Who’s not in the Grenelle and what are they talking about?

No matter where you are located on the political spectrum in France, you can usually find someone who is further to the left. Getting these groups to agree with eachother is more difficult, but last weekend found them all wearing the same hat at a meeting in Lyons to celebrate their opposition to the Grenelle, the government’s consultation with civil society, NGOs and other stakeholders on France’s future environment policy. The anti-Grenelle summit brought together the anti-globalization movements, the anti-nuclear activists and supporters of décroissance – a uniquely French term which translates roughly as “decline in growth” and corresponds to the simplicity movement.

Around 700 people showed up to demonstrate their opposition to the Grenelle, which they have described as a “hostile takeover bid” of ecology by big business and the political right. Vincent Cheynet, editor of La Décroissance, a monthly magazine, warned that President Nicolas Sarkozy’s mantra of “work harder to earn more” would exacerbate the ecological crisis. The “décroissants” maintain that the government’s real agenda is to re-define ecology as being compatible with capitalism in order to kick-start economic growth.

So what do they want? An immediate ban on building more nuclear reactors, on GM crops, on highways, incinerators, biofuels and nanotechnology. Less advertising, fewer school trips to faraway places, less public lighting, fewer fast trains, a four-day work week totalling 32 hours, a ban on working on Sundays and, last but not least, “a universal and unconditional salary” which is paid throughout one’s life as well as the introduction of a “maximum salary”.

It’s easy to dismiss these proposals as being the ravings of fringe lunatics or back-to-stone-age utopians, but when you read what they have to say about the quality of life, most of it makes good sense. Things like – consume less, slow down, spend more time on human relationships. So what does décroissance actually mean? According to “La Décroissance Pour Tous” by Nicolas Ridoux, it refers to a deliberate and regular slowdown of consumption in rich countries whose carbon footprint exceeds available resources. “Décroissance is not negative growth, it is above all a departure from the religion of growth.” It’s all about reminding people that human values are more important than material ones. They don’t offer advice on how to pay off your mortgage, but they do encourage us to ask whether we are spending enough time on the things we truly value.

via Le Monde


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