Awareness building is often a long process. Thus recognition of the ideas of René Dumont has come nearly two decades after his death with the vote on 17 December 2018 by the United Nations General Assembly of the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and other People working in rural areas. René Dumont highlighted the importance of small-scale peasant farmers in the world’s food production. Despite massive displacement of the peasantry toward cities, more than 70 percent of the world’s food is produced by small family-owned farms.
René Dumont was an active world citizen and always stressed world citizenship in his justification for his studies of agriculture worldwide. Although he was 30 years older than I and much better known through his scientific monographs on African agriculture and then his popular books on African rural development when we met there was always a feeling of togetherness in a battle for a better life for African farmers.
When Dumont died in June 2001 at the age of 97, he was remembered as the father of French political ecology, but he had no direct intellectual heirs. His 1974 campaign for the French presidency was the first time Les Verts (The Greens) had entered politics at the national level. Dumont was able to federate around his personality and his reputation as an agronomist specializing in African and Asian development a wide range of people who felt that the traditional French political parties were not dealing with the crucial questions of humanity’s future. His energetic campaign and strong personality in television presentations created the groundwork on which Les Verts could build a political movement. In France, all candidates for the presidency have equal time on government-owned television and are able to produce their own spots.
Dumont, with his red sweater and a glass of water to recall the dangers of water pollution, was a marked contrast with the more formal candidates. Dumont received only one percent of the popular vote, but he put Les Verts on the political map and set out the issues which would continue.
Dumont was 70 when he ran for president and after the campaign remained more a “father figure” than an organizer in the structuring of the political ecology movement, done largely by a younger generation. Dumont was not a “team player” and often expressed his views in a very direct way. He was particularly direct in his dislike of autos and the need for higher gas prices — not popular themes among the French electorate. He always stressed that the conditions in the Third World were intolerable and would lead to revolts.
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