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The Ecological Transition: A User’s Guide

A user’s guide on reconciling the necessary and the desirable

Aurore Lalucq & Philippe Frémeaux & Wojtek Kalinowski , 12 December 2013

[English] [français]

If we do not act quickly, climate change and the depletion of natural resources will trigger increasingly dramatic change. The good news is that solutions exist which do not have to be punitive: on the contrary, they will actually help us to live better. To undertake the ecological transition does not simply mean “greening” the current system. It means adopting a new economic and social model, one that will break with the dictatorship of GDP. This model will change the way we consume, produce, work, and live together. It places special emphasis on pleasure, relationships, and leisure time. It allows for and promotes civic participation. This book makes the case for a kinder and fairer society.


The authors of this book are not the kind of people who believe that you have to fear the worst to be profound. On the contrary, our shared conviction, at Alternatives Économiques as well as at the Veblen Institute, is that genuine lucidity consists in finding solutions rather than prophesizing imminent catastrophe.

Yet the fact remains that at the dawn of the twenty-first century, humanity finds itself before a major alternative: it must either undertake the ecological transition while there is still time or continue running into a wall as if nothing were wrong, knowing that such a choice means a return to barbarism.

It’s a fact: if we do not manage to radically alter current trends, we are headed towards a frightening future. Anticipated resource shortages and future consequences of climate change will provoke major crises: wars to control the last drops of oil, massive waves of climate refugees, food resource shortages that will multiply the ranks of those suffering from malnutrition and famine, and, of course, in response to these developments, an exacerbation of social tensions that will endanger democracies that have already been weakened by economic and social crisis.

Yet the worst-case scenario is not necessarily inevitable. It is still possible to reconcile the necessary and the desirable, providing we abandon the current system’s logic. The point is not to renounce progress or wellbeing, but, on the contrary, to propose a new vision of progress, one that rejects the existing economic model, which has lost its resilience because it is based upon the relentless consumption of non-renewable resources and which has destabilized climactic equilibriums in a way that will soon be uncontrollable.

In this book, our intention is to show that solutions exist and that they are within our reach. The obstacles are many, but they have as much to do with the quality of our democracies as with material difficulties. Undertaking the ecological transition is both a goal and a method. We want a society with a reinvigorated and more expansive democracy, a society that is kinder to its members, less unequal, and more attentive to each individual’s needs. It should be clear that our social project is not confined to changing our economic model, consumption patterns, and lifestyle. Indeed, only on this condition will a model that finally assigns consumption its proper place, giving free rein to a new quest for individual and collective wellbeing, become not only acceptable, but desirable.

Philippe Frémeaux, editorialist at Alternatives Economiques and president of the Veblen Institute.

Wojtek Kalinowski, sociologist, co-director of the Veblen Institute.

Aurore Lalucq, economist and co-director of the Veblen Institute.

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