Climate crisis: “Abandoning the time for democratic deliberation often paves the way for industrial interests.”

Maître de conférences à l’Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales et membre du Centre international de recherche sur l’environnement et le développement (Cired), Antonin Pottier, dont les recherches portent sur le rôle des sciences économiques dans la transition écologique, a dirigé Concilier économie et écologie (Presses des Ponts, 354 p., 45 euros), qui rassemble des textes fondateurs du Cired.

How did the economic reflection on the environment become intertwined with that of development from the outset?

In the early 1970s, concerns were raised that environmental protection, driven by wealthy countries, could come at the expense of the development of poor countries. Ignacy Sachs [1927-2023] and economists from Cired then proposed rethinking the goals of growth based on the idea that it should serve to equalize conditions between nations. This is ecodevelopment, a development in harmony with the environment. It differs from “zero growth” because it does not abandon all forms of growth. It also differs from “sustainable development,” which does not challenge international inequalities.

How can this sustainable development be implemented in practice?

Through his experience in Poland, India, Brazil, and France, Sachs was able to assess the limitations of planning tools as they were designed in the North and South, East and West: sometimes they try to predict what needs to be produced based on false numbers, other times they lead to the production of things that are not needed. Introducing the environment at the heart of planning issues appears to him as a way to overcome these recurring difficulties. This is related to the very material nature of environmental challenges. By considering pollution, living environments, and aiming for better resource management, it becomes possible to not only ask “How to produce?” but also “Why produce it?” And ultimately, to ask “What do we need?”

Est-ce une forme de planification plus démocratique ?

Sachs parle plus précisément de « développement endogène ». Il s’agit d’une planification dans laquelle on introduit davantage de consultations dans les territoires afin d’impliquer les populations locales dans la décision.

However, this is only possible if we break free from purely monetary indicators. These indicators obscure the entire hidden economy, this “off-market” aspect that escapes statistical devices, but also dematerialize economic thinking. Trying to predict the income we will have in twenty or thirty years does not say much about the society we want to build. Sachs, who has been influenced by the writings of Fernand Braudel and Michel de Certeau, suggests that we take into account, in our projections, the uses of time that structure daily life. Reasoning in terms of social time allows us to re-materialize economic forecasts: how much time for production, for rest, for leisure, but also what living environment, for what purposes and according to what distribution.

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