The Gaia hypothesis puts forward the idea that the Earth can be considered as a single dynamic system made up of multiple interrelated and interdependent sub-systems. This theory, which runs counter to classical human-nature dualism and lays the foundations for deep ecology, is fertile in that it heralds a necessary revolution in our relationship with the non-human. It is in the name of this idea that certain direct actions are sometimes justified: activists themselves are “nature defending itself”.
In the face of institutional inertia and political negligence, more and more citizens are taking up the fight. In Europe, environmental activism is becoming “radicalized” in that it is beginning to resort to high-impact modes of action that go beyond the frame of the march or symbolic action. We may well be witnessing a turning point, where the much-feared but predictable frictions of the ecological and environmental transition become manifest, those that emerge from the confrontation of divergent visions of States and of lucid civil societies that refuse to accept the imposed roadmap.
The project as a whole is still in progress, and will focus on these frictions and the joint study of activists and their modes of action. Coming from a retrospective exhibition on the fifth season of action by Soulèvements de la Terre (“Earth uprisings” in English), the photographs presented here are grouped by chapter, each corresponding to a mobilization.

Sainte Soline, March 2023

A detonation every two seconds. 200 injured. Several life-threatening injuries. Life-long physical and psychological after-effects.
On March 25, 2023, the French government chose a sordid posture: defend a gaping hole at any cost, even if it means killing. As those present in Sainte Soline on that day know, the photos presented here cannot convey the outpouring of violence that befell those who would be shamelessly branded “eco-terrorists” the following day.
Paradoxically, the government’s determination to criminalize and break the bodies of activists only strengthened the movement. Soon, more than 150,000 people will be claiming to be part of the Soulèvements de la Terre movement, which the executive is now seeking to disband.

Vendine, April 2023

Less than a month after the traumatic repression in Sainte Soline, activists mobilize ouin a festive, family-friendly atmosphere against the outdated and absurd highway project linking Castres and Toulouse. Echoing the composite nature of Les Soulèvements de la Terre, which, according to the authorities themselves, has the capacity to transcend “original affiliations and divergent strategies”, a symbolic wall was built on the roadway and a spectacular race of makeshift cars aroused the passion of the crowd.

Léry, May 2023

Against the Grand Contournement Est de Rouen highway, the activists have shown great ingenuity in bringing down the Declaration of Public Utility and slowing down future construction work. They set up shelters in the trees and dug galleries to invite two protected species, the dormice and the crested newt, to re-inhabit the threatened forest; they rearmed the trees against the chainsaws by nailing nails into their bark; they trapped certain trees and marked trunks to disrupt the cutting. The next day, a ZADE (French acronym for Zone To Defend for Children, a children’s play area) sprang up in the Bord forest, before the nearby freeway was occupied by the activists.
The prefect quickly issued a comical statement, condemning these actions in the name of the damage done to the trees and the disturbance to public order they would cause.

Between Saint Colomban and Nantes, June 2023

The penultimate act of this action-packed season took a special form: that of a convoy of several thousand people, including tractors, bicycles and cars. Between Saint-Colomban and Nantes, the convoy stopped at symbolic locations of industrial export gardening and the construction industry, both major consumers of sand, to protest against the planned extension of a sand quarry, the environmental impacts (soil artificialization, greenhouse gas emissions, intensive farming…) and land grabbing that go with it.
The reactionary media jumped on the images of lily of the valley and lettuce plants being uprooted, or of an experimental greenhouse being torn up, to disqualify the validity of these actions and propagate a discourse that was as sensationalist as it was wobbly.

Maurienne valley, June 2023

In the Maurienne valley, the authorities did their utmost to scupper the mobilization: the demonstration was banned, a no-traffic zone forced organizers to move the camp and prevented any gestures of occupation and disarmament of the construction sites, Italian buses were blocked at the border… Finally, a procession set off on a road before being quickly stopped by the forces of law and order. For almost 2 hours, the demonstrators were immobilized on the asphalt, while elected officials tried in vain to negotiate with the authorities. Impatience mounted until a few clashes broke out. Definitely blocked, some activists spontaneously decided to invade the roadway of the nearby freeway: they are quickly pushed back by the police, who do not hesitate to shoot directly at people crossing the river, knee-deep in the strong current. On the way back, a collective bath allows to get rid of as much as possible of the frustration accumulated during this day.