October 23, 2017

Breakthrough for the European ecological movement

An early piece published in 1977 reviewing the emergence of “green” parties into European politics. It is followed by a declaration of ecological policy.

It has been clear for some time that the Ecological Movement would soon become a major political force. It was a question of waiting for the breakthrough. But when and where would this occur? The answer appears to be in France and in 1977.

The extraordinary success of the ‘Ecologie et Survie’ Movement in Alsace has already been reported in the pages of The Ecologist. In the cantonal elections in February 1976, it obtained more than 10 per cent of the votes in the ten constituencies where candidates were fielded, and it will be putting up more than 200 candidates for the local elections next spring.

The success of Brice Lalonde, Ecological candidate for the by-election in the fifth arrondissement of Paris in November surprised even more people. Brice Lalonde is Director of Friends of the Earth in France. He was one of that intrepid band that sailed into the French nuclear testing grounds around the Muratao atoll in the Pacific to try to prevent a nuclear test.

He obtained 6.6 per cent of the votes cast and came fourth out of fifteen candidates, beating representatives of well-established parties such as the Parti Socialiste Unifié (PSU) among many others.

The first effect of this success was to break the wall of silence erected by the French press around the activities of the Ecological Party, which had suddenly become news.

Still more shattering to accepted political ideas of today has been the publication of the result of a poll organised by Le Point (5th December 1976)—one of the most highly regarded French weekly periodicals, on the voting intentions of French youth between the ages of sixteen and twenty-three. Among the questions asked by the pollsters was the following: ‘If an Ecology candidate presented himself in your constituency, would you be tempted to vote for him?’ The answer—out of every 100 young people who expected to use their vote—was:

  • very tempted 19%
  • quite tempted 32%
  • not very tempted 21%
  • not at all tempted 14%
  • don’t know 14%

In other words 51 per cent of French young men and women appear tempted to vote for the Ecological Movement. If this poll is accurate, and if ecological consciousness is growing as fast as it seems to be, then it should not be too long now before France has its first Ecological Government.

A few days later, French public opinion was due for another shock. Monique Cazeaux, Shadow Minister of the Environment for the Socialist Party, which by the way has every chance of being returned in the next general election, resigned from her Party to join the Ecological Movement. For three years she had tried in vain to get the Socialists to do more than pay lip service to ecological exigencies, and failed. Their priorities were different and incompatible with those of the Ecological Movement, and she had had enough. She held a press conference to announce her decision on 14th December.

In the meantime, Edouard Kressmann, who resigned as Chairman of Kressmann et Cie, one of the oldest firms of wine merchants in Bordeaux, to devote himself to the Ecological Movement, called a meeting in Paris to set up a European Centre for Ecological Action.

Among those present were Monique Cazeaux herself, Solange Fernex, Leader of the Ecologie et Survie Movement in Alsace, René Dumont, the agronomist who stood as Ecological candidate in the last French Presidential election, Jacques Ellul, Professor at the University of Bordeaux and author of Technological Man, Philippe Saint-Marc, administrator and author of Socialization de la Nature, Jean-Marie Domenach, Editor of Esprit, the French intellectual periodical, Denis de Rougement, the historian and sociologist and Director of the European Cultural Foundation in Geneva, Jean-Marie Pelt, Director of the Institute of Ecology at Metz and Vice-Mayor of Metz, Alain Hervé, Editor of Le Sauvage, the French ecological magazine, and Pierre Samuel, Professor of Mathematics at the University of Paris and President of Friends of the Earth in France.

The meeting lasted two days, 11th and 12th December, and the following declaration was issued to the press:

(Edward Goldsmith)


We the undersigned, meeting in Paris on 11 and 12 December, 1976, CONSIDERING

  • that Europe is in a state of emergency, that its resources are being depleted, that one crisis follows another and merges with it: the energy crisis, the environmental crisis, the monetary crisis, the crisis of human liberties—and that all of these are but the symptoms of a single profound and all-pervading ecological crisis;
  • that industrial societies, founded on obsolete ideologies inherited from the nineteenth century, are organised so as to satisfy their principal goal: that of producing ever larger quantities of material goods which can only be done at the cost of causing:
    • the exhaustion of natural resources and the destruction of our cultural and physical heritage,
    • the deterioration of human relationships, the increase in material inequality and in the incidence of social aberrations of all sorts,
    • the simultaneous growth of unemployment and inflation,
    • the progressive militarisation of our economies—of which the most sinister symptoms are the present civil and military nuclear programmes,
    • the impoverishment of the Third World and the reduction of its ability to feed itself:

CONCLUDE that all efforts must end in a single direction: towards the subordination of short-term economic and political considerations to vital biological, social, spiritual and psychological ones whose satisfaction would be the goal of a truly ecological policy;

CALL ON all individuals and associations who share this interpretation of our problems to assemble at all social levels—communal, regional and European—so as to set out what must be the necessary conditions for the development of a free society living in balance with nature, in harmony with itself and capable of assuming Europe’s responsibilities vis-a-vis the rest of the world;

SUPPORT, in particular, all political or other initiatives to oppose:

  • civil and military nuclear programmes in the East as well as in the West,
  • the transference of Western agricultural and industrial techniques to the Third World,
  • the erosion of fundamental human liberties;

UNDERTAKE to bring to the notice of the people of Europe all initiatives tending towards the achievement of the above goals, and of those, that on the contrary, tend to commit us still further to our present fatal course;

ESTABLISH, for this purpose, an Action Centre, whose main function will be to work out the strategy for achieving these essential goals.

European Group for Ecological Action, 107 Rue de la Course, 33000 BORDEAUX, France.

Carl AMERY (Munich)
Jeanne BISSILIAT (Paris)
Alain BOMBARD (Provence)
Henri BRUGMANS (Bruges)
Tom BURKE (London)
Roland CARBIENER (Strasbourg)
Monique CAZEAUX (Paris)
Bernard CHARBONNEAU (Bern)
Janine DELAUNAY (Toulouse)
Jean-Marie DOMENACH (Paris)
René DUMONT (Paris)
Jean-Pierre DUPUY (Paris)
Jacques ELLUL (Bordeaux)
Solange FERNEX (Mulhouse)
Mariette GERBER (Roussillon)
Edward GOLDSMITH (Cornwall)
P-M HENRY (Paris)
Alain HERVÉ (Paris)
Christian HUGLO (Paris)
Roger KLAINE (Metz)
Edouard KRESSMANN (Bordeaux)
Daniel LABEY (Paris)
Roland DE MILLER (Paris)
Jean-Marie PELT (Metz)
Armand PETITJEAN (Languedoc)
Jean ROSSEL (Neuchatel)
Nanik DE ROUGEMENT (Geneva)
Denis DE ROUGEMENT (Geneva)
Michel RODES (Orthez)
Philippe SAINT-MARC (Paris)
Pierre SAMUEL (Paris)
Manfred SIEBKER (Brussels)
Gerard SIEGWALT (Strasbourg)

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