It is time to take back control, not by ourselves but by working together

Carte blanche to Hervé Maillot



Hervé Maillot

Publication date

September 15, 2022

As part of the launch of the ‘Route des POTEs’ project, supported by the POTEs network (Pionniers Ordinaires de la Transition Ecologique — Ordinary Pioneers of Ecological Transition) with our home region of Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, and in partnership with the ADEME (the French Environment and Energy Management Agency), we decided to give one of the members of the network free rein.

Hervé Maillot, a long-time supporter of Energy Cities, encourages us to take a step back and take a wider view, extending beyond the current energy situation, which is so full of frenzy, panic, tension and frustration. He also reinvents and tests new ways of organising work in the education sector on a daily basis. He has been involved in local development in a number of ways, from micro-farms to local currency. He is also the co-author of our 30 proposals for the energy transition.

We asked him how he felt about today’s main issue, one which is likely to guide our decisions in the years to come. His response was similar to the new initiative launched by the pioneers from the other side of the Channel with Rob Hopkins, One street at a time. And we are on board!

It is time to take back control, not by ourselves but by working together

When thinking, acting and interacting in a public, physical, political and democratic arena, there are two ways of doing things: ‘acting with’ or ‘acting without’. Acting ‘without’ means acting ‘against’, through conflict, acting ‘alone’, through seclusion, or acting ‘for’, through power.

These approaches can lead an area can struggle, to be surrounded with borders, to become an area of exclusion that limits relational and mental freedom, or to be a catchment area, first sought after, then conquered, then controlled.

If you want to ‘act against’, ‘act alone’ or ‘act for’ while working with others, you need to be similar, and you need to think the same way. And it’s not a question of for better or for worse. In all three cases, a great part of the diversity of the population is fought against, excluded or ignored, and many other people, with their energy, imagination and aspirations, are considered negative, inferior or even irrelevant. And a great deal of uniqueness, a whole range of possibilities, and, in short, a whole spectrum of organic life, is undermined and wasted.

So it’s high time we start acting ‘with’… With our next-door neighbours and our local community, as they come and as they are.

But it’s not always that simple. You don’t choose your family and very few people choose their neighbours. And the time we spend on virtual friendships on social media has greatly reduced the time we spend connecting with those around us, with our local community. We also spend less time understanding, especially considering that we are supposed to be a highly civilised society.

Now is the time to take back control. Together, within our immediate physical and social environments.

Regain control of our future. Go back to playing our own individual part, wherever possible, as part of a collective movement.

Seize the reins just like grabbing a tool. Reawaken our passion and respond to the primordial need to design, produce, improve, preserve, enhance and repair; with a sense of joy in our actions and an inspiring economy of resources. We must stop living like the multitude of isolated recluses that the outsourcing mentality and the domination of the customer-supplier relationship have turned us into.

We need to work together, with our neighbours. To renew relationships between people who share the same living spaces, the same neighbourhood, the same daily realities and who, as we so often forget, share the same common fate. To re-establish interdependence as a principle of life and a guarantee of survival. To establish a culture of cooperation and mutual support. Regardless of where we come from or where we are going. Work together with humility.

Local authorities, although often pioneers, cannot achieve the transition alone, with an ‘acting for’ logic. They can and must rely on the immense diversity of their population. They can and must encourage and motivate people to act, give them the necessary tools and support to succeed. Put them in a position to transform homes, neighbourhoods and even entire cities. They can and must involve local residents, economic players and organisations much more closely, and coordinate everything with a shared set of ethics.

We need to act together now, act ‘with’, while there is still time. But is it enough to shift from territorial governance to territorial unity?