Creating other worlds: Defending the ZAD of Notre-Dame-des-Landes

Creation takes place in bottlenecks . . . A creator who isn’t grabbed around the throat by a set of impossibilities is no creator. A creator’s someone who creates their own impossibilities, and thereby creates possibilities . . . it’s by banging your head on the wall that you find a way through. You have to work on the wall, because without a set of impossibilities, you won’t have the line of flight, the exit that is creation, the power of falsity that is truth.

Gilles Deleuze


It is not possible to imagine revolution, however it is conceived, without creation; indeed, without the latter, there can be no revolution.

What then is creation, revolutionary creation?  If one could pretend to answer the question simply, then all that would be necessary to say is that it is that which maintains and feeds the possibility of further creation.

There is something fixed or static about a politics of okupation. “Stasis” in ancient greek suggested a “standing still”, which suggests fragility as much as strength.  Movement can topple or erode that which is too stable.  However, the word also suggested “assuming a position”, “taking a sand”, “standing forth” against an undesirable movement.  And here we can imagine two movements, the steady movement that sustains power, and that which resists-creates through holding back, retreating, stepping aside, hiding, standing up again, differently, and so on: a permanent contest or “agon”, only made possible by the levity or lightness with which struggle engaged.

The zad of Notre-Dame-des-Landes expressed this creativity in a multiplicity of ways, among which are the “light” habitats created by those who desired to care for themselves in ways from from those dictated by State and Capital.

A gathering is called for this weekend, in defense of the zad.  We share the call to gather below, along with a film (in french) celebrating the creative-resistance of the okupation.

Common Lands: Defend the Bocage and its Worlds

( 28/09/2018)

In a world that is coming to an end, the existence of the zad has opened imaginaries as vivid as they are tangible. Since Operation César in 2012, it served as a point of reference and hope for numerous people who felt it was essential to build here and now other possibilities. After the airport was abandoned in the face of such an offensive and massive movement, the government did everything to avenge itself and put an end to years of insolent collective experimentation. A series of military, administrative, political and judicial attacks have cut away part of the zad and weakened its base, and this despite the forms of resistance that have occupied these different terrains. The signing in June of a set of conventions on occupied lands nonetheless marked a form of ceasefire and the maintenance of a set of living spaces and projects.

Yet the current status quo is precarious: the zad is still struggling for its future. In early October, a new steering committee will decide on the follow-up to the occupancy agreements. It will formulate orientations for the following years in the face of what has been singularly constructed here: the relation to the commons, the care of the hedgerow, the habitats, the forms of agricultural production and non-agricultural activities. It is at this moment that the consolidation of the real estate holdings of the various projects born of the movement or its questioning will be decided. What will be decided inside offices will depend as always on the presence of a vibrant and active movement outside. It is this movement that will make the reality of what will continue to be lived on the ground in the face of institutional frameworks. Tens of thousands of people have gathered regularly for years on the basis of an issue as clear as it is binary: there would be or not an airport at Notre-Dame-des-Landes, the zad would be evicted and the hedgerow destroyed or not. From now on, the threat persists, but no longer advances in the form of a uniform concrete block ready to crash on us. The sense of struggle reconfigures itself and might seem to offer fewer direct conflicts. However, as much as in the past, the fate of this precious land of hedgerow requires the convergence of multiple forces. Today as yesterday, what will remain, strengthen or disappear touches on issues that are beyond us and that infuse other battles elsewhere in the world:


– In the weeks preceding the steering committee, we will have to campaign to stabilize the conventions in less precarious forms and to ensure that none of the projects are left behind. We will have to defend in this respect the existence of a solidarity based peasantry, protector of the hedgerow and subsistence agriculture, against the criteria and norms of an agriculture corrupted by productivism. The maintenance of agricultural activities implemented by those who protected the grove is still threatened in various ways. Some parcels – in Saint-Jean-du-Tertre or Noë Verte for example – are now claimed by farmers who agreed to give them up for the airport project and receive financial compensation while finding lands outside. In general, we must continue to mobilize to ensure that the preserved lands go to new facilities and not to the expansion of existing farms.


– Among the most valuable aspects of the zad’s history is the development of a practice of commons and the possibility of collective management of a territory by its real users, without suffering the imposition development plans. It is in this sense that we will have to safeguard this autumn the current and shared use of the Rohanne forest and other wooded areas, their enrichment as well as the timber activities for the zad project. Faced with the individualistic and liberal entrepreneurial model imposed by tne administrative power, we will maintain more widely the construction of collective entities, related to territorial assemblies: cooperative structures on the use or funds facilitating common access to land …


– While, from region to region, new ways of living are sought, the waves of expulsion of this spring have crushed part of the unique wealth of the territory of the zad in terms of autonomous and experimental architecture. Some of the light habitats defended and preserved could be threatened again in the coming months. While the Local Plan of Urbanism linked to the zad is being developed, another battle of the season will be linked to maintaining the possibility of inventive and self-built buildings.


– Years of life dedicated so strongly to the defense of a portion of wet land have shifted the gaze and aroused new attention to the care of the world and that which connects everyday forms of human and non-human existences. It has given birth to ways of living and cultivating that have the rare feature of not perpetually degrading their environment. This fall, an agri-environmental diagnosis will decide on the production frameworks officially recommended in this area. We must ensure that the resistant naturalist sensibility that has flourished here is not swept away by a return to conventional forms of agriculture, incompatible with the actual preservation of this tightly-knit network, its hedges, its newts and its diversity.


– These lands have been saved by becoming a crossroads of struggles. They must also continue to be one of their granaries. This is the objective in which the supply network, the canteens present with strikers or migrants in the Nantes region, and the development of reception and training infrastructures. It is in this spirit that we also want to continue to meet the inhabitants of popular neighborhoods or other territories in struggle against destructive projects.


To make huts in a damaged world

Following the abandonment of the airport project at Notre-Dame-des-Landes, the government undertook the normalisation of the territory. First by the destruction of one third of the habitats, then by the constraint that all remaining projects be individual. Today as yesterday, it is necessary to continue to defend other ways of living.

The famous huts of the zad Notre-Dame-des-Landes are a strong symbol of the victorious struggle against the airport project. In spring 2018, the government made the choice of authoritarianism, to destroy part of the zad with the help of 2,500 mobile gendarmes using drones, thousands of grenades, tanks, flashballs … This operation, under the spotlight, shows up the inability of leaders to consider the ecological issue through the prism of solidarity and sobriety. Yet it has never been so urgent to change lifestyles, production or construction. The planet is showing worrying signs of weaknesses and in the face of the need for hospitality, Europe is closing in upon itself.

The zad is still there, wounded but alive

In the fall of 2018, the State will decide on the future of the lands. Its administrative and normative control, the fragility of precarious occupation conventions (COP) signed by some of the occupants, and the shadow of new demolitions and expulsions still place many risks before the zad.

Hedges, pools, valleys, hedgerow, life, buildings … nothing is protected at the present time, neither by a Local Plan of Urbanism, nor by other measures. Forms of intensive agriculture are on the watch to recover these lands.

To live in a hut, to live in zads, is to play politics with one’s body. The light and changeable habitat comes as an answer to the question of our impact on the environment, in the face of a heavy habitat, the artificialising the soil, constraining nature and devouring energy.

So, our call, in April 2018, to defend, as “in the ZAD of Notre-Dame-des-Landes, … other ways of living” is still relevant. Zads everwhere, to defend territories and other desires of the future, are to open.

This film is a tribute to the cabins, to which many of us are attached.

A film by Jonas Marpot with the support committee Défendre Habiter la ZAD
Reading of text “Nos cabanes” by Marielle Macé, by July Collignon
The full text can be found here:
Sound track with Geneviève Pruvost, Edwy Plenel, Jade Lindgaard
Music by Piano Chat – “Nous y perdrons un peu”


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