WeWard and World Earth Day: interview with Christian Grataloup!

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Today is the 53rd Earth Day! Just for the occasion, Wardy had the pleasure of speaking with French geo-historian Christian Grataloup. Last year, he unveiled in bookstores "The Historical Atlas of the Earth."

Each year, Earth Day is celebrated by nearly one billion people in more than 190 countries. Conceived by former U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson in 1970, the event brings together several activities such as beach clean-ups, tree-planting, conferences as well as marches for science and the environment.

Unfortunately, a vague or general awareness is no longer enough to face the challenges of tomorrow. This requires acting in a sustainable way, which Christian Grataloup, a geo-historian used to TV shows, explained to us.


Christian Grataloup

Wardy: Hello Mr. Grataloup! You're a geo-historian known for your work studying the Earth. Do you observe any significant progress regarding the health of our planet since its first world day?

Christian Grataloup: Hello Wardy and hello to all the WeWarders out there. In 1970, environmental concerns weren't at the forefront like they are today! Only a short time later, we witnessed the report from the Club of Rome (editor's note: a group of politicians and professionals set up in 1972 to reflect on social problems) and the first oil shock in 1973. We were in the middle of a period of growth with the Trente Glorieuses. Everyone thought that there was no reason for it to stop! And France was just coming out of the events of May 1968. The issues were only political and were not, or were hardly, environmental. Since the establishment of World Earth Day, we're finally concerned about what our lifestyles are costing our planet. Unfortunately, the results remain insufficient.

Wardy: What could we do about it?

Christian Grataloup: On April 7, there was World Health Day. On June 5th, there will be  Environment Day. I'm sure I've missed lots of others!

Each of these days is legitimate. But if this type of event exists, it's to keep the desired collective awareness from fading away. We should perhaps try to better concentrate these operations because they tend to fade out of mind. We are still on Earth, so every day must be dedicated to our planet!

Wardy: A recent study showed that WeWard users prevented 588,000 tons of CO2 each year. That's the equivalent of 600,000 round trips from Paris to New York each year! How is walking necessary for the planet?

Christian Grataloup: Walking is the most accessible sport in the world. It doesn't cost anything, and you can even earn money like you do with your app!

Above all, the fight against sedentary lifestyles plays a major role in health. When we walk, our heart is better. With that in mind, it's important to take care of this environmental concern from an individual point of view. In a more global sense, the geo-political authorities tend to give themselves a good conscience by making the behavior of each individual responsible. Less flying, more walking and less driving. It's all very well and good but this won't save our planet!

Right now, there are 8 billion people. So even 8 billion pedestrians represents a lot of consumption! So yes, it can be done through wards! (Laughter)

Walking is a form of frugality. But it requires strong political actions, which commit states. As long as there are no global regulatory resolutions, our planet will be in danger.

Wardy: WeWard also partners regularly with associations that support the planet. What are their impacts? ‍

Christian Grataloup: When we talk about the associative field, we are talking about what doesn't depend on the state or private companies with a capitalist character. So groups of individuals taking charge is well and truly necessary on a national scale.

Wardy: Nowadays, are we sufficiently aware of the stakes and risks for the planet?

Christian Grataloup: No, unfortunately. The main problem is that there is an increasingly violent intersection between issues of social inequality and environmental risks. People's sense of priorities differs according to their social status. This is also true at the continental level: there are countries where the economic situation is so precarious that environmental issues can't be on the agenda. If we don't succeed in quickly linking issues of inequality to the protection of the planet, we'll never see significant progress.

Wardy: Which sector should we save first?

Christian Grataloup: Every environmental field plays a crucial role for our planet. But if we had to save only one priority, I would say the ocean. There is only one, and it is our main carbon sink! The ocean is our main carbon absorber because of all the life forms it contains. We must therefore maintain protected areas in the oceans, and regulate all activities, but without prohibiting them! Protecting the oceans without penalizing precarious populations requires international agreements. We're opening more coal-fired power plants today... Which, in terms of pollution, is the worst thing around! It's a question of common sense. Nevertheless, we must remain optimistic. The hole in the ozone layer is closing up, thanks in particular to the reduction of greenhouse gases.

Wardy: To conclude: in addition to walking, what are the small actions that can be easily integrated into everyone's daily life for the good of our planet?

Christian Grataloup: Cook! Buy fruits and vegetables, healthy products, and consume less "ready-made" products! In addition to being beneficial for one's self-esteem and one's environment, I'm convinced that these actions have a significant environmental impact.

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