This article – originally in French – was published in the french magazine L’Expansion dated april 2002 ;
The magazine had asked to a couple people – including your humble servant – some “simple and realistic” suggestions for the president-to-come (It was asked to be short !)
NB : ENA is a university like institution aimed at training future policymakers, particularly future politicians and high civil servants. Its equivalent in the US would probably be the law schools of the higher WASP universities of the East Coast.
Environmental problems, unfortunately, will be part of the “emergencies” of the begining century. Even though, once a couple of passionate speeches have been made here and there, one cannot but acknowledge that, when it comes to action, preserving stable environmental conditions is often a secondary goal in front of many consumption-related objectives, and such a way to proceed is equally valid for business leaders, policymakers, or each of us taken as a consumer.
If the well informed choice, that means accepting explicitely present nuisances and future risks in exchange of given benefits explicitely wished otherwise, is legitimate by nature in a democracy, can the ignorance of the impact of our activities on the environment still be considered as an acceptable criterion of choice ? In particular, isn’t the total absence of environmental studies at ENA (and in many other higher education institutions) a direct invitation, for our future elite, not to bother the least about the fact that we live in a world governed by the laws of physics and chemistry before it is governed by the “laws of economics” ?
It would not be ruinous for the taxpayer, still, to set up some training that would allow those that will be in charge of runing the collective patrimony to understand that any of our decisions (economics, regulation, taxes, and even social are concerned) has a direct or indirect impact on the physical world, so that these people do not begin their career considering that environment problems are purely technical, can be disjoined from the rest, and that “all we have to do” to get to a solution is to put some competent expert in charge.