Social commitment: some reasons for hope despite everything

Social commitment: some reasons for hope despite everything

This text is part of the special section Les prix de l’Acfas

Eco-eager from the start, Claude Villeneuve has made his fears the driving force behind his environmental vision for more than 50 years. Receiving the Acfas Pierre-Dansereau prize for social commitment has a very personal meaning for him: the great environmentalist was his teacher, his mentor and his friend.

Claude Villeneuve recalls his conversations with the scientist Pierre Dansereau, whom he met in the early 1980s and whom he later invited, at the dawn of the year 2000, to meet his first ecoconsulting students at the University of Quebec at Chicoutimi (UQAC). ). . Accompanied by his brother, the filmmaker Fernand Dansereau, he came to present a documentary about his journey, Some reasons to hopea title that could encompass the investigations and moods of Claude Villeneuve.

The one who was also a student of Dr Hans Selye, key figure in the field of stress studies and accomplice of the famous and late animation director Frédéric Back (The man who planted trees., The river of great waters) not only alarms his contemporaries about the accelerating degradation of the planet. This biologist by training and professor in the Department of Basic Sciences at UQAC has prepared and continues to prepare generations of students to continue his tireless work in favor of sustainable development.

“In elementary school, we were taught that we had to go down to the basement or hide under desks in case of an atomic alert, recalls Claude Villeneuve, with a smile. As a teenager, I was already outraged by the way people treated the environment, but I wasn’t the only one. Indeed, in the early 1970s, in the wake of the work of the Club of Rome created in 1968, the publication of one of the founding essays on ecological thoughtsilent spring (1962), Rachel Carson, and the establishment of Earth Day in 1970, the former director of the European Institute for Environmental Consulting in Strasbourg (1993-1994) already felt the dawn of a new era.

Today closely associated with sustainable development and the importance of understanding the dynamics of forests to turn them into invaluable assets in the face of climate change, Claude Villeneuve quickly stood out for the relevance of his warning signs. From the first attempt of him, Sick human animals? (1983), attracted international attention. He was contacted by UNESCO to design the first university course on sustainable development, inspired by the work of Maurice Strong and Francesco di Castri, and was resumed in 1987 with the famous Brundtland report, written by the World Commission on Environment and Development. of the United Nations.

measuring sustainability

The professor still remembers an apparently banal question from one of his first students, in 1988, which would revolutionize the rest of his work. “He asked me: how do you measure if something is sustainable? I replied that I didn’t know… but that we had to work on it! Claude Villeneuve quickly got to work, developing United Nations-recognized test grids, training several cohorts of eco-advisors capable of instilling best practices in all settings, and also creating Carbone boréale.

When it was created in 2001, this chair for research and intervention in eco-advice and research infrastructures seemed like “a crazy idea”, according to Claude Villeneuve. “Since then, we have planted 1,700,000 trees and are posting hopeful things about using the boreal forest to address climate change. »

Also, whoever wrote It’s too late? Climate change update Do you have as much hope as your mentor? “In this book published in 2012, my forecasts for the years 2020-22 are correct and show that we are exactly on the wrong track… Pierre Dansereau said: “Our bankruptcies are those of the imagination”. Human beings have lived for millions of years in a biological system without disturbing it much. The key to sustainable development is to figure out how you will live there without destroying it. We have the ability to project ourselves into the future, to consider alternatives. »

And as if to end on an optimistic note, Claude Villeneuve specifies: “So far, the pessimist is right, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be right until the end. »

This special content was produced by the Special Publications team of the To have torelated to marketing. the writing of To have to did not take part.

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