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“The new common of humanity is the battle against climate change”

A new meeting of social issue, devoted to mega-basins, these very large water reservoirs, which are filled by pumping water from groundwater or rivers, so that these water reserves are then used, mainly by farmers. Very strong mobilization this weekend around a mega-basin construction site, in the Deux-Sèvres in Sainte-Soline is an illustration of this. The decryption of sociologist Jean Viard.

franceinfo: Would you say that it is the question of the appropriation of resources that arises in this?

John Viard: Yes, but water is a common good, so we cannot sell water. What we sell is the work to bring water, to store it, to clean the water, etc. This is the service we sell. That’s the first thing. The second thing is that we are in a period of global warming, and we are starting the battle over carbon to actually return to a habitable planet. A battle that will be complicated, but we are in it.

This is what is interesting in this debate. On the one hand, we have people who want to capture water to water fields or golf courses. And then, there are people who say no, you have to let it go, let it go to the tablecloths and come back. Just a figure: 500 billion cubic meters of water fall in France per year, but a large part – 300 billion m3 – evaporates before reaching the ground. So water is actually a cycle, and some of it actually falls on the ground, which goes back into the ground, and eventually humanity takes about 10%.

So when we take it afterwards, the water is never lost, if we clean it, if we put it back in cycle etc., but it is sure that the cheapest is rainwater. You collect rainwater, you still have to clean it, but much less than if it comes out of a factory or a city. So it is clear that rainwater is very advantageous.

Afterwards, the question is that with global warming, on the one hand, the rains are moving more towards winter, look at the weather at the moment, it’s not raining, and it was the same thing before the summer, so that means that between the moment when the farmers need water and the moment when it falls, there is a lag. That’s a first issue, and the second thing is that it’s warmer. So more water is needed for the crops or to change the crops. Both may be possible in some territories, but not everywhere. And then there are the golf courses, the football fields, all the places of play, sport, etc. We can say to ourselves: is it legitimate to put water in these places?

We can very well consider that the sport is legitimate, that there are people who play golf, football, tennis, others who run in the pine forest. There, what is debating is on the one hand that there is a basin, with people who are against it, saying that we need water at a lower level, which is correct . But the problem is: can we take a small part of it during the rainy season?

What the opponents also say is that it is a headlong rush. Rather than changing the system, we somehow confiscate the water, because it’s not just rainwater, it’s really groundwater and streams?

Yes, but the rainwater necessarily goes into the water tables, goes into the rivers, and indeed it’s a cycle, then it falls into the sea at the end, and it evaporates again, and fall back into this process. And humanity dirties it, and that’s why we clean it. The problem is that for decades, we entered into this fight. In the previous century, there was a clash between two ideologies of progress, the one more favorable to the workers, the one more favorable to the employers, and we always said to ourselves: we are for progress, but who benefits from progress?

Today, we have the same debate, we are launched into the climate war, and there are two ways of doing things. On the one hand, I protect myself, so I store water. On the other hand, I try on the contrary to let the ecosystems live, and there will be permanent arbitration to arrive, I hope one day, to reduce the carbon in our society. This is a debate that we are going to have for decades and without stopping, we are going to have to arbitrate. This will be true on mobility, on the bike in the city, and the car etc.

We are in a society of arbitration because the new common of humanity is the battle against climate change. And the pandemic has put our noses on it all, the pandemic, the fires, the fact that it’s 30 degrees there by the sea etc., and it’s normal that there is debate. And I think politics is going to center on this debate every time: do I save or do I change? And I innovate and how is that distributed? We have a century of debate on this.




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