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A call out to change direction (the viral graduation speech at AgroParisTech)

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By The AgroParisTech graduates

· 6 min read

Illuminem is proud to be the first international media to publish the graduation speech delivered few weeks ago by a group of students at AgroParisTech (one of France's best Universities, ranked by QS as the 4th best agronomy school in the world). The speech, calling for desertion, has sparked a fierce debate in France and was commented on the pages of most francophone newspapers. The video of the speech also gained millions of online views. We reproduce here the text of the speech in its entirety.

The graduates of class 2022 are reunited today for the last time after three or four years at AgroParisTech.

Many of us do not want to pretend to be proud and deserving of obtaining this diploma at the end of an education which in its whole pushed us to participate in the ongoing social and ecological devastation,

We don't see ourselves as the "Talents of a Sustainable Planet".

We do not see ecological and social devastation as "issues" or "challenges" to which we should find "solutions" as engineers.

We do not believe that we need "all types of agricultures".

Rather, we see that the agribusiness is waging a war on the living world and against farmers everywhere on Earth.

We do not see science and technology as neutral and apolitical.

We believe that technological innovation or start-ups will save nothing but capitalism. We do not believe in sustainable development or green growth, nor in the "ecological transition", an expression that implies that society can become sustainable without getting rid of the dominant social order.

AgroParisTech educates hundreds of students every year to work for the industry in various ways:

  • Tampering with plants in laboratories for multinationals which are increasingly enslaving farmers
  • Designing prepared meals and chemotherapy to then treat those who fall ill as a result
  • Invent "good conscience" labels to allow executives to believe themselves heroic by eating better than others
  • Developing so-called “green” energy which make it possible to accelerate the digitization of society while polluting and exploiting the other side of the world
  • Producing reports on CSR [Corporate Social Responsibility] that are as long and preposterous as the crimes they conceal are scandalous,
  • Or counting frogs and butterflies so that those who pour concrete can make them disappear legally

In our eyes, these jobs are destructive and to choose them is to do harm by serving the interests of a few.

If during our studies at AgroParisTech these opportunities were showcased to us, we have never been told about graduates who consider that these professions are more part of the problems than the solutions and who chose to desert.

We speak to those who doubt,

To you who have accepted a job because “it’s important to have a first experience",

To you whose close ones work to perpetuate the capitalist system,

And who feel the weight of their gaze on your professional choices,

To you who, seated behind a desk, gaze out the window dreaming of space and freedom,

You who escape by train every weekend, in search of well-being never found,

To you who feel a rising discomfort without being able to name it,

Who often find this world to be crazy,

Who want to do something but don't know what,

Or who hope to change things from the inside but have already ceased to believe in it.

We doubted, and sometimes we still doubt. But we decided to look for other ways, to refuse to serve this system and to build our own paths.

How did it start?

We met people who are resisting and followed them to their battlefields. They made us see the other side of the projects that we might have carried out as engineers.

I think of Cristiana and Emmanuel, who see the concrete suffocating their land taken over by the Saclay project, or of this dried up hole, a pathetic compensation for a pond full of newts, and of Nico, who sees from his high-rise the working-class gardens of his childhood razed for the construction of an eco-district.

Here and there, we have met people who are experimenting with other ways of living, who reclaim the knowledge and know-how to no longer depend on the monopoly of polluting industries.

People who understand how to live on their land without exhausting it, Who actively fight harmful projects.

Who practice a people's first, decolonial and feminist ecology on a daily basis, Who find the time to live well and take care of each other.

All these encounters have inspired us to imagine our own paths:

I am creating a beekeeping center in the Dauphiné region.

I have been living for two years at the ZAD (‘zone to be defended’) of Notre Dame des Landes where I do collective and subsistence farming, among other things.

I joined the Uprisings of the Earth movement ["Soulèvements de la terre" in French] to fight against the appropriation and 'concretisation' of agricultural land across France.

I live in the mountains where I do seasonal labour and have started drawing.

We are moving to a collective in the Tarn [a French region], in a ‘Terres de Liens’ farm, with 4 other gardeners, a grain farmer and 3 brewers.

I am campaigning against nuclear power.

I am training today to be able to work with my hands tomorrow.

We are convinced that these ways of living will make us happier, stronger, and more fulfilled.

We want to be able to look at ourselves in the mirror tomorrow and to return the gaze of our children.

Are you afraid to make a sideways step because it wouldn't look good on your resumé? To distance yourself from your family and your network?

To deprive yourself of the recognition that a career as an agricultural engineer would bring you?

But what life do we want?

A cynical boss, a salary that allows you to take frequent fights, a 30-year mortgage for a suburban house, just 5 weeks a year to take a breather in a quirky vacation rental, an electric SUV, a Fairphone and a Biocoop loyalty card?

And then... a burn-out at forty?

Let's not waste our time!

And above all, let's not give up this energy that is brewing somewhere inside us! Let's desert before we're stuck with financial obligations!

Let's not wait for our kids to ask us for money to go shopping in the metaverse, because we didn’t have time to help them dream of something else.

Let's not wait to be incapable of anything other than a pseudo-reconversion in the same job, just repainted in green.

Let's not wait for the 12th report of the IPCC which will demonstrate that States and multinationals have only ever made the problems worse and which will place its last hopes in peoples’ revolts.

You can change direction now.

Start training as a farmer-baker,

Live for a few months on organic farms,

Participate in a construction site in a ZAD or elsewhere,

Join a weekend of struggle with the Earth Uprisings,

Get involved in a participatory bike workshop.

It can start like this.

It's up to you to fnd your own ways to change course.

Future Thought Leaders is a democratic space presenting the thoughts and opinions of rising Energy & Sustainability writers, their opinions do not necessarily represent those of illuminem.

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About the author

Eight young graduated engineers made a call to action for their fellow AgroParisTech class 2022 in order to leave behind the awards and graduation ceremony on the 30th of April 2022 in Paris.

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