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Climate Change
Alternative Lifestyles

The ZAD [Zone à Défendre (Zone to Defend)] de la Colline is a protest camp on Mormont Hill in Switzerland. It is the first ZAD in Switzerland and was built to prevent the expansion of a quarry by the cement company Holcim.
The ZAD [Zone à Défendre (Zone to Defend)] de la Colline is a protest camp on Mormont Hill in Switzerland. It is the first ZAD in Switzerland and was built to prevent the expansion of a quarry by the cement company Holcim. | Foto (detail): Lahminewski Lab © Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license

What alternative ways of living are citizens trying out in the face of an increasingly threatened world?

By Victoria Berni

The industrial system responsible for the ecocide of the planet clings on to its power despite legal complaints, demonstrations, civil disobedience actions and the public demand for a commitment to ecology. Faced with an increasingly threatened world, citizens are trying out alternative ways of eating, housing, healing, working and, above all, living together.

The Alternatives: Socio-Ecological Innovation Labs

Ecological and social citizens' initiatives are sprouting up almost everywhere in France. In the village of Ungersheim, the horse has replaced the tractor, and the community vegetable grower supplies the school canteen. In Savoy, ten families share a castle, grow organic vegetables, run a bakery and dream of opening a democratic school. Citizens across France are fighting against the eco-business of industrial wind turbines by building their own wind turbines to power private homes or activist collectives like the Maison de la Résistance in Bure.

These initiatives are genuine socio-ecological innovation laboratories. People are starting to think for themselves again, to create, to organise and to live. Through their commitment, they contribute to a creative disobedience, that consists not only of saying no, but also of proposing a change and integrating it into their own everyday life. This is also the case with 26-year-old Zoa. Although he has a degree from a renowned technical university, he wants to become a farmer. For Zoa, farming is a tool in the fight against the empire (as the term is used in the book Joyful Militancy by Carla Bergman and Nick Montgomery, published in 2017 in the USA by AK Press): "The destruction of peasantry was a political project in the service of industry after the Second World War. The peasantry was a self-sufficient class capable of transforming the abundance of ecosystems outside a capitalist system into a source of joy. I therefore decided to leave my previous path and in a way betray my class to become a farmer."

Radical Alternatives to Overcome Class, Gender and Ethnic Discrimination

Yet even the alternatives are not always flawless, what with ecotourism that protects the environment only superficially, permaculture courses at exorbitant prices, eco-projects that exploit the labour of volunteers, and eco-villages that are only accessible with a lavish budget. In short, a two-class ecology that excludes a large section of society. For Zoa, these are alternatives of the "bourgeoisie": "While they remain within the state framework, relying on and perpetuating privilege, other radical alternatives are permanently put down. Squats and ZADs, where everyone is unconditionally welcome and which embody an ecology accessible to all, are directly opposed and nipped in the bud because there is something subversive about their organisation." This can be seen in the 2021 evictions of the ZAD du Carnet, the ZAD du Triangle (France), the ZAD de la Colline (Switzerland), the ZAD d'Arlon (Belgium) or even the squatted La Borie in Cevennes. As Zoa underscores:  "For alternatives to be truly ecological and to change society, they must exclude class, gender and ethnic discrimination." In this context, he tells us that his involvement in the ZAD du Carnet helped him become aware if his privileges and to see his position as a man in the community differently: "Allying with people who define themselves as women and gender minorities meant listening more than setting the tone."

​Zoa is dreaming of a society based on what he calls libertarian communalism where  citizens' assemblies and free, self-governing communes replace the nation state. He recounts that in the ZAD du Carnet, "no one took on the role of the police, but there was an equal distribution of tasks to ensure anticipatory and curative justice." As to education, Zoa finds that "curricula adapted to the regional landscape and social conditions would be a great asset." Many local solutions could thereby take concrete form so that we take back the areas of social life now hijacked by the state, and do so through co-parenting, gynaecological self-examination, anti-psychiatry,  anti-psychiatry, self-managed homes for the elderly, etc. It's up to us to find and test the solutions together!


What Is the Fourth Season of Blog, Engage, Act about?

For three seasons, Blog, Engage, Act! has been looking at the present, the status quo of the fight against climate change, behind the scenes and developments in the climate movement. Finally, the bloggers look to the future and ask how social change is possible, how change is already being lived today, what (creative) ingredients are needed and why you need to be a part of it!