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Interview: Sophie Magon

Sophie Magon is a member of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) initiative in France. There these projects aiming at preserving small scale organic peasant farms are called Amap. This is a growing french movement with hundreds of such projects already thriving. It´s an inspiration for people working for food sovereignty and new ways of growing and distributing food which can feed everybody well while preserving the planetary ecosystem.

ELEVATE: Creative Response is the main topic of the Elevate Festival in 2015. What role does creativity play in your line of work and the context you are active in?

I think creativity is very important because it is a source of pleasure! Pleasure comes from the thing you imagine, and then create, and when you do it in a group it is even better. Wouah we’ve done it! I think I am not happier than when I am doing something new, something original, something I never dared to make before. I can be organizing an event, a party, a new original dinner. It can be a new way of travelling. For example, this summer with my son, we imagined to make a tour in Brittany with our bicycles and we’ve done it, and it was a bit difficult but we were so proud! For me creativity is very linked to daring. Daring to do, and daring to share, to give. I think that at the end of our life, we will remember the things we have realized and particularly those in groups. On est ce que l’on fait. We are what we do.

ELEVATE: What strategies and activities are most effective for resisting the current failings of society and for facilitating pro-active emancipatory change?

Read books, listen to the radio, find some role models. Educate yourself and then contribute to educate others. Learn to transmit!

When you read an interesting book, try to make a resumé and post it on facebook to share it with your friends and relations. Dare to share points of views that seem to be different. I must say I never did that up to now, but I want to do it, e.g. for Naomi Klein’s book [This Changes Everything] that I recently bought, I would like to make a résumé in order to be able to use her arguments when I try to convince people about the necessity of acting.

Try to look at the world with new eyes, child’s eyes or Martian’s eyes. How would a total stranger consider people in Paris, Graz, New-York, Berlin, driving alone in their car, each car behind each other, queuing for kilometers to go in the same direction, maybe at the very same place? They would probably think we are crazy or idiots! So be introspective when it comes to your own life, your own work, how could I change it to make it more sustainable?

Writing (if possible on a daily basis) is, according to me, a very good way of taking some distance with what we live, and understand who we are and be honest with oneself and try to progress. Psychonalysis is also a good exercise.

ELEVATE: Which creative actions, initiatives and movements have inspired you most and given you hope and courage?

Pierre Rabhi, with the Colibris, is still a very inspiring person. He has always been promoting frugality. He went back from the city to the land while everybody was going exactly the other way. He transmitted and continues to transmit about his knowledge in agriculture, he is not only talking, he is implementing real actions to improve things as well.

I think Dominique Loreau’s books also inspired me a lot to begin to change my life (l’art de la simplicité, l’art des listes). I have been a very good customer of the consumer society and with these books I discovered how differently I could act and that all the products I bought where more often a burden than a blessing.

The AMAP movement.

Artists who present us a reflexion on the world.

And people who suddenly decided that it was no longer possible to continue like that, like Rosa Parks who dared not to leave her place in the bus. I think this is the most significant example, how a single unknown person contributes to make things move with a courageous action. I think we are threatened by two dangers: thinking we cannot change a lot, and thinking we have no power!

ELEVATE: What do you recommend for people who want to get active themselves? Where and how can they participate in the process of change?

“Be the change that you want to see in the world.”, Gandhi said.

The first place where you can change things is your own life!

If you consider all aspects of your life with honesty, you will surely find ideas to improve it, make it more in accordance with your own ideas, sticking as much as possible to nature and to your own nature and make it lighter, brighter, easier, happier…

For example in the area of „FOOD“: you can decide to reduce junk food, dead food, and to begin to eat organic food, eat less meat, or no more meat. You can also compost your food waste in a shared garden (it is possible even in Paris!). It is known that the way you eat, i.e. the type of things you eat is one of the human actions that has the biggest impact on the environment.

Clothes: try to buy clothes from companies that respect human beings or buy 2nd hand clothes. You can write to your favorite brand, it is easy, they all have a customer service, and tell them how keen you are on their clothes, but that you want them to improve the working conditions and salaries of their employees. Maybe instead of buying three clothes, you will buy two… You can try to select clothes which are more natural, in cotton, linen and that tend to last longer and that are produced locally or at least in your country.

Day to day commute to work: you can decide to use a bicycle instead of a car, or public transport, it will be good for your budget, you will be fitter, and you will be happier, because cycling is a soft drug…You will discover your city from a different point of view, you will be happy to belong to this new elite community of cyclists!

Energy: try to use it with frugality. In winter add a pullover instead of increasing the heating.

Dare! Dare! Dare! Dare to speak, share, be different, say you disagree. I say as a mantra to me also of course, because I am not such a daring person! I am very dominated by fears!

Try to fight our human behaviour to have more and more, to consume more and more - often in comparison to someone, neighbour, father, colleague.

I think we can all improve and alleviate the very simple aspects of our lives.

If you begin to have this reflections and to actively make changes in your life, I think it is important to meet people who try to make the same changes.

You can find them in associations:
AMAP [called Gelawi or Solawi in Austria, CSA in the USA and the UK]: places where you can get organic vegetables and support a local farmer.

Association de quartier: I belong to la Commune Libre d’Aligre. It is what we call a café Associatif, a place where people come and cook for other people. There are also conferences, films, exhibitions, debates, all kinds of activities that develop the citizenship, awareness, feeling of belonging to a group with common values and ambitions. It is a very vivid place!

You can also try to travel by bicycle. In 2013 I discovered the association Altertour, which organizes tours in France and sometimes abroad. It is such an amazing thing, and it is really a clever way of travelling!

So look at your life as if you’ve discovered it for the first time, with new eyes, loving eyes but also habit changing eyes. What if I would do it differently? Life will just become even more exciting!

ELEVATE: Elevate juxtaposes diverse topics and tries to emphasize the connections and relations between them, so that the challenge of how to change the status quo becomes more clear. Where can you see relations between your work and the work of other guests of the festival? Are there any synergies, and what could future collaborations look like?

I think the urgency is to convince people, i.e. our friends, our family, our parents that they have to change some aspects of their lives. I don’t believe in the power of a state or cop 21 to change things. Changes have to come from the bottom, from the man in the street. I would like to find a very simple website where I can find arguments for changing habits.

The key question is how to communicate to a maximum of people and give them the desire to change.

Maybe a very simple way of connecting people who participate to this festival would be to publish the list of persons, with their names, mail contacts, and eventually skype contacts, and a very short sentence explaining their actions and what they are involved in and what they are willing to help for. What do you think?
If somebody is wishing to have information about how to create an Amap, I will be happy to give information.

ELEVATE: What kind of society would you like to live in? What visions of the future give you the courage to contunue your work?

Today I think lots of people admire people who are very rich, who own serveral houses, cars, clothes, have thousands of friends on Facebook…

I think there will be a time when the people we admire the most will be those who use the fewest resources of the planet, those who own very few things. Because the resources will decrease, are decreasing, and up to now the population is increasing, so we will have to do with less, and there may be a time when having thousands of things will be considered as vulgar and almost disgusting, selfish, irresponsible. If I was active in an environmental NGO I think I would try to pull this string! Less is more, too much is vulgar… It is probably difficult to accept this point of view for a very poor person/country but we people of rich countries, who have had access to this wealth, must now give an impulse towards using less at least in our countries, in order to allow poorer countries to have a bit more…

Actually it is all a question of love. Maybe it is a very idealistic point of view, but I think we have to give more room to love and spirituality in our life and less room to the material world. If our world is full of love and positive action, we will have less need for material things.

I also think that the property notion is going to evolve. Today we begin to share cars, bicycles. Maybe in the future, the property notion will evolve for something more common, less individualistic.

As far as work is concerned, I would be interested to work less, but to learn more. Ideally I would like to have my day life split in three parts: 1/3 for working, producing for society, 1/3 for learning, creative action, 1/3 for contributing to improving the world by actions with NGO and associations. That would be my ideal vision of how to use my time!

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