The French economist Serge Latouche, who became famous as a theorist and popularizer of happy degrowth, says that to avoid the collapse of the planet is not enough to restore the economy and respect nature. We need to introduce greater cooperation and altruism in human relations.
We have to decolonize our imagination and counter the economic and financial oligarchy of transactional companies that live for growth and the destruction of the Planet. Of course it will not be easy, but we have no choice. Everyone knows it, all the latest reports of the IPCC (The International Plant Protection Convention) or the third report of the Club of Rome and many others say that if we do not take another route humanity will reach its end or collapse before the close of the century.
Are our minds accustomed in your opinion by a fixed idea, the economy. To decolonize our imagination we must free ourselves from the myths of progress, science and technology. With what we should replace them?
As I explained in my books, you must re-establish the economy according to the virtuous circle of the 8 Rs (i.e. Reassess, Reframe, Restructure, Relocalize, Redistribute, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle). The first step is to review the values we believe in. For example, you should change this idea that sees human beings as the masters of nature, because we cannot continue to destroy it to the end. We must learn to live in harmony with it, no longer treating it like predators, but as good gardeners. Individuals should also change the way people behave not only in the environment, but also against their own kind, introducing more cooperation and altruism in relationships. This also assumes a frugality in consumption and a sense of autonomy, with the aim of developing a resilience of societies, that is, their ability to transform positively and without trauma. It is certainly not to reject the values of science and technology, but to make them less promethean and more respectful of nature.
The degrowth that you hope will lead everyone to have less food on their plate or a smaller range of choices of products at the supermarket? Do not you think that most people would be frightened at the thought of becoming poorer?
Degrowth does not touch food quantitatively. It touches instead industrial production of goods that destroy the planet. On the question of food, I would say that the decrease mainly improves the quality of the food we eat. You have to get away from the myth of junk food, which is full of chemicals and find good quality natural food. Decreasing or stepping back from a society characterized by growth does not mean reducing the amount of agricultural product, but producing more grain and less meat to feed the entire population of the earth well. Degrowth means, above all, reducing inequalities between North and South.
You are an advocate of self-production and self-consumption. But if we all started to self-produce soaps, clothes and food, most of us would no longer have a job because they would need more workers or salespeople who meet certain needs. We would all be more or less autonomous. It is hard to imagine such a world. It is not a bit extreme this change in perspective?
I am not a partisan of self-production, even if it's something good and positive. But you have to produce to meet the needs, not to produce with the aim of producing as we do today. We must produce good quality products and thus decrease waste, since today this is a terrible problem. Wasting resources to create new jobs is a total nonsense. We have to get out of this vicious circle. If we no longer need to produce so much, then we need to reduce working hours, work less so that everyone can work and recover a sense of idleness and leisure that allows us to do things much more satisfying that our time spent working.
Expo Milano 2015. At the next Universal Exposition, the representatives of all the Participating Countries will discuss and give their contribution to the theme of food and on the issue of sustainability and the availability of food resources at a global level. What do you think should be the premise, manner and purpose of measuring the various nations?
I think that the Participating Countries should be measured on their quality of food products and their ecological footprint, because it must be said that the best products are those that have a weaker ecological footprint, like foods from organic farming. Degrowth also incorporates the Slow Food watchwords of 'a clean and fair world': the word 'fair' is also important in relation to the Countries of the south, because the prices of products should enable farmers to live in dignity.
North and South in the world. You claim that rather that the Countries of the south being helped by the rich countries, the countries of the southern hemisphere can help the rich to really maintain living standards. Can you explain this concept more clearly?
As Countries of the north we represent less than 20 percent of the world population and consume over 86 percent of the Planet's resources. The countries of the global South who help us are the countries with a very low carbon footprint, like the Countries of Africa which instead of consuming two acres per capita, use less than a tenth of a hectare, such as Burkina Faso. What they do not consume, we consume!
A group of economists at the New Economics Foundation had the idea of calculating the ratio of planetary happiness, the Happy Planet Index. To assess the well-being of nations, they considered three parameters: well-being of citizens, life expectancy at birth and ecological footprint. The ranking sees in the last places the wealthiest countries like Kuwait and the United States, while ranking first were Costa Rica, Vietnam and Colombia. How do you explain that?
Happiness definitely depends on the ability to consume, but also on the wealth of interpersonal relationships. Living well in a family, having friends, working in a healthy environment, for example, are aspects that make people happy. Economic growth, exceeding a certain limit, destroys the quality of air, water and social relations. The former secretary of the President Bill Clinton, Robert Reich, resigned when he realized that he had earned a lot of money, but had destroyed his family, and that he had to recover the important things in life. Robert Kennedy had also said it in his famous speech: The GDP measures everything except what is important in life.
Agriculture. You argue that productivist agriculture is causing enormous damage to the Planet (through the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, and resulting pollution of aquifers, and through the privatization of nature through the purchase of patented seeds). Do you believe that the alternative is to stop shopping en masse at large retailers and to go to GAS and solidarity markets? Or do we need some other kind of strategy?
Both. Certainly GAS, short circuits, self-production and the Slow Food movement are important, but we have to convert productivist agriculture into organic agriculture, agro-ecology or permacultures that are less productivist, but more productive for the environment.
Do you follow a vegetarian diet?
I am not vegetarian and I am not vegan. I think that human beings are omnivorous, but that we should eat a little meat of quality. We should not eat animals fed on GM, which makes people obese, causes high cholesterol and a propensity to heart disease. Of course we have to eat less fat, less sugar, less salt. Above all we need to waste less meat because 40 percent of the meat sold in the supermarket goes directly into the rubbish bin. In short, we must follow the famous Mediterranean diet: in other words, one that is balanced.