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(en) France, UCL - Trade unionism, Peasant Confederation: "We do not want to be the guarantor of polluters and green capitalism" (ca, de, fr, it, pt, tr)[machine translation]

Date Fri, 5 Apr 2024 09:51:14 +0300


Second part of the interview given to us by Fanny Metrat, spokesperson for the Conf' de l'Ardèche (see AL n° 341, September 2023): greenwashing, compensation, international solidarity, conservation of colonial nature and the need to to re-hear a peasant voice in the convergence of ecological and social struggles. ---- Libertarian alternative: There are many of us who are going straight into the wall, and yet governments communicate a lot about their ecological measures. This so-called ecological transition, are we not there yet?

We have been pestering successive ministries for twenty years for real support for the agroecological transition, but in reality nothing is happening. There, they only give us scoops of shit.

Their new thing is the HVE label, high environmental value. The ministry has fully supported this label which is now flourishing in the countryside. In the eyes of the ministry, organic farming is worth it, when in fact it changes nothing in practice. We can still use extremely harmful pesticides, all practices are maintained, only we are going to plant three trees to make a hedge. That's greenwashing, we sprinkle so-called environmental measures to make the pill pass, but in the end, nothing changes.

And they continue to try to make us believe that the government and the ministry are moving in the right direction with the transition, when we see it, it is completely false: we are even very far from it.

Even if we don't expect anything, the observation you make is very negative...

Yes, but we are in a super, super tough situation. Every day, we receive regulations, proposals for European or French regulations, but everything is going in the wrong direction. For example, there is a major law in preparation on the restoration of nature at the European level, with very laudable objectives of eliminating pesticides, favoring pollinating insects... But in fact, the mechanisms to go there- inside it is the financialization of nature, the logic of the carbon market, the biodiversity market.

That is to say, we still make people believe that companies and their ultra-polluting practices can be compensated by supporting virtuous projects, without changing anything at all about the fact that we are destroying groundwater, biodiversity, soils... And in fact, we can't stand this logic anymore. It is implemented at all levels, particularly at the international level.

What are the impacts of these market logics?

On Southern agriculture and, among others, indigenous peoples, this is a devastating logic under the guise of greening, but for us, it is purely green capitalism. It's just a new financial windfall for capitalism...

But already locally, we must denounce these compensation mechanisms. It's worth really emphasizing this for us. It is one of our battles to stop making people believe that compensation would make it possible to rebalance any imbalance. Truly, this is heresy. And there, we are really trying to fight against all these logics of compensation: carbon compensation, biodiversity compensation, land compensation... And above all, we, virtuous farmers, with our virtuous practices , in fact, we are being targeted by all these mechanisms, with the risk of being paid for ecological services provided!

At the Conf, what we remember is that we do not want to get into these mechanisms. We do not want our peasant income, we virtuous peasants, to be the guarantee of polluters and green capitalism.

And for us it is a crucial issue, especially since with our crappy income, we are afraid that, in order to get by, the peasants will fall into these logics and get the promised financial windfall.

For us, what is happening is a big threat. And above all, we are moving within the Conf' so that the peasants understand this. But at the same time, when you don't have any income, it's complicated to say "well no, we're not going to get the money, because it's green capitalism"! And the ministry is surfing this to death; This is their new thing.

Compensation can be purchased, but it is not necessarily local or in the same territory. Therefore, what is the weight of international commitment in the trade unionism of the Confédération paysanne?

Concerning the international, on this issue of compensation precisely, we are in the process of making a link with Survival, an NGO which highlights the colonial side of this vision of nature conservation. It is a hyper-Western, white, dominant vision of a certain form of nature conservation, which is advocated at all costs.

And yes, to return to the international aspect, Conf' is one of the organizations which were at the origin of the creation of the Via Campesina network in the early nineties (1993). Via Campesina is a huge network that brings together lots of peasant movements, land workers' movements, indigenous peoples, small fishermen. That represents two hundred million people around the world!

It's the biggest organization in civil society, it's huge. The weight of Via Campesina, we perhaps cannot measure it from here, but it is an organization, and it is one of the rare ones, to have an entry point to the UN and to be able to sit on FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations).

La Via Campesina has a rotating headquarters: the office rotates from continent to continent. Most recently it was in Zimbabwe, before that it was in Jakarta in Indonesia, and there, for the first time, it is in Europe, and it is the Peasant Confederation which hosts the headquarters of Via Campesina. As a result, the general secretary of Via Campesina is a peasant at the Conf'; it's Morgan Ody, who is a market gardener in Morbihan. Obviously, welcoming Via made it possible to put internationalism back at the heart of our concerns. Even if we have always had a very internationalist approach, now it is almost a duty to systematically make the link with European and international issues.

Let's think global, act local...

Downright ! And so with Via Campesina, we are trying, beyond having fairly clear unitary demands - on the peasant agroecological model, against the logic of the World Trade Organization (WTO), against free trade agreements or the liberalization of the seed market - to make the link between all our fights for land, water and seeds, and against the logic of monopolization which flourished in the 2000s. Following the hunger riots in 2007, 2008 and 2009, things were extremely tense and there was a land rush; now we see the rush for water by the big global monopolists.

Also, these pooling of all our struggles is done by weaving solidarity. We see almost everywhere that the defenders of peasant agriculture are still very easy targets for many very repressive governments. We still regularly have comrades who are murdered because of their commitments, their fights.

This is something that we probably know little about here, but disappearances and violent deaths are legion in certain countries against environmental activists or peasants who are victims of the police, state militias or big capitalist owners... This repression is quite violent.

Yes, recently it was in Honduras, before it was in Mali, we see this in the four corners of the world. And here too it becomes violent, we saw the repression against the Earth Uprisings. Every time there are police custody of fellow peasants, there is a chain of solidarity between one and the other.

And I also think that the big difference with many other organizations is that Via Campesina is a hyper horizontal organization, there are no ones who know about the others: it is truly collegial. In this world of international solidarity, we feel that there is a real difference with certain NGOs which have remained on a model, a very paternalistic vision of solidarity.

This colonialist, white vision of what nature would be with an injunction to the defense of diversity and nature protected in the South, by compensation, while here we could be in intensive monoculture. That's it?

It's not even that. For example, one of the big struggles in Kenya is the Maasai, who have always been herding people, who are expelled from their land to conserve nature, to make way for large animals. . In this case, it is an English financial group which is in the process of expelling the Maasai or explaining to them how to protect nature.

To have safari images to offer to Westerners...

Yes that's it. And there are plenty of projects like that. With us also in our "wild" mountain areas (in quotes, because for us, the wild and the domestic are intimately linked and mixed and there is no dichotomy as clear as what one can imagine given the big cities). In the Drôme, there were purchases of land to make complete reserves, with, as a result, the idea of expelling from these territories the breeders who grazed their animals there. There is a bit of this logic where the wild would be the thing to defend staunchly to compensate for deviant, hyper-industrial agriculture.

It is a rewilding, romanticized and fantasized vision of nature.

Yes, and our job is also to remember that what we experience in our territories is not outside of nature: humans are not outside of nature. We have between us, our herds and the territory that sustains us, complex links which cannot fit into boxes as Manichean as those into which some would like us to fit.

This is a bit reminiscent of what the anthropologist Philippe Descola tells us about nature, which makes it a very Western vision and not at all shared by a majority of people around the world. A totally self-centered vision which, in addition, can have a deadly power.

And you see, with the Via Campesina, with people who have a holistic vision of things, we find ourselves fully. On the other hand, in France it is more delicate, and in particular with usual allies with whom we share many struggles, but who have a certain environmentalist vision. There is a big gap between us, them and them.

Like with the vegan movement. We don't understand each other at all. We cannot put peasant breeding and industrial breeding in the same category. It is not possible. In fact, we are what we experience, the community we form with our herds and the place that makes us live. It's not possible, you can't not make the differentiation, the distinction between the two.

What do you think this is due to? Is this a sign of an increasing disconnection from societies like ours, where people live more and more in the city and less and less in contact with peasant environments?

Yes, it is a vision completely disconnected from the realities of what is happening on the ground, a vision where the human, the domestic, the wild are completely disconnected. I live in a dead-end valley, isolated in the middle of the mountain. The link to the wild and the domestic is everywhere: the terraces of the ancients which were made there are calades everywhere, the trace of the human, it is everywhere and at the same time, the bushes have taken over, the forest has regained the upper hand. And it is a complex link that we experience between maintaining certain open spaces, using the forests in summer, in dry summers, to graze our animals. Everything is connected. There is a pair of golden eagles that lives just above our house. It's all complex.

It is necessary and vital that we work hard, precisely, in these convergences with the allies that we are used to having in many struggles, those who have a real sensitivity to ask themselves: how we feed ourselves, how are spaces distributed, how do we distribute common areas? We need to hear again a peasant voice that has been silenced for too long.

Comments collected by David (UCL Savoies)
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