"We have no other choice but to share", estimates Camille Etienne

"We have no other choice but to share", estimates Camille Etienne

Violet Field inPlanetDec 27, 2020 12 min read0 views

The young activist for social and climate justice looks back on her commitment at the end of a year marked by many actions with strong political and media repercussions

Camille Etienne. - Alexandra Fleurantin
  • At 22, Camille Etienne. is a rising figure in activism for social and climate justice: “our generation has understood that it is an entire society that it is a question of making happen and that this is our whole relationship. domination in the world - of humans over nature, of men over women, the richest over the poorest, majorities over minorities - that we must succeed in shaking up ", explains the one who assures us" that 'she is not fighting at all for future generations, nor for a tomorrow "" but against what is happening today ".
  • A spokesperson for the collective “On est Prêt” which produces popular science videos, she also created the artistic duo “Pensée Sauvage” which produced the video Réveillons Nous which recorded millions of views after the first confinement.
  • She returns for 20 Minutes on a year of whirlwind activism which propelled her among the "50 Frenchwomen who made 2020" according to the magazine Vanity Fair


The energy that strikes at first sight. In mid-December, we meet Camille Etienne. blue coat and sparkling eyes, around a Ground control table, this cultural place in the 12th arrondissement of Paris, deserted and half plunged into darkness due to the health crisis. The 22-year-old activist, spokesperson for the collective “On est Prêt”, is to record a TV program there. A few days earlier, she had hosted round tables for the Les Arcs Film Festival. An overloaded schedule like the last few months which have seen her emerge as one of the "50 Frenchwomen who made 2020" according to Vanity Fair. Taking advantage of a gap before his Master 2 at Sciences Po Paris, the Savoyarde, is everywhere: the video “Réveillons nous” by his artistic duo Pensée Sauvage has accumulated more than 15 million views since it was put online in March. Heckled at the Medef Summer University created a buzz and his militant actions against the CAP enabled him to meet European leaders or to exchange views on Twitter with members of the government. She returns for 20 Minutes to this swirling year where climate activism and social justice mingle with artistic expression.

What has your daily life been like since the start of the pandemic?

I was already an activist before the pandemic but everything accelerated with the success of the video I shot with my best friend with whom I was confined. Then after the Medef episode, I started to get more media attention. Since then, I share my time between a third party learning (reading reports, discussing with experts ...), a third party lobbying the general public by publishing videos popularizing science or speaking in the media, conferences, and a third party direct lobbying, less visible, coordination with NGOs, with actors and major decision-makers. It's a job we do especially at the European level with Adelaide Charlier, Anuna De Wever, Greta [Thunberg], and Luisa [Neubauer]

You often evoke the role of these young women by your side: is ecological activism joining a feminist struggle?

Yes, there is not just one way to be an activist in the field, but it is true that among the young people in the media who do direct lobbying, there are a lot of girls. We have in common that we are privileged women - we can miss school because we have access to school and we have a brain space available to address these issues because we do not have to do five jobs alongside to pay for our studies - and suddenly with this privilege comes this responsibility. But our generation has also understood that it is a question of bringing about an entire society and that it is our entire relationship of domination to the world - of humans over nature, of men over women. , the richest over the poorest, majorities over minorities - which we must manage to shake up. We have clearly understood the link between all these causes and this is why the convergence of struggles is back in fashion.


Are you not afraid that the environmental cause is now taking a back seat behind health and economic concerns?

Not at all. It is true that the pandemic served as a pretext to delay certain measures proposed by the citizens' convention for the climate, in particular. But people have come to realize that in our globalized system, we can experience the consequences of disasters much faster than we thought. If we had been told a year ago that we were all going to wear masks and be confined, no one would have believed it. Now it seems less like an episode of Black Mirror and we activists are less taken for fools. The second thing we saw was the response capacity of governments: in 24 hours, we had planes pinned to the ground, companies were prohibited from selling… When a threat weighs on us, it is, therefore, possible to make decisions. I hope that in the face of the even greater threat of global warming, people will no longer accept the excuse of saying: "It's too complicated, it's a big machine, we can't stop it ”, they will understand that these are political choices and the will and that their expectations will be a little stronger.

The subsidies paid to the aviation and automotive sectors or the rush in stores when they reopen do not make you doubt this awareness?

It could have been the opportunity, as Edgar Morin said, "to find this community of destiny" and to say to what extent we are linked, even if we are in a hyper individualist society. We have power when we do things: when I do not wear a mask, I have an impact on the life of the other who is more fragile. And in the same way, the fact that I do not eat meat will have an impact on the people at the end of the world who are living the consequences of global warming and who are also the most precarious. Maybe I'm optimistic, but I think we are realizing a little more of this, and the level of revolt has risen. We see it in all social struggles, there is a generalized fed up.

Emmanuel Macron announced a referendum to include the fight for the climate in the Constitution. Is this a real step forward?

It is really the tree that hides the forest. We have to be able as activists to recognize when there are good things. And without this citizens' convention, there would never have been such a strong measure, so it's important. The problem is that he was committed to passing without filter the proposals of the citizens. And here, this is absolutely not the case: it is reviewing all the measures (the ban on advertising on polluting products has been completely put under the carpet, as has the reduction in VAT on the trains). Politics, like the economy, is based on trust and there, as president, if he does not keep his word, it is extremely dangerous so close to the presidential election.

You have just hosted debates with filmmakers, musicians, and authors at the Les Arcs film festival. For you, art and activism are inseparable?

Instead of showing only what we must flee, we must be able to show what we must go towards, this famous world of tomorrow. For me artists, storytellers have this ability. They also have the ability to make our dream, to make things beautiful, to show living things in a world that is collapsing and dying. Only the artists and activists are cracked enough to continue to believe in it again!

My collective Pensée Sauvage has just received support from the CNC Talents for five short films that try to raise awareness on subjects such as melting ice. With dance, cinema, fiction to get down from head to heart and make sure that we can act through art.

In your video, you urged young people not to leave their future in the hands of a “handful of boomers”. Are you afraid that a generational divide is widening around the preservation of the environment?

They wanted a lot to lock me in this clash of generations, but in my opinion, each generation must face the challenge of its time. We are not going to compete with who has had the most rotten life. I know that there are many elderly people who are also mobilizing themselves, but still, it is that the crisis facing our generation is existential, because for us it is the very possibility of having a future that is uncertain. We need their experience and wisdom to help us, not to hear ourselves say "make do with what we have left you"

Do you feel eco-anxiety on a daily basis or does good action help you?

A bit of both. All the extremely mobilized girls that I meet are very sensitive. And even if we must seem hyper “badass”, strong and stoic in front of great decision-makers, in reality, we are hearts of artichoke. But it's because we have this very great sensitivity to the world that we are able to take it very seriously and even sometimes forget ourselves in this struggle. Now I think that hope is in action and the fact of devoting my life and my energy - because I have this privilege of course - allows me to tell myself that in any case, I will not have any regrets. If I die in a year I won't change anything in my daily life. And I will be proud to tell myself that I started on the side of those who fought.

What is your view on certain ecological trends such as "collapsology" which considers that the disaster is irremediable?

I don't think we will experience a single collapse: in 2050; there won't be a goblin who tells us "sorry mankind is dead" or "great, you made it". We are experiencing the sixth mass extinction, there are people dying from air pollution, there are already climate migrants. So it's worth fighting against what's going on today and we'll see what it is tomorrow. Survivalists take a very individualistic approach and reproduce the problem of our society today, which is to think only of yourself. On the contrary, I think that the value of sharing will have to come out of its disuse. We have a certain number of limited resources that we wanted to consume in an unlimited way. This means that we have stolen it from others and that by exceeding the planetary limits, we will pay for it. We have no other choice today than to share.

Do you still have hope?

Yes, because the world of tomorrow is what we make of it today. The scientists' graphs show us projections. But what we decide to do is up to us. It is possible to reverse the story extremely quickly. It is possible to bring down the Berlin Wall in a day. We just need to really wake up and get active. It is possible if we decide to do it massively and radically

Individual commitment will not be enough?

No, a study by Carbone 4 explains that even if all French people became 100% green, we would only reduce our gas emissions by 25%. Becoming aware, deciding to act, giving up a lot of things takes time.I work on it of course, because if it is chosen it is much easier and more pleasant than if it is suffered, but there is no time. Radical decisions will have to be driven and we have no other choice but to push for a collective movement.

After your studies, what professional future do you see?

Today, I earn my living by giving lectures, courses, videos, I write a book, but for me, activism should not be a profession, it should be a relationship to the world within everyone's reach. In my absolute dream, I would like to be an actress to do theater. People often ask me if I want to be in politics, but I don't feel the shoulders: to represent someone taller than you, you have to have experienced a few things before. My generation does not necessarily recognize itself in the politics that takes place in the hemicycle, but I will undoubtedly get to it at some point anyway. I will always keep moving to make the world better, it's a necessity and not a choice so until I burn out or the world gets better I won't stop

What does the Christmas of an environmental activist look like?

I am in a family where they all serve in the army and there are hunters, so we have interesting debates (laughs)! But I'm lucky it's very open, so I can have my faux gras alongside the foie gras. And on the gift side, we do Secret Santa where everyone picks the name of the person to whom they should give a gift. So we don't have a mountain of stuff. I don't wrap them in the paper but in fabric and I love giving books, but also experiences, moments. Offering tickets to concerts or restaurants is a good way to support them when they reopen.