Statements by the French ecological leader Nicolas Hulot to the leftist Parisian daily Le Monde confirm that radical ecologists are positioning themselves to profit from the economic and social crisis caused by COVID-19.
Those unfamiliar with French politics may not know Hulot. However, opinion polls show him to be the public figure who enjoys the highest level of popularity in France.
After working as a press photographer and journalist, Hulot became a well-known figure in every household for his television program Ushuaïa, which featured extreme sports and beautiful landscapes. He later capitalized on the sympathies raised by his program and entered into partnerships with large companies and the leading television channel to launch the Foundation for Nature and Man. Today, it is called the Nicolas Hulot Foundation and is dedicated to combating “climate change.”
As the candidate of the Europe Ecology-The Greens party, he failed to win the 2012 presidential election. President Macron offered him the Ministry of Ecological and Solidary Transition, which he held between May 2017 and August 2018. He later resigned the post, alleging that ecology was not a government priority. While holding no political office, he remains a prominent figure in debates about environmental issues. He does not hide his ambitions for the 2022 presidential elections.
From atop his watchtower, Nicolas Hulot feels that the panic around Covid-19 creates the opportunity to make radical proposals to influence public decisions that will shape the emerging “new normal.” He believes the present crisis “renders proposals acceptable that until now seemed entirely unattainable.” It is now possible “to create a virtuous circle between citizen sentiment and political action.”
Le Monde gave a title to the lengthy interview that expresses the psychological changes the author expects in the post-coronavirus scenario: “Nicolas Hulot: ‘The World Afterward Will Be Radically Different from Today—Willingly or by Force.’”
Like Pope Francis, he maintains that the coronavirus health crisis is rooted in the ecological disturbances wrought by excessive production and consumption. It is a reprisal. He complains that the climate crisis presents the “catastrophic scenario” of a “systemic crisis” that, combined with others, can “cause chaos.” However, it is treated with “homeopathic doses” that are not “one-fourth of the solutions adopted against the coronavirus.”
Thus, Hulot maintains that “society, which has accepted to forego fundamental freedoms without flinching, dreams of regaining confidence in the future, and it must do things in a big way.” He adds: “We are in a radical situation; I will not settle for non-radical measures. That wouldn’t do any good.”
The environmental leader claims “the welfare state is back,” but a similar concrete ecological compensation must be demanded. This financial aid must be comparable to the funds available to companies to save them from bankruptcy.
People must change their behavior: “For example, you can no longer take a plane or buy a product through Amazon from the end of the world that arrives in 24 hours. Should those who can afford it, buy solid cars or SUVs? I hope not. Will you find out of season food products in stores? No. Supply and consumption will have to change quickly.”
To favor this change, he calls for low taxes on “ecologically and socially virtuous goods and services,” and penalizing “toxic goods” with punitive taxes. “Local currencies” will allow local authorities to help the most underprivileged.
The interview includes a manifesto with “100 Principles for a New World.”1 Each one begins with the refrain, “the time has come…” Below are some of the most significant statements, ordered by themes. While based on the myth of “noble savage,” their ultimate goal is self-managing tribal life, as Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira denounced in his prophetic study, Indian Tribalism: the Communist-Missionary Ideal for Brazil in the Twenty-First Century.
The utopia of a new world – “The time has come, together, to lay the first stones of a new world” / “to frantically open up new paths” / “to believe that another world is possible / to change the paradigm.”
Themes about Changing Principles – “The time has come … for a new way of thinking” / “to be free from dogmas” / “to get rid of our individual and collective mental conditioning” / “to create a conscience lobby.”
Toward a frugal lifestyle – “The time has come … to free ourselves from our consumerist addictions.” / “to learn how to live more simply” / “to understand all the ecological, climatic, social, economic, and health crises as a single crisis: a crisis of excess.”
Imitating the tribal life of Aborigines – “The time has come… to recognize plural humanity” / “to cultivate difference” / “to listen to aboriginal peoples” / “to bind our ‘I’ to the ‘we.’” / “to create bonds.”
Harmonizing with nature – “The time has come… for us to reconcile with nature” / “to care for and repair nature” / “to respect the diversity and integrity of life” / “to give space to the wild world” / “to treat animals with respect for their own interests.”
The world of tomorrow will be radically different if panicked humanity is carried away by Nicolas Hulot’s ecological dream. If humanity rejects his dream, it will have to fight so that it will not be imposed by force.