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Overcoming the crisis through ecological consciousness and civic virtue


June 15, 2012—This manifesto originated with a diverse group of French, Swiss, and Belgian academics and practitioners. A version in French on, entitled "Manifeste pour une sortie de crise par l'écologie et par le civisme", has already been signed by almost 2,000 citizens around the world. You can see the list of initial signatories below, after the text itself. We are now launching the text into the English-speaking world, in hopes that it might serve as a mobilizing platform as the Rio+20 summit gets underway.

Please sign this manifesto on this webpage and, equally importantly, please send this URL whizzing through your social hives and your Internetworks! Thank you so much! So here's the text:


There is no doubt that what we are witnessing today is an economic and ecological debacle. It stems mainly from the fact that our political institutions have lost control over large-scale collective choices. The ideology largely dominating today’s political arena displays an almost religious faith in the self-regulation of markets, and it marginalizes the democratic sphere. Even as we speak, the consequences of the lack of local and global regulation are already starting to make themselves felt dramatically: Inequality is soaring and the limits on natural resources, as well as the vulnerability of the ecological equilibria that make our lives possible, are being consistently ignored. We are calling forcefully for consciousness and solidarity to awaken at a world level. We are calling for a deep ethical shift in every one of us.

On the occasion of the Rio Summit’s 20th anniversary,

– We are calling on everyone to recognize the deep connections between economic and ecological issues. A world market has been constructed and developed, with the objective of scaling down protections and regulations. This has only further deepened wealth disparities. The political, economic, and financial elites have captured almost all of the produced wealth, thus condemning peasants and farmers in the South to misery and many populations in the North to social decay. While the past three decades have been a time of substantial growth in produced wealth, they have also evidenced an unprecedented rise in inequalities.

At the same time, another catastrophe in the making might soon force badly degraded living conditions upon the majority of our planet’s population. If—according to a highly plausible scenario—temperatures rise by 4 degrees Celsius, the adaptive capacities of many regions of the world would be exceeded. This would lead, among other things, to a sharp drop in agricultural and foodstuff production worldwide. Scarcer resources, an increasingly hostile climate, and an unstoppable rise in sea levels will hardly facilitate economic activities.

– We are calling on everyone to act in order to counterbalance the short-term focus of globalized finance. It is high time to counteract our decision-makers’ short-termist approach to environmental and development issues. To do this, we need to reinforce the international community’s capacity to enforce regulation and, at the level of nations, we need to counteract political powerlessness. We cannot avoid noticing that on a planet where trade and commerce have become ultimate ends, priority is almost always given to the smallest common denominator when it comes to social and environmental problems. Goods circulate and are consumed without so much as a thought being given to the working conditions of those who produce them or to their global environmental impact.

– We are calling for a condemnation of cynical opportunism in matters of climate change. The increasingly precise regional data supplied by climate models make it possible to devise cynical adaptation and investment strategies. Thus a small number of market actors believe they can reap a profit—at least for a time—from ongoing environmental changes by shifting their investments as new ‘opportunities’ arise.

– We are calling for a decrease in physical flows and for an end to the looting of the South’s natural resources. North-South relations cannot boil down to having the middle classes in developing countries envy the lifestyles currently prevailing in rich countries. The physical limits we have reached—scarce land, falling supplies of other minerals as well as of conventional fossil fuels—impel us to open different horizons. It is imperative that we orchestrate quickly a reduction of the physical flows on which our economies rely, starting with the North and its expensive lifestyles. We have to put an end to the looting of natural resources in the South, which keeps the majority of the world’s population from satisfying its essential needs (water, energy, and food).

– Finally, we are calling for a reinstatement of public decision-making power in order to overcome the crisis through ecological measures. Provided it respects the basic principles and rules of democracy, political decision-making is the sole avenue towards circumscribing and enacting a notion of common good which has also become globalized. Political decision-making will make it possible to put into force a number of measures that are indispensable if humanity wishes to succeed in the transition toward a just and equitable, frugal and sustainable economy.

What most urgently needs to be done is

– to enforce environmental and social rules within the World Trade Organization, in order to affirm social well-being and the respect for the limits of the biosphere as foundational principle of a sustainable world economy;

– to develop binding national and international financial norms in order to put an end to the abuses of the financial system and to reorient it toward the financing of the real economy;

– to take concrete steps to embody our solidarity toward the victims of ecological crises and toward the populations suffering from extreme poverty, which implies—among other things—implementing the Green Climate Fund whose design was called for during the 2009 Copenhagen Summit, along with innovative ways of financing the Fund and of controlling the allocation of its funds;

– to mobilize public money creation in order to finance the ecological transition and the adaptation to a natural world that is changing very rapidly, but also to put an end to the debt crisis and to return to balanced public budgets in the area of current spending;

– to shift the fiscal burden from work and investment toward the extraction of resources, so as to establish a genuinely ecological fiscal policy that creates incentives for lasting behavioral changes;

– to reform the teaching of economics and endow our universities with path-breaking research programs on new economic and social models compatible with a decreasing and equitable consumption of resources;

– to use the education system to transmit values of civic virtue and of respect for human beings and for nature, which are indispensable preconditions for a good personal and social life.

Faced with the alarming drifts of a society that has become more and more individualistic, we are calling for a renewed role given to political decision-making, within the strict limits of democratic control.


This manifesto was signed initially by the following individuals, before it was put on the Web on May 25, 2012:

Yohann Ariffin (political scientist, University of Lausanne, Switzerland)

Christian Arnsperger (economist, FNRS and University of Louvain, Belgium)

Floran Augagneur (philosopher, Sciences Po. Paris, France)

Guillemette Bolens (anglicist, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Geneva, Switzerland)

Nicolas Bouleau (mathematician, Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées, France)

Dominique Bourg (philosopher, University of Lausanne/vice-president of the Fondation Nicolas Hulot/ Switzerland)

Baptiste Campion (media scientist, University of Louvain, Belgium)

Isabelle Cassiers (economist, FNRS and University of Louvain, Belgium)

Gauthier Chapelle (biologist, scientific director of Biomim-Greenloop, Belgium)

Jean-Christophe Charlier (CTB, Belgium)

Jean Cornil (former federal MP, Belgium)

Alain Dangoisse (Maison du développement durable, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium)

Felice Dasseto (sociologist, University of Louvain, Belgium)

Rodolphe de Borchgrave (Cadmos, Belgium)

Maurice de Borman (attorney, Association Wéry, Belgium)

Thierry De Smedt (media scientist, University of Louvain, Belgium)

Christophe Derenne (director of Etopia, Belgium)

Eric Duchemin (environnementalist, director of the online journal "Vertigo", University of Quebec, Montreal, Canada)

Marc Dufumier (agronomist, AgroParistech, France)

Benoît Faraco (political sciensist, Fondation Nicolas Hulot, France)

Augustin Fragnière (environnementalist, University of Lausanne, Switzerland)

Benoît Frund (Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lausanne, Switzerland)

Michel Genet (economist, director of Greenpeace Belgium)

Paul Geradin (ICHEC, Belgium)

Jean-David Gerber (geographer and political scientist, University of Lausanne, Switzerland)

Gaël Giraud (economist, Ecole d'économie de Paris, France)

Pierre Henry Gouyon (biologist, Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France)

Alain Grandjean (economist, co-founder of Carbone4, Fondation Nicolas Hulot, France)

Thierry Hance (biologist and environmentalist, University of Louvain, Belgium)

Gérald Hess (philosopher, University of Lausanne, Switzerland)

Marek Hudon (economist, Solvay Business School, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium)

Nicolas Hulot (president of the Fondation Nicolas Hulot, France)

Jean Jouzel (climate scientist, IPSL/CEA, Paris, France)

Alain Kaufmann (director of the Interface Sciences Société, University of Lausanne, Switzerland)

Etienne Klein (physicist and philosopher, CEA, France)

Pietro Majno (surgeon, Geneva University Hospital, Switzerland)

Dominique Méda (philosopher, Paris-Dauphine University, France)

Jacques Mirenowicz (director of La Revue Durable, Switzerland)

Cécile Ostria (director of the Fondation Nicolas Hulot, France)

Déborah Philippe (sociologist, University of Lausanne, Switzerland)

Cécile Renouard (philosopher and economist, Centre Sèvres and ESSEC, Paris, France)

Philippe Roch (former director of the Office fédéral de l'environnement, former secrétaire d'Etat, Switzerland)

Adèle Thorens Goumaz (philosopher, national adviser to the green party Verts/VD, Switzerland)

Alain Tihon (Spin out sprl, Belgium)

Nicolas Van Nuffel (CNCD-11.11.11, Belgium)

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