The Center Pompidou organized three days of debates last week to examine the links between ecological transition and cultural transition. Find forums, interviews and surveys in the thematic file dedicated to the event. As well as articles by student journalists from the IPJ-Dauphine / PSL who came to cover the forum to Release.
The first rays of the sun wake Noa. From her window, she sees a fox drinking in the stream that runs along rue Ursula-Kroeber-le-Guin in Meudon, west of Paris. The author became famous when it was realized that her science fiction novels, a hundred years ago, already anticipated the frugal society. Noa gets up and puts on a sargassum sweatshirt. These algae proliferated at the time of intensive agriculture, they are now transformed into clothes thanks to the work of the researcher Samuel Tomatis. She runs down the stairs to the collective kitchen. Everyone is agitated: today is Sunday, the day of the Municipal Assembly. Her breakfast swallowed in a hurry, she goes to the community center.
In the street, the buildings of two or three floors are not alike. They are built with reused materials, recovered during the major deconstructions of the 2030s. The stone of the Haussmann buildings rub shoulders with the bay windows of the towers of La Défense. Reuse, Victor Meesters had defended it as the only way to “to make an architecture that does not make a hole at the other end of the planet” wasting resources.
Another imperative is to build smaller. “Small buildings will be more adaptable, more easily compatible with reuse resources”, predicted the designer. Shared housing is the best way to reconcile small spaces and the circular economy. Each building follows more or less the same plan: two large kitchens, a living room, two collective lounges, and around twenty small bedrooms.
Noa walks fifteen minutes in the cool morning air to get to the community center. This morning, the Assembly has about thirty people, drawn by lot among the residents. On the agenda: the development of an agricultural area inspired by the Carma project, which saw the light of day in 2016 during mobilizations to prevent the artificialization of the Triangle de Gonesse. “A pilot project of peri-urban agriculture and circular and social economy, for a healthy and sustainable food cycle”, explained Catherine Radosa, author ofa documentary on the subject. Fifty years later, the Carma project remains a reference in terms of urban development, but also of participatory and horizontal democracy. At the time, the director was filming “the implementation of an artisanal architecture, of an organic and non-hierarchical society, full of joy and hope”. Yesterday’s utopia is today’s reality.
It is 3 p.m. when Noa gets off the rue de Rivoli tram. The rue des artisans, she knows it by heart. Since the big brands have disappeared, the avenues have been taken over by second-hand shops and local producers. Around it, the main thoroughfares where thousands of cars traveled daily have been replaced by tree-lined tram tracks, long cycle paths and grassy sidewalks promoting soft mobility. “Time is urgent to green the planet, not to cement it”, chanted Catherine Radosa fifty years ago. She was heard. Billboards no longer display ads. Instead, information for the community is printed on wooden signs placed along sidewalks: “Collective harvest: meeting on Tuesday in the square at 8 am.” Here again, economists defending the degrowth thesis, such as Timothée Parrique, were right: “Advertising only serves to encourage consumption” and therefore no longer has its place in 2072 in a society where overconsumption has been definitively banned.
Concerned about the carbon footprint of the third place, the curators refused to bring the entire collection. This rarity helps Noa gauge the value and materiality of the object.
Noa pushes the door of André, the toy maker who offers trinkets made from reused materials. In this society of sobriety, sustainability prevails. Precisely, the young woman wishes to offer a birthday present to Emilie, the little girl who occupies the room on the other side of the corridor. In the shelves, she sees the wooden horse that the child has been coveting for months. When Noa arrives at the checkout, she pulls out a few coins lying around in her bag. Ten euros and three mari coins – the currency commonly used in the Marais. According to Timothée Parrique, “a more sober society was going to be a multi-monetary society, with local, regional and national currencies”. This currency makes it possible to promote local trade while promoting short circuits. Noa compares the three husbands she holds in her hand with the price announced by the craftsman. “It’s five husbands, declares André, handing him the object. But you can come back by the end of the week with the account.” She knows that with the craftsman, everything is very simple. A relationship of trust has been forged between them, so much so that Noa sometimes pays for her purchases on the basis of service rendered: a piano lesson for a DIY lesson, a box of fruit for a shopping trip… Timothée Parrique had imagined this type of society fueled by the exchange of services “which cannot fluctuate with the waves of market mood, or of a minority of shareholders seeking to enrich themselves”. The young woman leaves the store with a big smile.
On her way home from shopping, Noa is stopped by a newspaper vendor who hands her the latest issue of the neighborhood gazette. As she scans the papier-mâché pages, her gaze is caught by the image of a creature made of wires, pixels and screens. The exhibition in question, This digital monster that devoured us, just started at the neighborhood house and traces what was considered technological progress to the year 2050. It doesn’t take much to pique the curiosity of Noa who goes to the ticket office.
At the start of the visit, a warning message indicates: “Warning, this exhibition is not suitable for photosensitive people.” Noa enters a dark room and suddenly finds herself blinded by the light. She is surrounded by screens showing videos whose meaning she does not understand. Then the sounds interfere with it, ringtones, electronic music, crackling. frankenstream, this documentary directed by Pierre-Philippe Berson and Adrien Pavillard in 2022, described the then booming digital world: “Data is invading our lives, and this is just the beginning, the metaverse promises a parallel, immersive and virtual universe […] streaming becomes a mode of social interaction.” And to describe this time when men wasted their days binge-watching videos, where the youngest were lost in an infinite scrolling. Noa doesn’t understand half of the words used. The rest of the exhibition proposes to discover these famous “metavers” but Noa can no longer concentrate and leaves this space-time journey completely stunned.
To take her mind off things, the young woman ended her visit with the permanent exhibition, a striking contrast to the previous gallery. Here, the works are exhibited in their nudity. A Kandinsky hangs on the white wall, he will stay here in residence for several months. Concerned about the carbon footprint of the third place, the curators refused to bring the entire collection. This rarity helps Noa gauge the value and materiality of the object. “When we reach out to the work, we risk damaging it, we face its fragility”confided fifty years ago to young journalists Mathieu Potte-Bonneville, head of the culture and creation department of the Center Pompidou. The visit to the museum has become a precious time for meditation and concentration. The scenography is stripped down, the explanations take place on biodegradable foam panels. A reflection completed at the time by Florence Rodhain, teacher-researcher specializing in the ecological cost of digital technology: “To achieve this digital frugality, the scarcity of resources may be an opportunity, but you also need a strong state that limits, for example, the use of screens among young people.”
Leaving the museum, Noa leaves a few words in the guestbook: “Thank you to the young people of the 2050s who freed us from the yoke of this digital monster by boycotting the screens.”
Today, it’s Noa’s turn to cook for the community. Installed in the large wooden kitchen that is used by all households, she is preparing a special appointment: the birthday of little Emilie, her next-door neighbor. On the evening menu, she has planned several butternut squash roasted over a wood fire, freshly collected from the public vegetable garden set up in the heart of the district. These will be accompanied by seitan, a spelled gluten substitute that replaces animal meat, which has become too expensive to consume daily. “The agri-food sector is the one that pollutes the most. It is essential to reconscientize food, both for our health, the ecology and therefore our future”, explained Claire Valleethe first starred chef of a French vegan restaurant in the 2020s. Her recipe books are now in every kitchen.
Noa is used to cooking with friends and neighbours, whom she regularly teaches to put vegetables on the plate. A discipline she learned through training, an inevitable process for promoting sustainable food according to chef Claire Vallée. “We have to relearn how to cook, it saves time and money but also an important element for our health. In this sense, training is essential.
While the squash continue to cook in the garlic and olive oil, Noa tackles the preparation of the accompaniment. Lentils, broad beans and beans will be tasted alongside his latest discovery: porcini mushrooms picked directly from the forest. For Claire Vallee, “Forests should be a link to invest in growing different varieties of vegetables, especially those that don’t need light for their growth.” Finally, the dessert will feature a citrus-based cream, the star fruit of the winter season. “You have to eat in season, this limits the energy costs linked to the transport of food, and therefore de facto CO2.” And since everything is reused, the peelings of the food served at meals will be sent directly to the compost. Used as mulch, it will feed the soil of local vegetable gardens and promote the growth and quality of short circuit food.
It is 7 p.m., night has set in. A few flakes begin to swirl in the air.