More on Charlie Hebdo's Environmental and Anti-nuclear Roots

Charlie Hebdo : A Journal Intimately Linked with the Environmental Movement

translation of:
Barnabé Binctin and Lorène Lavocat, “Charlie Hebdo : un journal intimement lié àl’écologie,” Reporterre, January 8, 2015. (see the link for cartoonists' drawings)

Born in 1970 in the fertile soil of the journal Hara Kiri, Charlie Hebdo is not only satirical, irreverent and anarchically libertarian. It was, and continues to be, one of the favored spaces that speaks for the environmental movement. The former director of information for the weekly, François Camé, said it was a view of ecology that was “joyous, utopian and inventive.”
Gébé, Reiser, Fournier, Nicolino... so many laughing figures, with their barbed pens and lacerating pencils, who lent their talents to the ecology movement. So many journalists spent time chez Charlie.

The voice of the nascent environmental movement

Ecology became a topic for Charlie Hebdo to cover in the 1960s thanks to the work of Pierre Fournier (http://www.reporterre.net/Fournier-precurseur-de-l-ecologie). He was a cartoonist and chronicler, but also a militant ecologist from the start. “He arrived with his dreams, against nuclear and for vegetarianism,” remembers Danielle Fournier, his partner. “Everyone teased him, but they listened to him. He was respected.” Cabu said then the Fournier family was a bunch of carrot munchers. Little by little, his ideas found their place in the wide open pages of Charlie Hebdo. Danielle added, “Cavanna and Choron gave him carte blanche. He did whatever he wanted.” The team managed an organic winery, one of the first, and brought cases of pesticide-free Bordeaux from Aquitaine. As the environmental cause emerged painfully in the post 1968 years, Charlie Hebdo positioned itself as the voice of the anti-nuclear struggle, the voice for solar energy and against overconsumption. Pressured by the enthusiasm of Fournier, the whole team, even the less convinced, like Wolinski, began to speak for the environment.
In 1972, the weekly launched the first political environmental journal: La Gueule Ouverte. After the death of Pierre Fournier, in 1973, Isabelle Monin, the partner of Cabu, took over the reins at this monthly.


All is going well at the uranium mine in Arlit... if Areva says so.

Charlie Hebdo then took a very active part in the fight against nuclear, a founding struggle of the environmental movement. “It’s a historical bond, a fraternal link that connects us to Charlie Hebdo,” explains Philippe Brousse, national director of the group Réseau Sortir du Nucléaire. “Thousands of people became aware because of Charlie Hebdo, and before that because of Hara Kiri.” Charlie was one of the essential actors in the mobilization against nuclear.
A significant event came at the beginning of the movement, as told in this anecdote by Danielle Fournier: “For the protest against the nuclear power plant at Bugey in 1971, Charlie Hebdo chartered buses to go from Paris. Three quarters of the protesters were readers of the journal.”
The journal followed the movement for the rest of the 20th century. The director of  Sortir du Nucléaire, formed in 1997, remembers many contributions by Charb, who graciously allowed his drawings to be published in the group’s publications. “They were voluntary contributions. Charb denounced the nuclear menace, the way Charlie Hebdo always denounced all the forms of extremism in human folly.
In 2010, Cabu and other cartoonists from Charlie used their drawings to undertake a protest against the military uses of nuclear technology. As for Fabrice Nicolino, two years ago he produced a special issue of Charlie Hebdo entitled The Nuclear Swindle.
The same year, Charlie Hebdo was one of the first to take on the CIGEO, France’s project for nuclear waste burial in Bure (Meuse region). This time, it was another journalist, Antonio Fischetti, who searched and sleuthed and disturbed the comfortable in the way that the journal always knew how to do so well.
Michel Marie, spokesperson for CEDRA (collective against the burial of radioactive wastes) recalls, “He came and stayed for three days. He was very committed. His wasn’t the first national coverage, but his article had a big impact. And it wasn’t just caricature. It was real in-depth reporting. This is how Charlie Hebdo always knew how to prick the national conscience, especially when it came to nuclear.”

A joyous and comical vision of ecology

Like this, Charlie mixed the bittersweet of the pencil with the impertinence of reflection. Since its founding, Charlie Hebdo defended the environment with satirical blows and withering chronicles. The shift toward this tone was seen in the animated film L’An 01 (Year 01, made in 1973). It sprang from the imagination of Gébé, joyous critic of productivisme and consumer society. The motto was, “We don’t stop everything. We reflect, and it is not sad.”
This approach seduced journalists like François Camé, who was information director of the weekly from 1996 to 1999, when he quit over a conflict with journal editor Philippe Val. He says, “The ecology movement can be seen as lamentably sad and idiotic, but also as joyous and inventive. Charlie Hebdo always carried a vision that was resolutely positive and human.” It had one irreplaceable weapon: being funny. “We have to use humor to deal with and defend our convictions, our ideas, and our commitments,” says François Camé, “If not, we quickly become dangerous, sectarian frauds.”
And still, every week since 2010, Fabrice Nicolino writes an environmental column in the journal. The piece that appeared yesterday [January 7, 2015] was entitled Flooded at Every Floor. He is keeping quiet about the next one. Much awaited for sure.

Originally published in French by Lorène Lavocat et Barnabé Binctin in Reporterre, January 8, 2015.

Four persons mentioned in this article were killed on January 7th, 2015: Cabu, Charb, Tignous, and Wolinski. Fabrice Nicolino was shot in the leg and is recovering.

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