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IFGR at the “Act for the living” event

During the last week of August, the publishing house Actes Sud organised the Act for the Living event at Arles. The event dealt with Food, society, agriculture, the economy, and more. For 7 days, the participants broached different subjects linked to the issue of biodiversity. IFGR participated in this event through the voice of its Chairman, Erik Orsenna, at the conference “Giving life back to rivers”.


We have to consider climate change as an opportunity, that of a change of model. We must imagine nature-based solutions and no longer consider nature as a hindrance to our development.”

Jean Jalbert is the Director of Tour du Valat , a research institute located at the heart of the Camargue. He used these words to summarise one of the guiding orientations on which the participants of the conference “Giving life back to rivers” debated.

So that nature can be a solution to climate change, it must nonetheless be able to subsist. “Giving life back to rivers above all means protecting them”, Jean Jalbert once again emphasised, before recalling the wealth of wetlands, and the even greater wealth of deltas such as that of the Rhone. “A delta is a factory for producing life. A delta like the Camargue creates three times more living material per square metre than a tropical forest”. However, these habitats are not immobile. The Rhone delta is moving and subsiding. “One day, the Camargue will return to the sea. We must prepare for this, relearn to live in this place and allow nature to take over certain parts of it, stop our pretence of controlling it, and assist it so that, through its own strength, the Camargue builds our defences for tomorrow. It’s our life insurance that we’re building”.

It was Erik Orsenna’s turn to declare the extent to which deltas are important. “Deltas are the home to 800 million people, a significant part of the world’s population”. However, every delta is now a threatened ecosystem. According to him, thinking things differently may involve the concept of global health:

« How can we imagine that our health, we who belong to the animal world, can be good if the animal world is degraded, if the plant world is degraded … Water obliges us to think of our real place with nature ».

Also present with the conference panellists, Frédéric Pitaval explained the interest of endowing rivers with the status of legal personality. “With the Call of the Rhone, we want to organise popular transnational mobilisation to re-situate water at the centre of our lives. All our environmental and societal problems, our agriculture, our food, everything brings us back to water.” As has already been done in certain countries, giving a legal personality to rivers may be a new and powerful tool.

Exactly, tools. They were a talking point during these days devoted to Act for the Living, whose purpose was in particular to reach a wider audience for the challenges involved and the resources of action available for the climate and biodiversity than that of experts and the already converted. The way in which society tackles these issues was thus debated in-depth, with the presence of several organisations during the week.

Benoît Baudry, for example, belongs to the Citizens’ Convention for the Climate. He declared: “I come from the north districts of Marseille. I know my choices are decisive for the future of the planet, but one must be realistic. My consumer choices are first dictated by what I’ve got in my pocket!”. Selected at random, he involved himself fully in the works of the Citizens’ Convention:

«  It’s been thirty years since I last voted. But in the Convention, I’ve been able to keep my motivation and work, since I feel legitimate. Me, an ordinary citizen, it’s legitimate for me to think about the future of the planet and take decisions ».

The movement to give nature back its place was obviously associated with a movement that gave its place to each and everyone in the debate and in decision-making.

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