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Ecological conversion in a time of pandemic

E eventWednesday, 22 March 2023

Original: French

The economic and social consequences of the Covid crisis are often dramatic: in France, for example, the year 2020 has seen an increase in unemployment of nearly a million people. Over this time one in three French people saw their income decrease significantly. Moreover, the forced isolation of many elderly and other vulnerable people has also led to a great increase in psychological suffering. 

In the eyes of some economists, entrepreneurs and politicians, the primary objective is economic recovery in order to help create jobs and to be a way out of extreme poverty. But this reasoning is inadequate because it leaves on one side the consideration of the ecological and social roots of the problem. The health crisis is already a disaster; but it would be doubly a disaster if it does not lead to us being able to learn lessons concerning our economic models and unsustainable lifestyles. 

Experts debate the links between the COVID 19 crisis and the ecological crisis; links exist between the loss of biodiversity, overexploitation of agriculture - particularly intensive livestock farming - and infectious diseases. In any case, the current crisis calls into question our ways of producing, moving, consuming and living. It highlights our individual and collective vulnerabilities and calls us to new forms of solidarity. 

From this point of view, the crisis may, or may not, constitute a springboard for living an ecological conversion. It is this question and this experience that we are seeking to live and explore within the framework of the Campus de la Transition project, anchored in the Forges area, made available by the Assumption, and where I live with about twenty young professionals.[1] . The Campus is a place of training, research into and experimentation in the ecological, social, economic, cultural and civic Transition that we are looking for. It is a non-denominational place, open to the spiritual dimension, in harmony with the analyses of Pope Francis in Laudato si '.

Through this project we are experimenting with four dimensions of ecological conversion, which are also four ways of positively orienting ourselves in a complex and uncertain world.[2] .

The first dimension is the search for consistency: we seek to reduce our ecological footprint, and this leads to choices in terms of heating, mobility, food, consumption, leisure. These efforts underpin our community research into limiting our air travel, collecting rainwater when possible, insulating our homes so as to consume less energy, avoiding buying frozen meals, using soap rather than gel shower, etc. Great creativity is possible, and my experience is to be very stimulated and encouraged by others more advanced than me in certain fields. 

The second is the articulation between the individual and the collective : our personal decisions need to be linked to a broader diagnosis, which involves seeking to resolve structural and systemic problems ; we seek to change our lifestyles, but also to reflect - with the students and professionals who come for training - on the means of acting at different levels in order to contribute to a transformation of business projects, public policies, etc. This ties in with our apostolic missions as     Assumption, in our schools, with students, families, and people in precarious situations : we can help people to act on the roots of problems and injustices by forming ourselves with others, by promoting educational experiences, by developing various forms of solidarity and by contributing to certain advocacy actions .   

The third dimension is the concern for the quality of relationships both within ourselves and with others, with nature and with God, for those who are believers. Seeking to adjust our relationships allows us to cultivate an attitude of unconditional welcome for the people who come to us, as far as  possible : those who come to Forges often describe their experience as a 'bubble of benevolence' ; it is not about denying or fleeing conflict and human tensions - there are these of course , but we strive to create the conditions where each one is able to feel welcomed, including those who are least aware of ecological issues, and so to allow everyone to 'find their way'. Our Assumption communities have a precious role to play through their prayerful presence and various forms of human and spiritual accompaniment , through the beauty of the liturgy and the care given to many details in our daily lives which promote quality of relationships.    

Finally, the fourth dimension is that which the philosopher Simone Weil referred to as `unstable equilibrium’. Our societies are all marked by the uncertainty of tomorrow ; it is extremely difficult to project into a future which we are told will be marked by the resurgence of extreme climatic events, catastrophes, water stress, the depletion of certain resources, which are nevertheless necessary and depend on the development of renewable energies, etc. Faced with this situation and drawing from the spiritual source within each of us, allows us to experience a confidence in life,  the support  possible from others, and overflowing peace and joy .This is also, without doubt, what Marie-Eugenie describes as `joyful detachment’. 

Cécile Renouard ra .

[1] campus-transition.org

[2] Xavier de Bénazé and Cécile Renouard, “ The ecological conversion ”, Etudes , November 2020.  




[1] campus-transition.org

[2] Xavier de Bénazé et Cécile Renouard, « La conversion écologique », Etudes, novembre 2020.