Time to be radical

We have reached, at the beginning of the 21st century, the paroxysm of a society that has elevated the spirit of lucre and the competition of all against all into a supreme value. From this deadly logic stems the situation in which we find ourselves: we are living the sixth crisis of mass extinction of species and the first caused by the activity of Man; the diseases linked to our Western lifestyles composed of a mixture of stress, junk food, unbridled competition, pollution are added to the social dereliction, the loss of reference of the « globalized man », the consumed communication which passes by paying technical supports. We have surpassed the one billion people living below the poverty line; the wealth gap has never been so wide, both within Western countries and between them and non-Western countries: indecent opulence rubs shoulders with misery. Soon, all places will be contaminated by the waste of « modern man », plastics, pesticides and other slags of our productivist societies.


But while this observation is increasingly accessibleThe fact that we have moved away from a possible way of living in harmony with others and with nature, and that we are inexorably moving towards chaos, maintains the illusion that the Western way of life is generalizable, whereas the facts are stinging: it would take no less than four lands each year to ensure the production of the resources consumed and the absorption of the CO2 emitted if each of the inhabitants of the planet lived like an American. This demonstration alone could undermine the foundations of the myth of Western development… if it were not for the technocratic illusion! The latter, a constantly renewed chimera, prevents the subject from projecting himself into the past in order to be able to think the present. That is to say that by deluding him with a technological solution, always to come and immediately replaced, it deprives him of the capacities of a complete change of paradigm. Instead of thinking about the relocation of activities and the bringing together of the places in which Man evolves, of reducing the need for the car by favoring public and low-polluting modes of transport, the technological illusion relies on the electric car. However, everything leads us to believe that its generalization will not happen, but above all, this technophile myth only serves the perpetuation of our lifestyles and transportation and therefore logically ignores the unsustainable character — because it also pollutes and colonizes space and sociability — of the electric car. It doesn’t matter, that’s not the main concern, the quality of the air and the food of the people — who are deprived of food with biofuels — are of little importance compared to the productive necessity of selling cars.


Everything is the same, with only one goal in mind: change in continuity! To continue to create and sustain needs created and maintained by the advertising industry. What then, in this black picture, is the great defeat? Without a doubt, that of critical thinking. That of the capacity to think himself as a social being invested in the first place of representations conveyed by the consumer society, which to make and think by itself will have necessarily to exceed the impression of « natural » and to question these « clandestine » contents. However, this defeat is only the obvious result of a propaganda that had this objective: to persuade the subject that the choices dictated by the advertisement were his own; to make the productive need to sell the goods on the market, a need for the subject to buy them. And the more one « progresses », the more the real autonomy of the subject dissipates and disappears paradoxically in an autonomy that has become a market value.


The productive necessity thus organizes the societal functioning, the absurdity of which is revealed by certain questions, of which we know — Despite ourselves or not — the answer: can we continue to increase the number of cars, to perpetuate the international division of labor and the parcelling out of production that it implies; can we continue to feed our cattle with soybeans planted on the dead lands of the Amazonian forest, to eat — as much — meat; do we have to accept the programmed obsolescence of objects, the dictatorship of the mobile phone and the African wars that it engenders in order to be « sustainable »? always connected « If we were to establish ecological and social goals as prerequisites for political decisions, where human dignity and respect for nature are raised as fundamental values, we would immediately find the answer to these questions: the system in which we live is not sustainable.


Humanity has crossed « thresholds of sustainability » that call into question its survival: threshold of biodiversity reduction — the annual rate of extinction should not exceed ten species for every ten million — we are at more than one hundred -, threshold of greenhouse gas emissions, threshold of Nitrogen that is taken from the atmosphere for human use — which is one of the stages of the nitrogen cycle. Others are in the process of being crossed: deforestation, ozone depletion in the stratosphere, acidification of the oceans(1), … Not to mention nuclear power, which endangers all humanity(2). Are we catastrophists? Certainly not, if we remember what François Partant said:  » The worst kind of catastrophism is not to announce disasters when we think they are coming, but to let them happen because we did not foresee them and, even worse, because we did not allow ourselves to foresee them. This is why I would gladly classify as « catastrophists » the innumerable authors who try to reassure the public, without questioning the world system, its dynamics and its evolution(3) « .


However, to achieve smooth change, we certainly should have acted earlier. Now, as Denis Meadows says,  » we are in a car that has already thrown itself off the cliff and I think that in such a situation, brakes are useless. The decline is inevitable(4) « . However, it is never too late to cushion the fall. To do this, we can only get out of the « always more » society that feeds on misery and the destruction of our ecosystem.


Is it possible to envisage the future differently, to get out of the devastating cycle of growth, which will never return and which, incidentally, has done enough damage and demonstrated its nonsense?


Can we just think about it! And then act.

Alexandre Penasse


Article written for a carte blanche on the RTBF website.

Notes et références
  1. Voir Adieu à la croissance. Bien vivre dans un monde solidaire, Jean Gadrey, éditions les petits matins/Alternatives économiques, Paris, 2012.
  2. Voir « Tirer enfin les leçons des catastrophes nucléaires », Paul Lannoye, Kairos, avril-mai 2012.
  3. Partant, F., La ligne d’horizon, essai sur l’après-développement, La découverte, 2007, p.104.
  4. Site de Libération, 15 juin 2012. Denis Meadows est l’un des auteurs du rapport rédigé à la demande du Club de Rome et publié en 1972, concluant à l’aide de modèles informatiques à l’impossibilité de la croissance infinie dans un monde fini.
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