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Yannick Monget: "We face immeasurable challenges, but the solutions exist.

Invited by Professor M. El Ganaoui of the University of Lorraine, Yannick Monget, futurist and writer, held a conference on resilience and climate change on the occasion of the thematic school ICOME, Materials, Energy and Climate Change held on December 2, 2021. Interview.

Climate change is the subject of many anxieties, particularly those related to collapsology. What is it really?

Yannick Monget: Fears are not necessarily a bad thing in themselves, nor is collapsology if it is done with a certain responsibility and seriousness.

The fear that will push us not to take the wheel of the car after a meal with too much water to avoid having an accident, the fear that pushes us to avoid going skiing if the weather starts to become unstable to avoid being caught under an avalanche is a natural fear, and that participates to our survival instinct. In the same way, being "afraid" of global warming and the planetary disorders that will follow it is a good thing if we use this fear constructively to change our model of society to make it more responsible, sustainable, socially just and equitable.

On the other hand, where things go wrong is when this fear is used in a deviant way, by politicians or lobbies, for other unacknowledged or unmentionable reasons (for example, the fear of the other which leads to all the problems of integration, racism that we know, or the problems linked to the migratory crises), to mention only this example.

As far as collapsology is concerned, if the previsualization of future catastrophes can bring about a debate, a reflection and a change of course, then it has its place in education and awareness. But it must be rigorous in this objective (which I have tried to do myself through my books, whether they are novels or photo-documentary books).

There can also be a collapsology that assumes exaggeration, for entertainment purposes, as in the cinema where many scenarios have no scientific basis, but are just used to entertain. But the message must be clear and assumed, even claimed, so as not to confuse the public, which is unfortunately not always the case.

Our civilization will come to an end sooner or later, like everything else in this world, there is nothing exceptional about that, and it is a truism to say so. The upheavals we are causing in our environment as well as the unconscious manipulation of many technologies can lead us to this collapse. We have almost already been victims of it. We only have to remember the Cuban missile crisis during the Cold War, which could have ended in the annihilation of our civilization. But we have passed that test and I am convinced that we can survive the tests we are facing today. In this, collapsology has a very concrete utility: to understand the threat in order to better bring solutions. To fight your enemy, we say that you must first know him. Science allows us to better understand these threats and it is essential to bring solutions that are in fact and that do not bring other potentially more serious problems.

So there are solutions to fight against climate change?

Yannick Monget: Yes, and many. And contrary to collapsology, it is important to show them. It is regrettable that in literature, cinema and several other arts, dystopia has taken a major place in recent years, erasing utopia, in the original sense of the word, i.e. not what is unattainable but what remains unrealized. For my part, I have always tried to keep this balance: to put into images both threats and hopes. In Hopes, I also wanted to make people dream and show, contrary to collapsology, what our world could look like with the implementation of some of these numerous solutions.

There are no miracle solutions, but there are tens of thousands of very concrete and immediately applicable solutions. The proof of this is the exceptional work done in recent years by my friend Bertrand Piccard's foundation, Solar Impulse, which has created a website labelling more than 1,300 immediately applicable solutions for the future.

During the Materials, Energy and Climate Change thematic school, you met with PhD students. Why do you think these exchanges are so important?

Yannick Monget: I had some interesting discussions at the end of our presentation, particularly with a student who was worried about his future as a young person. It is necessary to help them take a step back and integrate the idea that the dark future drawn by the media is not a fatality. Knowledge remains the best tool to find solutions and to draw a more positive future than the one that many journalists draw for us every day.

We must keep hope, without minimizing the extreme seriousness of the situation, especially the environmental situation (and I am not only talking about the climate but also about the pollution of our food, the air we breathe, etc.). As Dominique Raynaud and Geoffrey Levermore said very well, each generation has its trials. While watching the documentaries that echoed the Pearl Harbor disaster that took place just 80 years ago, I was thinking that being young in 1941 was probably not better, and even much worse, than today (similarly in 1918, etc.), with a world at war on all continents. We must therefore take a step back. Despite this period of conflict, peace finally succeeded this dark page of our history. In the same way, I remain convinced that a much happier tomorrow will follow the complicated period we are going through.

Yes, we have to face immeasurable challenges, but yes, the solutions exist. Our duty is to put them into practice and at the same time to prepare the passing of the baton by pushing the generations currently in training to understand the world around them and by pushing them to innovate in order to continually find new solutions to the problems of humanity and the planet, by training them in this sense, by teaching them also to think for themselves, to have a critical and curious mind, but also positive and full of hope


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