Saturday 13 June 2009
In an interview with Le Nouvel Observateur, pollster Jean-Daniel Lévy, shown here, asserts that the perceived trade-off between the environment and social issues no longer obtains. For many, the economic crisis has validated the environmental approach. (Photo: www.mairie-reze.fr)
One swallow does not make it spring; the European election is exceptional; abstention was massive; the right has strengthened its majority in the European Parliament. Certainly. I agree. Ja. Yes. Si. Oui.
It is nonetheless legitimate to think that the environmentalists' good result in the June 7 European elections (about 20 percent in France if we don't leave out the Independent Environmental Alliance's 3.63 percent, added to Europe Ecologie's 16,28 percent), is not a fire in the pan or an accident due to exceptional circumstances.
Political environmentalism's long and slow progression begun in 1974 with René Dumont, traces - in spite of its successes, relapses, divisions, and hesitations - a regular ascent. And so the June 7 success may be taken for what it is: environmentalism's ascension to political maturity.
Also see below:
The Economic Crisis Has Validated the Environmental Project •
The first and most important point: Europe Ecologie has won in the field of ideas. Fully acknowledging the gravity of the environmental crisis, the list was able to link that observation to the social question. Its proposals on agriculture, energy, biodiversity fit together logically, in a period of economic upheaval, with the idea of an environmental conversion of the economy and with that of a social safety net designed to correct inequalities (for example, the income cap). In fact, political ecology's analysis jibes with the historical situation. In contrast, the Socialist Party's tumble results from the intellectual degeneration of that party, which seems to have stopped thinking since ... too long ago.
That means that the future of political environmentalism depends on its ability to enrich its thought and make it live, notably in relation to the middle- and working-class concern to make ecological transformation not only acceptable, but desirable.
Second point: a collective political practice. In spite of pressure from the media system that wants to see only stars - and preferably one star only - Europe Ecologie's success is due to the fact that strong and diverse personalities were able to work together, demonstrating the obvious fact that capitalist psychology dissimulates: Cooperation is more effective than competition.
The third success, still prospective, and which is one of the keys to successes to come: not to reduce democracy to the sole dimension of representation, but to involve citizens in nonviolent action that animates the political debate. In this regard, people will attentively follow the mobilization launched around the Copenhagen climate conference and the mischievous interventions of collectives such as "Save the Rich" [Sauvons les riches].
The question - one that other political commentators better informed than this modest chronicler are currently cashing in on - of alliances with other forces remains. I will settle for thinking that if the ecologists succeed in maintaining their present intellectual, cooperative and democratic energy, the rest will come of itself.
Translation: Truthout French language editor Leslie Thatcher.
The Economic Crisis Has Validated the Environmental Project
Thursday 11 June 2009
Le Nouvel Observateur: Europe Ecologie has kept pace with the Socialist Party. Is it truly political environmentalism's D-Day?
Jean-Daniel Lévy: There is one certainty: Those who deemed that the social question invalidated the environmental ideal were profoundly mistaken. Moreover, we've observed in all our recent studies of French citizens' opinion and behavior that the crisis has never diminished demand for environmental reforms. This is most notably the case for organic food: Four out of ten French people (in a 2008 survey) consume at least one organic product at least once a month. And 84 percent want the development of organic agriculture. Another example: Ninety-three percent of consumers have already changed or renounced a brand for environmental or societal reasons. And of the motivations for voting in these European elections, our exit poll data place the environment in second place (29 percent) behind employment (42 percent). This is an environmental sensitivity that mobilizes managers and high-level professionals as much as it does service professionals, although somewhat more on the left (35 percent) than on the right (29 percent).
N. O.: Could we say that the crisis has given environmental solutions credibility?
J.-D. Lévy: Yes, because sustainable development is no longer perceived as a luxury, but as the deployment of non-negotiable health safety measures. That concerns defensive and restorative ecology. Then - and this is a novelty - the vision of global ecological society and its promise of a shift to green growth constitutes an alternative horizon that is now credible. An opportunity for more "reasonable" development than the race for double-digit profits and the waste of all-out consumption. We must recognize that it's one of the very few turnkey discourses available today. We must also emphasize that the green word is beginning to make inroads into working class milieus, since 14 percent of blue collar workers gave their vote to Europe Ecologie on Sunday. That is barely two points less than the average among all voters. It's enough to observe the Cohn-Bendit list's score in Seine-Saint-Denis (17.67 percent), which puts it in second place in front of the Socialist Party (15 percent). Same phenomenon in Essonne and Val-de-Marne.
N. O.: The trial of the return to the candle is over. When did this recognition of the pertinence of the environmental vision begin?
J.-D. Lévy: The interaction between ecology, the economy and social progress was certainly precipitated by Barack Obama's pronouncements concerning eco-business, electric cars and green energies. That these scenarios so close to science fiction should be validated by the United States is helpful. It is just as true, that by crashing into recession, the capitalist model, which promised eternal growth, lost its attraction. And validated the approach of a less frenetic, less wasteful, but sustainable development.
Translation: Truthout French language editor Leslie Thatcher.