Yann Arthus-Bertrand: For an eco-responsible Santa Claus

- through Fabrice Groult

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What if we put something other than plastic toys or trinkets made on the other side of the world under the tree? This is the question posed by the famous photographer and environmental activist Yann Arthus-Bertrand, a few days before the end of the year celebrations.

How to ensure that Christmas is also a celebration for the planet? For Yann Arthus-Bertrand, it is enough to no longer buy “stupidly” and to follow fashion, but to offer “humanist gifts, such as giving a donation to associations helping refugees such as SOS Méditerranée”, he explained in a December interview with the Huffington Post.

On this occasion, he points to a paradox specific to this period of compulsive consumption: rushing into department stores, being jostled on the shelves to buy products produced too often at the expense of other humans or the environment and saying that it's not really a gift to give to oneself and to one's neighbour. YAB is not a fan of window shopping. Last year, he offered his children “an internship on a farm. I thought it was an interesting and smart gift. »

Thus, for him, from now on, the spirit of Christmas should be eco-responsible, supports the photographer who, from the sky, has seen too much the destruction of the Earth. At the beginning of December, he launched with his Good Planet foundation the third edition of his ecological and solidarity Christmas Market: fifty exhibitors offered for sale educational games, natural cosmetics, organic confectionery and other zero-waste products. These Santa Clauses don't litter.

“It is too late to be pessimistic. »

Through his many projects (documentaries Human et planet ocean, Action Carbone Solidaire programs in 2017 and The solution is on the plate during COP 21, etc.), for decades Yann Arthus-Bertrand has been raising public awareness and acting in the field to « placing ecology at the heart of consciousness ». This is the leitmotif of a photographer who has broadened his focus over the course of his reports and who created the Good Planet foundation in 2005.

“It's great that a pope is able to tell us that capitalism is destroying the planet. I am convinced that today ecology must be humanistic. »

One might think he was resigned, devastated, like the collapsologists and scientists, who constantly alert governments to this Earth which has not turned round since the first Earth Summit in Stockholm in 1972. In 2009, n Didn't he say in an interview with Les Échos that “we have ten years to change the way we live. Afterwards, the inertia will be such that we can never go back”? Here we are…. Is it too late? He does not believe it, as Matthieu Ricard confided recently on Europe 1: “I spoke about it recently with Yann, he had a sentence that I really like: “It is too late to be pessimistic”. The Buddhist monk whose photos from his latest book, Wonder, were exhibited this fall in the gardens of Good Planet, joins him in his approach.

There is no question of giving up or falling into the "there is nothing to do", YAB is mobilizing more than ever, applying this quote from the Martinican poet and philosopher Édouard Glissant on a daily basis: "Act in your place, think with the world ". From the visionary agronomist René Dumont – the first candidate to stand in a presidential election under an environmentalist label in 1974, whom everyone laughed at, but who caught the eye of the young photographer -, to the young Swede Greta Thunberg whom he describes as a “miracle”, the activist seems not to have lost faith in man and is mobilizing without counting the cost in the face of environmental issues.

A spiritual ecology

Will the green revolution necessarily go through a spiritual upheaval? Throughout his speeches, Yann Arthus-Bertrand seems to believe it. He evokes, pell-mell, the compassion, the meditation that he has been practicing for some time and is working to transform himself in order to preserve the common habitat.

In October 2018, as part of the release of Pope Francis' encyclical, Laudato yes, that he had illustrated (1), Yann Arthus-Bertrand hailed an “anti-globalization” text in an interview given to La Croix: “It's great that a pope is able to tell us that capitalism is destroying the planet. I am convinced that today ecology must be humanist, and that is why this text is very strong (…) Unfortunately, today we are witnessing a kind of resignation, while this world is in the process of to collapse. However, the spiritual can help to regain awareness of what we are witnessing. Unfortunately, this is not the case with politics”.

On this occasion, he took the opportunity to mock "a kind of religion of growth", of which the world would be a prisoner: "But this growth, which is the absolute dream of all the countries of the world, is destroying life on Earth. It feels like it will never end. To get out of this, what do we need? The revolution will not be scientific: we will not replace the 95 million barrels of oil that the world consumes each year. Nor will it be economic, because the economy only wants growth, which remains the absolute Holy Grail of all heads of state. I see only one possible path: the spiritual revolution. A revolution that goes through the reminder of ethical and moral values, through humanism. What can I do to make things go the right way? Nobody is forcing me to put gas in my car or to eat meat: it is this deep thought that we must have,” he concluded.

From Pope Francis to the Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard, from the happy sobriety of Pierre Rabhi to the quote of former Uruguayan President José Mujica: "All our life, we work to buy, but at the end of our life, we cannot redeem it".

photo of author

Fabrice Groult

Fabrice Groult is an adventurer, photographer and Buddhist who has traveled the world since a young age. After studying Buddhism in India, he embarked on an eighteen-month journey through Asia that took him to the Himalayas, where he discovered his passion for photography. Since then, he has traveled the world capturing images of Buddhist beauty and wisdom. He was a guide for ten years, and is now a journalist with Buddhist News.

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