By Milene Spyckerelle
Our planet is heading to disaster. Or at least this is the idea discourses and catastrophic pictures are continuously spreading. Climate change, species loss, droughts, floods, growing inequalities,… How is it possible not to feel overwhelmed in the face of this hopeless news?
If coal and oil companies are responsible for most emissions, why do we blame individuals and ask them to take responsibility? It is very tempting to find self-pity and the blaming of others as a soft and easy pillow. They – the oil companies – are responsible, so why should I care about anything? It’s their fault and we can’t do anything about it. It looks like fighting a losing battle.
However, you can decide to take the bull by the horns and at the same time see it as a wonderful opportunity. Choosing realism and optimism. Action and positivity. This is what Julien Vidal invites us to do. Imagine, you decide now to implement a new eco-citizen action every day for one year, that’s 365 new actions. You start by creating your toothpaste, buying local and organic food. Then you turn to a renewable-energy supplier and you volunteer in a local organization. You learn how our world is working, you meet new people with the same values, you experiment, create, fail, succeed, discover yourself, while also discovering new skills and passions.
That’s the adventure Julien Vidal had undertaken in 2016 in Paris. After being engaged for four years as an international volunteer in Columbia and the Philippines, he realized the need to take local actions in his home country toward global changes. Back home, Julien Vidal decided to embark on the project ‘Ça commence par moi’: ‘It starts with me’. He created a blog where he collected each of the actions he realized, justified them with an article explaining the impacts our previous habits had on climate, and how to implement them, with practical tools, links, and instructions.
Through ‘Ça commence par moi’ Julien Vidal wants to make us question each of the components of our lives no matter how small it is: how much water was used to make these jeans? What is the money in my bank account used for? Could I change my relationship to time by switching to slow travel? By questioning our model of life, the first eco-citizen french movement aims to build a new life, of simplicity, where we are the actions of the change we want to see in the world.
You might think, ‘This guy is just another foolish idealist, a naive environmentalist who thinks that he will solve global hunger by eating food leftover from the previous evening meal’. Let me tell you something: you can have the perfect ecological lifestyle, it actually won’t make any difference – at the global level… Julien Vidal is aware of this. He, therefore, argues that if small gestures can not be an end in itself, we need to initiate change somewhere. If not me, if not you, then who? If not now, then when?
Taking your responsibility in the climate debate is a question of morality. Doing one’s part could be a morally better choice than doing nothing at all and can lead to personal satisfaction. Through this personal challenge, Julien Vidal invites us not only to on a quest toward sustainability where each individual has a responsibility but also to your personal quest to find happiness. Do you know that being ‘green’ makes you happy? It’s not about taking the entire responsibility of climate change on your shoulders. It’s about being in line with your values and experiencing personal improvement, stability, and accomplishment, by becoming a better version of yourself. At some point, it helps overthrow your sense of powerlessness and feelings of guilt.
Taking part in ‘Ça commence par moi’ is about inventing another way of living. Something inspiring and desirable, a life of happiness. It invites us to declutter and rethink our lives of superfluous, concentrate on the essential, choose our priorities, and respecting inner balance. It’s about reasonable and refined consumption. Simplicity. You know the Swedish concept of Lagom – finding balance and satisfaction of what we have without looking for more. ‘Ça commence par moi’ encourages balance and harmony between your needs and the surrounding world.
We have, of course, to organize at the collective level if we want to implement effective actions. Governments, companies, citizens,… The world community must fully engage. However, it starts by acting individually, every day. Implementing the structural changes needed requires finding a balance between these individual actions and community engagement.
‘Ça commence par moi’ proves that being ‘green’ is not about restraint or self-punishment. It’s about proposing alternatives and inventing another optimistic future and life. Building a better world. Being part of this global eco-citizen movement is easy. Everyone can do it. You can do it. You just need to decide to start.
Have a look at Julien Vidal’s blog (in French) : cacommenceparmoi.org/