobedience, if they make it possible to challenge decision-makers to politicize and bring to the media eminently technical environmental subjects, are only the tip of the iceberg. Obtaining the moratorium on seabed mining in January 2023 is the perfect example. For months, we worked tirelessly to exercise very precise lobbying in Paris, Brussels and at the UN, but this victory was only possible because we surrounded ourselves with the best in their fields. This was the case on the scientific side with Diva Joan Amon, a marine biologist, on the environmental dimension with Claire Nouvian, the founder and honorary president of the Bloom association, and also on the legal aspect with firms of very qualified lawyers. This behind-the-scenes work has made our argument implacable with the decision-making bodies.
In this book, you pay tribute to other women active in the defense of life around the world. What do they inspire you?
I refer in particular to Vanessa Nakate, a 26-year-old Ugandan activist who is fighting against Total’s Eacop – a dizzying oil project involving the installation of a 1,443 km pipeline between Uganda and Tanzania. In these countries, repression is immense and activists committed to the environment and local populations endanger not only their bodies, but also their families. The best way to protect them is to publicize their fight and expose them to the media. Recently, another Ugandan activist, Hilda Flavia Nakabuye, traveled more than 9,000 km to Paris to be among the dozens of people gathered in front of the Crédit Agricole building to denounce the financing of Total’s activities in her country. Such an action gives it greater visibility in the West, where this ecocide project is decided. What they do is immense, and their determination compels us.
In a register other than that of fossil fuels, I had the chance to meet Vandana Shiva. In India and around the world, she is, at 70, a global figure in the fight against multinationals, won battles against Monsanto and gave birth to a seed bank. The latter allows Indian farmers to keep a variety of seeds in the face of agri-food manufacturers who wanted to destroy peasant autonomy. These courses inspire me to the highest degree and show that victories are possible.
What place should ecological justice occupy in the uprising you want to stimulate?
It is inconceivable to think about the ecological transition without tending towards more social justice. On the scale of France, 63 billionaires emit as much greenhouse gases as 50% of the population… Perhaps it would be interesting to start – if only a little – to put these ultra -wealthy in the face of their responsibilities and to make them participate in the collective effort that society must agree to in the face of the climate emergency?
For example, today the fuel used to fly private jets and aviation in general is completely zero-rated. Thus, a liter of kerosene is cheaper than a liter of gasoline in the tank of a car while air transport pollutes enormously more. A tax on kerosene would be a start, but today our leaders are taking tweezers with the ultra-rich, asking them if they could “use a little less” their private jets… They are resigning from their power, and these two weights , two measurements are no longer acceptable.
Can wanting to have children and wanting a preserved planet for them be the engine of our transition?
Like the generational struggle in which they try to lock us up, the pronatalist discourse is a slope on which I do not wish to engage. If I can understand the logic of the “Ginks” movement for “Green Inclination, No Kids”, I do not adhere to it. First of all because I have the deep desire to have a child, but also because I find this vision of ecology deeply sad. I do not wish to fight for an unhappy world. On the contrary. I love the response that George Sand brings to this vision of humanity. “To all those who say ‘chaos after me’ is the most disastrous blasphemy that man can utter. It is the formula of the resignation of man, because it is the breaking of the link which unites the generations and which makes them solidary with each other” (1). His words, although they date from the 19th century, resonate with great force today because, as soon as we project ourselves into a world in which an intimate part of our being will live, our child, the conditions of future existence on the planet suddenly become much more important. My dearest wish is to leave the world with a generation that will be able to break with the sinister logic of self-destruction that is ours.