For a carbon-free society, all-digital is not the answer

Matthew Yoon. © Enzo Dubesset / Reporterre
The neo-peasant Mathieu Yon is now a columnist for Reporterre. He will regularly tell you about the joys and setbacks of his installation in the Drôme as a short-circuit organic market gardener.

The world is today engulfed in a transition from carbon technologies to silicon technologies. But reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and our carbon emissions CO2 by the intensive use of artificial intelligence, nanotechnology and semiconductors raises many questions.

Carbon is a chemical element, the cycle of which is essential for life on earth. It is its ultra-intensive and industrial use that is the cause of the problem we are going through. We are still unaware of the ecological consequences of an ultra-intensive and industrial use of silicon as a chemical element, but we are beginning to measure the social and cultural consequences. Let’s try to explore this metamorphosis of our uses and our relationship to the world produced by this technological transition.

Let’s take an example. I am an organic market gardener on small areas, in a non-tillage approach, and I sell my production in a short circuit. Until then, I tick all the boxes of the farmer in agroecological transition. Except that… in order not to work the soil, I use plastic sheets that I lay directly on a quackgrass meadow, and in which I transplant seedlings of fruit and leaf vegetables (tomatoes, aubergines, courgettes, squash, chard, fennel, cabbage).

This method, made possible by carbon technology, has profoundly changed my way of working. By alternating covered and transplanted crops with non-covered and sown crops (carrots, radishes, turnips, arugula, etc.), the time spent weeding has become anecdotal for all vegetable crops. Because the combination of concealment and no tillage considerably reduces weed emergence.

In order not to work the soil, I use plastic sheets. » Piqsels/CC0

However, I could be accused of disfiguring the landscape with plastic, of supporting agribusiness, or of being responsible for the pollution of the oceans stuffed with microplastics. I would then be offered to use natural mulches and mobile applications, helping me to better organize my working time.

This scenario clearly shows what the meaning of today’s transition » : a new social and cultural normativity that does not take into account the complexity of uses. Faced with this new normativity, farmers are unfortunately pushed into the field of justification, which can go as far as a cultural or identity withdrawal, as on the subject of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers.

A technocratic transition

How did we get there ? The generic term of ecological transition », which refers to this process of exiting carbon technologies, does not say anything about where we are going. And he ignores the profound transformations of our relationship to the world and our uses, induced by silicon technologies (smartphones, smart citieselectric cars, autonomous vehicles, digital applications, etc.).

Let’s take another example. I am a farmer in the Drôme, and I have seen the concept of rewilding » or of free evolution ». This new concept makes the widely shared observation of a collapse of biodiversity, and proposes to respond to it by acquiring territories, in order to extract certain human activities.

Read also: No more countryside or farmer: welcome to a high-tech farm

The philosopher Baptiste Morizot writes about these new territories in free evolution, that everyone can therefore enter here, leaving their tools and weapons at the door ». But what tools and what weapons are these ? It is not about digital tools, which can enter these spaces to communicate and inform continuously. These are peasant tools and hunting weapons. And residents living there. On this subject, it is necessary to recall a fact. There is a common history between hunting and the peasantry. And in the countryside, it is still common for peasants to practice hunting. Through this concept of free evolution, we are witnessing a change in the uses and practices of the rural world.

If we move from a carbon society to a silicon society, we will have to seriously ask ourselves the question of what we are leaving and where we are heading. Otherwise, we will probably see the development of a normative and technocratic transition, which will have a behavioral and off-the-ground ecology as a domestic variation, which will no longer leave any room for the improvisation of our lifestyles off the beaten track.

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For a carbon-free society, all-digital is not the answer

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