As one of France’s most admired environmentalists, Pierre Rabhi advocates a simplified existence in order to live a sustainable, happy life. Jane Hanks falls under the sage’s spell in an exclusive interview
Pierre Rabhi is a French farmer, writer, philosopher and environmentalist who is well known to the French as a man who has been promoting an alternative, simpler way of life for many years, long before it became fashionable. He is now 80, but retirement is not for him as he continues to strive to create what for him would be a better world, with less emphasis on making money and more on being happy with what we already have.
Just recently a report from the government environment and energy management agency body Ademe quoted an Ipsos study which found that most households thought they had a total of 34 electronic pieces of equipment, but in fact the figure is closer to an astonishing 99 and that people buy three times more now than in 1960.
One of Pierre Rabhi’s many books, Vers la Sobriété Heureuse, was translated into English last year, The Power of Restraint. What did he mean by this title?
“We live in a world where there is part of it which is suffering from over consumption and throws too much away, and another part where there is still famine. We produce 40% more than we need.
“One fifth of our world, of which I am a part, uses four fifths of the world’s resources. I cannot morally accept that situation. To change that we need to adopt more modest lifestyles. In our society we have more than enough to eat, but even then we are not happy.
“There is no joie de vivre. People in the West are always worrying about what they do not have, rather than enjoying what they do have. If we were producing all these goods and people were satisfied, then maybe our civilisation would have been successful, but people are not happy, so we must change things.”
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French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe cancelled his appearance at the COP24 climate change summit in Katowice, Poland, on Monday, instead meeting with French political leaders to formulate a response to the violent ‘yellow vest’ protests.