The communication campaign of the Ecological Transition Agency (Ademe), a public establishment of the State, wanted to play on humor. By featuring a “reseller” who advises not to buy a household appliance, a telephone or a new sweater from customers who unfortunately resemble us, it has above all created trouble within the government. Impacting Black Friday promotions, which now stretch over several weeks, it has become a divisive symbol. The trade associations have given notice to the Agency to withdraw its advertising, the Minister of the Economy was moved, describing it as clumsy, the Minister of Ecological Transition paid lip service to it.
Coming to the forefront, the Commerce Alliance stressed that its members do not have the same responsibility as digital platforms in fast fashion and easy consumption, that it is necessary to encourage employment in France and to revive city centers. “Buy French and green, from independent and local retailers! »Who would be against? However, is it an insult to suggest thinking before buying? “Because resellers don’t exist, let’s ask ourselves the right questions,” proclaims the campaign.
Role playing might seem classic. Everyone plays their part in the government, in a good “at the same time”: we are environmentalists, we are alongside the small brands, and we remain moderate, far from this hated degrowth that must be absolutely prohibited. What if it was precisely this bureaucratic routine that was unreasonable? With the acceleration of ecological disruption and the objective of making France “a green nation”, the truth is that government hesitations surprise and disappoint. In the fall of 2022, sobriety had nevertheless been the political watchword in the face of the risks of energy shortage. Without giving it common meaning. Sobriety referred indifferently to the essential savings in the face of inflation, to the change in behavior called for by respect for the planet, or to individual ethics. Without even mentioning the distinction between chosen and imposed sobriety.
Advocating responsible consumption as Ademe does therefore means taking the risk of giving content to words. This is still disturbing, and will even become more and more disturbing since we are up against the wall. Repairing and reusing everyday objects is what the 2019 circular economy law provides. But writing the law is one thing, making it a part of customs is another, less rewarding in politics. When it comes time to take action, determination is lacking, fear of opposition prevails, ambition weakens. What is true at the national level is also true in Europe and at the UN. It has already been eight years since the Paris Agreement was signed, demonstrating French ambition in the eyes of the world. Since then, States have slowly moved closer to the reality of the renunciations to be made: getting out of coal, oil and gas, adapting to the world which has come to be marked by natural disasters, thinking about biodiversity and the climate in the same movement, recognizing the links between climatic and economic migrations, looking the world in the face in a word. It remains to find the modes of action.
As early as 2018, the Deal of the Century petition called for an ecological state. Signed by more than 2 million people, it testified to the place that public action plays in this transformation of the world in the eyes of French society. The ensuing climate trial resulted in a condemnation of the state for inaction. The ball has since been in the institutions’ court. It is up to them to invent their ecological compass and stick to it.