Sustainability: Also a spiritual and philosophical revolution?
Updated: Jun 17
An impact session entitled “How can we maximise our individual and collective impact to accelerate the ecological and social transition?” was held this Tuesday in our offices. Our team had the chance to explore Marc Lemaire’s philosophical approach for sustainability.
Marc Lemaire is a commercial engineer and agro-economist who co-founded and managed 3 companies active in sustainable economy. He was also the advisor of 3 regional and federal Ministers for Climate, Energy, and the Environment. Few years ago, he was so close to burning out when a life changing shamanic ceremony radically affected his spiritual life. Daily spiritual practices like mindfulness and meditation made him see the nature from a new perspective. Today, he’s focused on establishing new sustainable economic models based on eco-centred spiritualities.
The weak and strong sustainability diagram constitutes the first step to understand Marc’s point of view. Weak sustainability in which sustainability occurs as the intersection between the economy, society, and environment, as if these elements are interchangeable, is a misconception that has been circulated for years. In strong sustainability, the environment appears as the big entity that includes the others to show the complementary relation between these elements. In other words, the economy and people would not have existed without mother nature.
In fact, Marc adopts the conclusion of Tim Jackson, a British ecological economist and professor of sustainable development, who, 13 years ago, mentioned in his book “Prosperity without Growth” the impossibility of achieving the sustainable goals of limiting the temperature increase to 1.5°C with the current global macro economic system. The same conclusion was also reached by the Japanese economist Yoichi Kaya and his famous Kaya equation that proves that the CO2 emissions are driven by 4 fundamental factors: population, GDP per capita, energy intensity and carbon intensity. With a continuously growing population and production, this equation shows that emissions will continue to increase unless the energy intensity and/or carbon intensity are reduced. It is true that it is necessary to reduce our production and consumption to reduce emissions and thus keep the global temperature as low as possible. Proof to those conclusions is the rise in temperature we are witnessing today in India and other countries around the world.
Saying that, we all question ourselves: but what can we do? Lemaire found the answer to reach the sustainable goals in the smallest aspects of life and he summarized it in three words: through a feminine, conscious, and animist economy. A well-defined explanation is found in his book “L’économie a-t-elle une âme?” (Does the economy have a soul?).
In brief, the first steps towards respecting the planetary boundaries are to slow down the pace of our lives, get rid of toxic relationships, stop carrying the weight of life’s problems, find our purpose and finally connect more with nature and make the balance between our Yin and Yang energies.
Spiritual beliefs can be divided into 3 big parts: Anthropocentrism, biocentrism and ecocentrism. The first is a human-centered approach that believes in human beings as superior to all other organisms. The second focuses on all the living components of nature and sees them as sacred elements. And the third believes in the whole ecosystem as a divine element. As all three beliefs come down to the relationship of humankind with nature, Marc Lemaire is strongly convinced that our beliefs and perceptions hold the answer to our future.
Is climate change ever going to stop? Are we capable of achieving the Paris Agreement’s goals? Are we capable of changing the economy that is preventing us from reaching the sustainable development goals? Well, not before we shift our spiritual approach towards an eco/bio centric one and start considering both living components and non-living components equally important. The current anthropocentric economic model that places human beings on top of the hierarchy has failed to preserve the planet, thus the whole system must be changed.
“Planet(ar)ism” is the word Marc Lemaire came up with to describe his thinking about a new economic model based on animism. “The resources and means of production come from the planet and belong to the planet, and not to the companies” Marc said. He proposes a list of practical solutions for companies to translate this philosophy within their departments. He calls employees, no matter their positions, to believe that their mission at work is to take care of the clients and nature equally instead of focusing on profits. He also encourages to see money as a circulating energy instead of a target, to discuss happiness at work and to collaborate with competitors instead of competing. The cherry on the top is his suggestion to hire a person to represent the company’s living (nonhuman) components and give the nature a voice in the corporate.
A whole new spirituality on the individual and collective levels are proposed by Marc Lemaire to change the economy, save the Earth, and find the answer to the question: Does the economy have a soul?
 Yin and Yang is a complex concept in Ancient Chinese philosophy. It represents opposite forces that are at the same time complementary in the natural world. Yin represents darkness, femininity, passivity, and the earth while yang represents light, masculinity, activity, and the heavens.