Anne-Sophie Novel is a French journalist, blogger and advocate at the convergence of different topics such as the sharing economy and sustainability, who will be active as well on the next big climate change topic in Paris, i.e. COP. The interview was conducted by Michel Bauwens.
Marie Noéline who helped with the interview is the codounfer of Nod-A. She previously developed La Cantine in Paris and is one of the main entrepreneurs we have in France on collaborative ways to change the world of organisations and firms.
* Dear Anne-Sophie, you are well-known in France as an advocate for briding the so-called sharing economy with sustainability concerns; before explaining how you see that linkage, what in your past life led to that engagement ?
I have studied economics and finance at the university, and wrote a PhD on the links between economics and terrorism. In parallel I realized that many environmental problems helped explain some economic choices and terrorist acts. I followed the questions of International Trade and Finance and specifically the civil society demands on International Trade. I begun to blog on that topics in 2006, and founded Ecoloinfo.com in 2007, a non profit project that aims to give an easier access to sustainable issues and solutions. In december 2009 I went to Copenhagen to follow the COP15 negotiations, and realized that something was happening in the way civil society was organizing itself, pushed by social networks and the new tools of communication. I begun to work on that and the topic of the collaborative society at this moment. To me, collaborative tools were a perfect way to bring people to other behaviours without spreading too much time on giving moralistic messages to them.
* Can you describe some major past and future milestones on that particular convergence ? and how do you see the link between the sharing economy, collaborative consumption, and the commons ?
I wrote a book in 2009 on localism, and the way people find solutions to have local solution to global problems. The haring economy is a way to relocalize economy and empower people with new tools to act in there day to day life. We are in the beginning of this new economy, so we still need to see if the effects are truly sustainable (economically speaking) but is gives some concrete answers to some of the theories developed by Elinor Ostrom.
* How do you assess the situation in France, and the work of movements like Ouishare ? what else is needed specifically in France ?
Ouishare did and still does a big job in bringing these issues to the attention of the the general public and political and economical spheres, but the French situation is quite different from the one we can observe in the US for instance. The sharing economy is driven in France by different factors: we have less money invested in start ups, but we have many fields of application. The media do speak a lot of this emerging economy, but are not always looking at what works best. To me, French people get use to these new ways that enable them to act with some totally free and easy to replicate solutions (Freecycle, give box, seeds exchanges, Le Bon Coin, etc.). We also have an historical context of cooperative initiatives that need to be revamped and it needs to share its experience with some newer solutions given by the collaborative economy.
* Do you see particular necessities to bring sustainability into open hardware and distributed manufacturing ? is the maker movement taking sustainability requirements sufficiently into account ?
The makers movement and open source philosophy are often quite aware of the need to go toward a sustainable economy. They are experimenting constantly and sufficiently agile to adapt to these requirements. We often forget for instance that the DIY movement exists since the 1970s and gave at this time some important input to ecological issues. Thier DNA are really close and I have no doubts on the way they can nuture each others.
* Are you active around climate change specifically ? do you have any assessment on the recent encyclical Laudate Si, does it help advance the movement and the necessary initiatives ?
Yes I do, specifically this year with the COP21 in Paris, I have lauched the Place to B initiative in order to gather media and narrative makers in a huge space in the center of Paris in order to build another story on climate issues. As a journalist and blogger I do believe we can use the digital tools and communication means we have now at our disposal to difuse the message in other ways. At Place to B we aim at gathering experts, NGOs, bloggers, media, to get to work together on new ways to talk about climate change.
The recent encyclical is really good news for us, and I have been waiting for a long time for religious obediences to position themselves on that topic. A lot of confessions and religious networks will undertake pilgrimages to come to Paris, this is the very first time for a COP. This is a enormous symbol, as the one we saw on the 21rst of July in Paris with the Summit of Consciences/Why do i care summit at the CESE.
* How do you see yourself and your engagements in say five to ten years ?
As I always did: it is a way of exploration, a perpetual process of thoughts. I got enriched by the previous researches i did; each booksor report is a way to go deeper into the main question I have in mind: how can we change our culture and society to answer the challenges we face with climate change and the erosion of biodiversity. With Place to B we also try to build something different, it is a giant experiment!