Summary of the book “Tomorrow”: Worried and dismayed when they see how little reaction there is to the catastrophic ecological predictions put forward by many scientists, Cyril Dion and Mélanie Laurent go on a world tour of the good ideas that could change the direction of the main components of our society: food, energy, the economy, democracy and education. What if these initiatives were the foundation of a new social project?
By Cyril Dion – 2015 – 350 pages
Note: this guest column is provided by Emmanuelle from the blog Ma maison sur la terre
Chronicle and summary of “Tomorrow”:
Introduction of the book “Tomorrow”
Over recent years we have been bombarded by a huge number of dire scientific studies that the end of humanity could be reached by 2100, as well as global warming and other climatic catastrophes, the destruction of natural resources, the disappearance of species and biodiversity, and the issues caused by overpopulation… It seems impossible to do anything that is effective enough to prevent all of this. What can we achieve on a small scale, why make efforts when industry and politicians can’t be bothered? Where do we even start?
On the principle that Man is attracted to and has the capability to be motivated by beautiful stories, Cyril Dion embarks on a project to write what tomorrow’s world could be like, based on today’s initiatives.
The objective: To promote the awareness of solutions that already exist and work so as to encourage people to take part in them.
The crucial moment for humanity is now. And we have 20 years to change the trend.
This has been demonstrated by a large number of studies that have been documented or conducted by Elizabeth Hadly and Anthony Barnosky, eminent researchers at Stanford University, and Lester Brown, founder of the World Watch Institute.
They explain that climate and biological changes are progressive, but eventually reach a pivotal point. Overnight, everything changes drastically. Our planet has already witnessed this type of shift, such as the transition from the ice age to our current temperate climate. Only, in today’s scenario, the temperature changes will go ten times quicker…
Everything will change and we have to be prepared for it. We are already aware of what the solutions are: stabilize the world population around 10 billion people, reduce the consumption levels of Westerners, cease the use of fossil fuels and achieve a CO2 neutral economy, change our economic models, produce our food ecologically and, lastly, maintain biodiversity.
We have the capacity to be able to change quickly, it is a question of will. Everyone must contribute, do their part to obtain the expected results. We now have to think and act in terms of a single human community.
The erosion of civilizations has always started with food shortages, so it is only logical that Cyril Dion should lead us to agricultural production solutions.
Part 1: To feed ourselves so we don’t become extinct
“How to feed more than 10 billion people but, simultaneously, regenerate the ecosystems and stop climate change?”
At present, we have two opposite camps on the issue of agriculture. The first, based on an industrial vision, asserts that in order to feed all humans we must drastically increase our production capacity and that in order to do so, the only route available is through improved seeds and chemical products. The second, opposes this practice, and argues that this method destroys our ecosystems and means that we lose the capability to produce the quantity and quality for all.
Olivier de Schutter, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food from 2008 to 2014, sheds light on this subject. First of all, an important point, currently 70 to 75% of our food is produced by “small farmers” while “large farmers” (with 100 hectares or more) mainly grow food for livestock or agrofuels!
In Europe, households, on average, spend 12 to 13% of their household budget on food, because of government subsidies. This is not the actual price of our daily food, the general public are unaware of the costs of intensive agriculture, that leads to depopulation of the countryside, soil degradation, greenhouse emissions, water pollution and health expenses related to the poor quality of the products supplied. If all these costs were included in the price of food, our daily food budget would actually be 25 or 30% of our family budget. The States opt for social appeasement and choose to hide all these environmental disadvantages, but this only serves to satisfy short-term expectations.
Agro-ecology could feed the world without the need for all the disadvantages of industrial agriculture. It also has the major upside to relocate local producers with local consumers, to resurrect the importance of the way we eat, and to emphasize the diversification of our food. The icing on the cake is that we are not dependent on imports, and therefore we preserve peoples’ freedom.
“We need to ditch the idea that to exist, we need to produce and consume.”
Cyril Dion, author of the book Tomorrow
Cyril Dion describes three excellent examples. The first one relates to the city of Detroit, which experienced a time of real prosperity, thanks to the automobile industry, until the 1950’s. Since then, the city has been in constant decline. The city has lost more than half of its inhabitants, with an unbelievable unemployment rate (40%) and unacceptable poverty. In amongst all this chaos, the urban farm projects were born, alongside an agricultural training program and a reforestation program. More than 1,000 farms and gardens now exist in the city.
Through respect for the land, for human beings, and the avoidance of fossil fuels, the city’s inhabitants now manage to keep their heads above water. The creation of a local economy has started and it has reignited the scope of possibilities still available within this depressed city. While in the USA food is transported about 2400km in order to get from producer to consumer, Detroit, within 10 years, hopes to feed 50% of its population thanks to this local urban agriculture.
Todmorden, in England, has seen the birth of the “Incredible Edibles” movement or how to grow vegetables instead of flowers in the city centre. A wonderful citizen’s movement, which allows everyone to rediscover basic values and to reconnect with each other. The city is now dotted with fruit trees and edible plants. Everyone takes responsibility in the maintenance of these crops and they help themselves to it when they happen to need it. The whole community is now involved in this movement where everyone can grow their own garden in any undeveloped area of the town. In this instance, the local people have regained the control of the community they live in and they share it with others.
In Bec Hellouin, in Normandy, we learn about the productivity of agro-ecological methods. This is where perma-culture is at work. A system of associated crops that reproduces the natural pattern and its diversity where each element benefits the others and is nourished by the whole. Under the supervision of INRA, Charles and Perrine Hervé-Gruyer produce as much on 1000m2 as an industrial farmer on 1 hectare!
This is not an unusual statistic, all international studies on this type of production come to the same conclusions: the yields of organic farms are now superior to those on industrial farms. There is a genuine possibility for us to be able to feed 10 to 12 billion people whilst at the same time we respect not only our planet but also mankind in terms of health (a varied diet) and social life (respected and properly paid work).
But why isn’t more of this type of agriculture developed? What prevents it? Why don’t we have more information about these extraordinary achievements and why are they so controversial despite scientific studies? Well, as in any police investigation, the question must be asked: who benefits from the crime? Obviously, the multinationals and petrochemical industries have a lot to lose. But we are already conscious of the fact that we must move towards a new economic model without oil and quickly…
Note: the documentary “Les moissons du futur” (Harvest of the future) by Marie-Monique Robin, filmed in 2011, looks at the different agro-ecological techniques implemented by different farmers around the world. The conclusion is the same: the productivity of these methods used on organic farm is superior to that of methods with chemical usage. Not to mention the serious damage inflicted by chemicals on our planet.
Part 2: Make the energy transition a success, can we do without oil?
The whole of our current civilization is based on fossil fuels: fertilizers; pharmaceutical products, building materials, synthetic fibres, transportation, heat and light production… The waste generated by this excessive use of these fuels causes huge disruptions in the planetary ecosystem. As a result, the water cycle is affected by the increase in temperature. At the trajectory we are currently on, we are on the verge of the extermination of civilized society as we know it today.
Once again, solutions do currently exist but we have to act on them now
Thierry Salomon, an energy engineer and president of the association NegaWatt, for the last 10 years has analysed our use of energy and determined which scenario will allow us to reach 100% renewable energy by 2050.
His observation and that of his team is simple:
- 50% of the energy we produce is needlessly wasted;
- 80% of our energy expenditure is focused on heating, air conditioning and transportation.
So that doesn’t mean that we have to produce as much green energy as we do fossil fuels. Our society, raised on consumption and accumulation, has to be sensible again and return to a level where we use what is necessary, which doesn’t involve a return to the Stone Age in our daily lives (video screens in public spaces, always have our electrical appliances on standby 24 hours a day, excessive and instant air-conditioning at the first sign of heat, etc., ….).
However, the first battles should be directed towards the insulation of buildings, especially those built between 1946 and 1975. The renovation of these leaky buildings will allow us to consume 3 to 4 times less energy but will also create jobs locally. In the same way, a review of the need for how much we travel should also be conducted globally, in order to make each individual responsible for their own actions.
The best-case study of how well this model works is in Copenhagen, Denmark, where a variety of green energy production (wind, biomass, waste combustion), a lot of houses with thermal insulation, and the urban space and transport development, now allow each inhabitant to benefit from significant savings and for 67% to go to work by bike!
“We are the first generation to feel the effect of climate change and certainly the last to be able to do something about it”
Cyril Dion, author of the book Tomorrow
We can also cite Malmö, in Sweden, where the city has built eco-neighbourhoods that are 100% self-sufficient in renewable energy. With a development that prioritizes the welfare of its inhabitants. And Sweden is still one of the countries with the happiest population in the world.
In both of these instances, the inhabitants and citizens are stakeholders in this energy transition. They contribute to the costs of the wind farms and benefit from the economic advantages linked to them (interests higher than those of a PEL). This means that Denmark’s objective is to be 100% renewable by 2050.
In a country like Iceland, 87% of the energy comes from a sustainable source. This country, after the first oil crisis, has turned to its natural resources and is very dependent on geothermal energy and hydroelectricity.
Similarly, Reunion Island now uses 35% of renewable energy from solar power. It aims to achieve energy self-sufficiency by 2025-2030.
Green energy is everywhere, everyone can now become a part of the global production and with cooperation between individual producers, help to achieve a cheaper supply of energy. This renewable energy is now cheaper and more cost-effective for consumers. But there is yet more information that is hidden from us… Those oil tycoon friends of ours seem to be a bit confused by the figures, which are actually fairly obvious. These days, one watt of solar energy costs 66 cents to produce today and soon will cost nothing; which is much cheaper than any other fossil energy.
Green energy can also come from circular energy. That is, from our waste. This is what the city of San Francisco has invested in. It has become the most advanced city in the world in terms of Zero Waste. Its goal is to reach 100% composted or recycled waste by 2020. In 2014, they were already at 80%!!! And this relates to all types of waste, whether it is domestic, professional or industrial. Very impressive and a source of encouragement when you realize that throughout the world; 10 million tons of waste are thrown away every day.
How do they achieve these results? Simple, they make it easy and they make it compulsory. Containers for each type of waste with a financial incentive to use as many of the garbage cans as possible to recycle or compost. The law and the dollar bill, or could we say the stick and the carrot.
Garbage is a resource
Waste is thus seen as a resource and the compost produced is mainly used for local agricultural purposes. Not to mention the jobs created by this waste management: 10 times the number of jobs in comparison to landfill and incineration! So, it is a real source of ecological jobs that are available to us, all over the world, as every country has this issue of waste to deal with.
A successful outcome to the energy transition is achievable. If we can reduce and eliminate the waste of energy; recycle our waste and diversify our sources of green energy, this whole scenario is feasible. If we consider the facts, it’s obvious that this would create a new economic model that is usually more localised. So should we rethink the model?
Note: for the individual, simple and inexpensive solutions are available to reduce energy consumption and also to reduce water consumption.
Part 3: An economy for the future
How to create wealth and jobs without the need for endless growth and or to destroy the planet?
In the words of Pierre Rabhi, a philosophical farmer; “rediscover the power of moderation; self-sufficiency and intelligence.” There is no need to become more and more wealthy; and increase the number of possessions that you have. Our happiness is not based on how many possessions we have, on the contrary we become slaves to them.
Today’s economy is ruled by money and its only real interest is the amount of profit at the expense of people and ecosystems.
Emmanuel Druon, president of Pochéco, a business that manufactures envelopes, has re-designed the company’s economic model and used this method for 20 years. The methods that he uses are easy and effective:
- We have to cease to give the shareholders the profits and reinvest them in the company;
- It is necessary to promote the sustainable economy and to respect the women and men who work every day to ensure that the business functions properly;
- We must consider our means of production, from one end of the chain to the other, in order to respect our environment and minimize our impact.
Consequently, Pochéco is made up of self-sufficient employees ready to do anything to improve the production of the factory. The salary levels throughout the company are very similar, as all company profits are reinvested. Production is thought out from the supply (ethical and eco-responsible wood suppliers) to the end of the chain with its waste and residues (treatment of waste water), as well as the comfort of the workstations. The factory has become an ecological site with a bamboo forest and green roof. What we have here is the principle of circular energy, a responsible company that respects the environment through its production. Emmanuel Druon calls it ecolonomy and the proof lies in the fact that it is more economical to produce in this way than the method they used before.
The economic model of this company is sustainable without the need to chase growth at whatever cost. However, our global economy can only work if growth exists. So how do we do it?
The economist, Bernard Lietaer, has worked for over 40 years to develop additional local currencies. For him, these currencies are the answer to chronic financial crises. The idea is to keep the national currency in each economy; which is used for global trade and by big companies; and to supplement it locally with a currency that is used in the areas where we live. Our local businesses are then energized, social links recreated because our relationship with money becomes different. We know that if we use the local currency; it stays on our territory and can only benefit our local merchants, craftsmen and workers. The local currency prevents the accumulation of money in the same hands and is interest-free. It is a currency of pure exchange, nothing else! More than 5000 local currencies are currently used around the world; and they stimulate the economy of the regions in each case.
These local currencies exist in different forms. One of the oldest is the Swiss WIR, created by business leaders in 1934 when the country was hit by a financial crisis. They were able to continue to produce, to exchange supplies or products as it allowed them to barter in WIR currency, which they had created themselves. Today, the stability of the Swiss economy is attributed to the existence of this currency.
While the WIR can only be used by companies, the city of Bristol in England has set up a local currency that is now used by all citizens. The mayor himself is paid in Bristol Pounds!
Every system needs diversity, even our economy. The creation of local currencies is much more efficient not only for the local economy but also more effective for the engagement of citizens; and it encourages respect for the environment. Why buy apples from the supermarket that come from the other side of the world when you can buy them locally from a producer you know and with a local currency? In fact, local production develops, minimizes CO2 emissions and the local producers can offer more jobs.
A redesigned economy
The economy must therefore redesign itself. Our consumer behaviours must evolve, to help local products or to share them with others. But it is not to say that just because we talk about “local” that outside links are not possible. In fact, quite the opposite is true, as long as the links are fair and respectful towards mankind and the environment.
All these initiatives are the result of citizens driven to regain control of their lives. As people around the world begin to feel more alienated by politics and feel that their opinions and desires are ignored; it seems that a review of democracy and its evolution is essential.
Part 4: Reinvention of Democracy
Unfortunately, politicians of today are influenced by the multinationals. The decisions taken are now mostly to their advantage rather than those of the citizens of that country. This has led to a major loss of peoples’ confidence the world over.
We no longer feel represented by the electoral candidates; 90% of whom come from prestigious schools or universities and have no idea the day-to-day problems we face. We have the option to go and vote once in a while and then they have all the power until the next election rolls around…
Today, with all of the information available, thanks to the internet, every citizen can be involved in collaborative democracy. A system of well-informed work groups, where everyone can contribute to the creation of a project; a solution to specific problems, in conjunction with the elected officials. Because they have also lost their power to take action; and an astute alliance between motivated citizens and local elected officials could revive the democratic system.
All of this is not just some far-fetched idea. Icelanders have done something about their displeasure with the current political situation. They have managed to secure the implementation of a collaborative process to write a new constitution.
Participatory democracy requires the commitment and engagement of everyone regardless of ideological or social barriers. This is how Cyril Dion describes the wonderful example of Kuttambakkam, in India. Because of corruption, inequalities and the caste system; the democratic system in India has never been fair in how it has developed. To challenge this problem, Elango, an untouchable, stood for and won in the Mayoral elections in his municipality and set up a system of participatory democracy where everyone takes an active part in their own life, irrespective of their caste. In 20 years, the city has re-established its success and self-sufficiency in all areas (education, cleanliness, unemployment, infrastructure, access to drinking water, housing, …).
This is how Vandana Shiva describes democracy “of the people, by the people and for the people”. And it starts locally, at the lowest level of the political ladder. Our objectives are to respect the laws of Nature and Human Rights. We therefore have a duty to act, to contribute to our daily life and to observe what our politicians do in response to the heavy economic influence of the multinationals. Decisions must always serve the interests of Man and Nature, not those of the economy.
This raises the question of how to raise and educate our citizens.
Cyril Dion, author of the book Tomorrow
Part 5: A New History of Education
Schools of today really haven’t changed that much since the end of the 19th century: to produce an efficient workforce to meet the needs of the industrial development of the time. We teach the same ideas as in the past through control and discipline. Those students who are better able to retain the facts than others are considered to be superior and assured of social success.
But the world has moved on, our children have changed with it, and their needs are no longer the same. While we have never been interested in the human qualities of everyone; it is now clear that the need to educate people on a global level is now an obligation.
In the environment that we are now know, we have the duty to teach them the basics required to help build the world of tomorrow.
Empathy, work together, awareness of our link to nature and our ecological footprint must now take the place of the things we have learned in the past. The use of approaches that respect the child and their individuality, that highlight their talents and differences, and that promote their well-being and pride in who they are. Whereas the schools of the past sought to make people the same, the schools of the future will emphasize the strength of diversity and togetherness of individuals.
Finland decided to do this many years ago. And its educational system is designed from start to finish…right from the construction of the school. From now on, any renovation or construction requires that the architecture be at the forefront of educational structure. Children need space, beautiful places that will calm and inspire them, and this is how it is done.
“Each of us has a talent. Each of us can do our part. We just have to figure out how.”
Cyril Dion, author of Tomorrow
The next principle is to make sure that the child is at the very centre of the system. Teachers adapt to the students and adjust their own approach to teach them. For example, within the same class, a teacher will apply several techniques to teach children to read. They will choose the method that seems to work best for a particular child. Each student is respected in their own way: in the same example; if they can’t all read on the same day and at the same time, it doesn’t matter. The pace is followed not only when they learn but also in their biology. Let’s talk here about the biological rhythm of our children: no classes longer than 45mins and compulsory breaks of 15mins. A bit of a surprise, isn’t it? This, however, works in harmony with the rhythm of our brain and its ability to learn.
Obviously, this approach has nothing to do with the current method used to teach in France. The relationship with the children is based on trust and communication. Good relationships between the students are encouraged, along with them to help each other learn. The teacher is not seen as a supreme authority but as someone who helps the kids to grow and develop.
Finland now has one of the most successful education systems in the world, way ahead of other European countries. It has been developed gradually over the last 40 years; without political pressure and with a lot of insight from and trust in the teachers.
So it’s obvious that it is possible to offer a standard of education, that works really well; that is different from our current system.
Part 6: Let’s get started
Now that we understand the ins and outs and that so many examples of change are there for us to see…all we have to do is act.
We have 20 years to sort it out! Together, we need to recreate an ecosystem where everyone counts and is inter-dependent on each other for the whole system to work.
We don’t need everyone to do it, initially, a few people would be enough. The silent revolution has existed for a while now, all over the world. It’s our turn to participate.
Conclusion of “Tomorrow”:
Today, our involvement is imperative. Not just an involvement, but a global and substantial involvement that will allow us to recreate a viable eco-system. We already have a variety of solutions for the problems that exist. Obviously, not everything looks great nor is it all positive, but if we do nothing it will be even worse! It is up to us to regain power and take action, to do something positive about it now and to enjoy the fruits of our efforts in the future.
All these examples, referred to in Tomorrow, can be achieved right where we live, in our own communities. There is a wonderful future ahead of us. But we must decide what we want to do about it now.
Tomorrow is a well-constructed book that addresses the five main pillars of our society: food, energy transition, economy, democracy and education. In each field, we can understand how we got to this point and what solutions have been put in place. The vast majority of the examples cited start with citizen actions; from groups of anonymous people motivated by a desire for change and action. And the results are clear!
Obviously on a small scale, but it’s easy to imagine how widespread it could be if, in every part of the world; we decided to regain control over our lives. Because that is what it is all about, to regain control of our lives. Not to wait for the State to offer us a solution on the pretext that at our level we have no power to do anything about it. Well yes, we have the capacity to influence our lives without the need to be revolutionaries.
Tomorrow – A new world on the move – is the opportunity for a brighter tomorrow; respect for the environment and healthy lives; and to create connections between people so that we can take charge of our future…
Of course, nothing is always that simple and Tomorrow only describes the positive sides of each project. But what project is easy to accomplish once you decide to redefine how you do things? Should this discourage? No, because these projects have worked for many years and the important thing here is the result.
Personally, Tomorrow is a really positive move in the right direction. A white light at the end of the dark tunnel towards ecological disaster. Everyone, at their own level; has it in their own control to make decisions and to move in the right direction; if they are prepared to copy the examples that already exist. No need to reinvent the wheel. When I read “Tomorrow”, it was the trigger for me to start my blog “My house on the earth”; and it allows me to contribute, in my own small way, to the world of tomorrow. I am no longer ashamed that I do “so little” for my planet. I now know that small streams make big rivers and I am committed to that.
Moreover, this story highlights a new economic model that creates more jobs than the current one. And by this we mean local jobs, which will revitalize our local community and our regions.
But let’s not forget, for this Tomorrow, we must act now! This is our last chance.
- Educational focus, works for the general public;
- Always a focus on “how did we get here?” and “what can we do now?
- A book set out in main subjects, which allows you to choose your subject and not to read everything at once;
- A book geared towards the positive aspects and the solutions despite the scientific observations made in the initial pages;
- Tomorrow is a book that encourages you to do something about it, because the solutions are so simple and sensible;
- A good place to start and encourages you to discover other related works, more focused on a specific theme, such as “Power to Change” by Carl A. Fechner (energy transition) or “Power for the Future” by J.D. K. Fechner (energy transition) or Marie-Monique Robin’s “Les moissons du futur” (agriculture), not to mention all of Pierre Rabhi’s works on society today and the need to return to the basics;
- A film-documentary, with less detailed information in the interviews, enables you to tackle the 5 chapters of the book with more ease;
- A perfect opportunity for many to act and why not start a business
- We only see the positive side of each project, the difficulties involved to implement these ideas are not addressed
- Tomorrow is a complex and intense book that can be a bit difficult and leave you confused as to where to start
- If you are already very informed about environmental issues, you are unlikely to learn much about the reasons for “Why are we here?”
- The fact that you may have to fly around the world to research the subject matter of “Tomorrow” may seem counterintuitive…
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