One of Dernière Rénovation's Coordinators Publishes Retrospective
On December 27th of last year, Guillaume L’Hostis, a former coordinator of France’s A22 project Dernière Rénovation (DR), or Last Renovation, published a retrospective online on his 18 months as a part the group and what he learned in his time with them. His post contains critical information about the emerging challenges and dynamics of an A22-style civil resistance project in the 2020s. (DR is a member of the A22 network and demands that France insulate its 5 million thermal sieves: inefficient homes difficult to heat and cool, housing 12 million people.)
Guillaume begins by introducing himself, explaining his background in software engineering and selling his first company to a Silicon Valley startup while fairly young. He describes his increasing interest in and concern over the climate crisis throughout the years, culminating in the moment when member of Last Renovation Alizé, 22-years old, tied her neck to the net of Roland-Garros' central tennis court in France in June of 2022, which became global news. That was like a revelation for Guillaume. He attended one of DR’s open meetings and joined soon after.
When reflecting on the types of resistance tactics used by Last Renovation, the author divides them into two camps: 1) rinse-and-repeat tactics and 2) media tactics, noting that trials are later used to amplify the message. Rinse and repeat tactics are repeatable ones with lower potential consequences like human roadblocks, and Media tactics are carefully planned actions with higher potential consequences but also higher potential exposure in the media, such as the Roland Garros tennis match disruption.
When describing media tactics, Guillaume’s startup background comes through. He describes DR’s theory of change when using media tactics as a sales funnel with 4 steps:
- Get people’s attention.
- Convince some to come to an open meeting.
- Convince some from #2 to join an action training day (nonviolence training).
- Have new supporters sign up to a rinse and repeat action day.
The more people in #4, the better. The author then names 7 media tactic actions which proved the above bet successful, writing: “Several of those actions generated hundreds of thousands of visits to DR’s website and translated to noticeable upticks in registrations for public meetings and action training sessions.”
The author says that DR is temporarily shutting down, as it believes it has achieved most of what can be achieved: there’s been a 1.6 Billion Euros annual increase in government spending for insulating thermal sieves in France, and there’s been a shift in public opinion around the issue.
Activists with Dernière Rénovation being arrested after blockading the Tour de France in December of 2022.
In the second part of his article, the author gives more of his own opinions and learnings from working on the project. He writes that “founders and leaders are even more challenged than in a for-profit organization.” He describes DR as similar to a business, but is obviously not-for-profit and therefore does not give its leaders the legitimacy of being a capital holder. It does provide a level of fame and potential success for its leaders, however. These dynamics can lead to a lot of distrust between leadership and membership. He writes: “Dernière Rénovation was able to overcome very strong crises in leadership trust by progressively setting democratic processes, means of free expression from members of the team, and counter-power organs with specific mandates of keeping leaders in check for potential power abuses.”
He also describes the very intense pressure-cooker that is the stress of committing illegal acts and organizing to commit more. From personal experience I can say, this type of stress and repression: the fear of being followed by plain clothes policemen, of being wiretapped and bugged, of being raided, can and does take a heavy toll on members of a civil resistance project and on the project itself. Guillaume writes: “Civil-resistance organizations must account for this reality and implement ways to take care of their members: speaking groups, mandatory resting days, security training, legal training, digital hygiene training, etc.”
In the rest of the article, Guillaume outlines 4 other key learnings from his time with DR. Please take a look here.
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