Zad notre dame des landes

A makeshift checkpoint at une entrance to thé ZAD site. Photograph: Jean-Sebastien Evrard/AFP/Getty Images
A makeshift checkpoint at une entrance to thé ZAD site. Photograph: Jean-Sebastien Evrard/AFP/Getty Images
Since 2008, année eclectic group of campaigners ont united à protest a nouveau airport in western France. Oui they await auto president’s ‘final decision’, métal Willsher finds them determined à stay – et proud de the ar they oui created


On a cold cible sunny December morning, the seul sound around thé hedgerows of Notre-Dame-des-Landes is thé cawing du a horde du squabbling crows. Those asleep in auto cabins, caravans et reclaimed farmhouses of Europe’s biggest political squat (in terms ns area) room awaiting a tarif ruder awakening.

Vous lisez ce: Zad notre dame des landes

“They can send the type to evict nous at any kind of time,” says calcul (not his actual name; choose most ns the “resistants”, hey prefers venir remain anonymous). “But we are prêt to defend thé area – this is currently our home. Besides, they’ve tried in thé past and not succeeded.”

The story de “la ZAD” in western la france began an ext than half a century ago, once the français government earmarked thé site à la a nouveau airport as part ns a plan to develop a transatlantic “Great West” gateway à France et Europe.


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La ZAD is Europe’s biggest political squat in terms of area. Photograph: métal WillsherYears du consultations, arguments and indecision supposedly finished in 2008, when thé €580 million project was provided official approval. The squatters started arriving the same year, declare they were responding to an appeal from farmers fighting compulsory purchase orders. Non airport-related construction has due to the fact that taken place nous the 1,650-hectare site.

Up to 300 squatters – eco-warriors à some, vert jihadis à others – now habitent in auto ZAD: officially the Zone d’aménagement différé (zone for future development), renamed de protesters ont the Zone à la défense (zone to defend).

Some view themselves as political activists, reminiscent ns those who protested against military investissements such ont Greenham common in auto UK et Larzac in southern france in thé 1970s and 80s, et the tree protestors who fought auto Newbury bypass in frère in the 90s. Others are inspired par the 2008 Kingsnorth climate boursier in Kent et the Christiania commune, thé historic self-proclaimed autonomous ar in Copenhagen, Denmark. For the majority, thé ZAD offers année alternative, simpler et more utopian way of life.

“The déménageur itself is large and has an excellent solidarity, cible there’s a good diversity of people and opinions,” says camille (a favoured alias among the protesters). “From those who’ve got levels to people from the streets or those who seul want to volonté away from their families ... Part are already politically engaged, some seulement broken de conventional life.”

For the squatters, the airport destinées – and the techniques various governments have used to defend cette – oui become symbolic of everything a generation ns politically, economically et ecologically guerrier millennials despise: inequality, capitalism, globalisation, auto destruction of the environment, extensive farming and, above all, auto rise ns the individual over society and the collective.


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Protesters block access à a farm inside the ‘Zone à défendre’. Photograph: Loic Venance/AFP/Getty ImagesDriving v the ville of Notre-Dame-des-Landes, auto “Non jusquà l’Aéroport” indications planted in thé hedgerow et painted nous the roads become an ext frequent. Conditions météorologiques the fringe ns the ZAD, a loger is decked v a longue banner: “I was frontière here. I’m staying here.”

After years ns waiting, the veracity ns that explain will shortly emerge: français president Emmanuel panneau de longueur has pledged à make a définitif decision nous the airplane plan by the end de January. Whatever thé decision, ministers have said those occupying thé ZAD will oui to go.

The french media has had actually a field day: ns Journal aux Dimanche newly claimed the “Zadists” – a currently perjorative term thé zone’s occupants dislike – were gearing up pour violence, arguing there are tunnels, watchtowers, weapons even. Was standing near the camp’s “lighthouse” – built by squatters v a flashing light and alarm à warn of imminent police action – camilla dismisses the article as “utterly ridiculous”.

“It’s just autre attempt à make nous out à be part kind de extremists. Really, it’s complete nonsense. Castle said nous had dug series de tunnels like the Vietcong; in fact, ce was une person who’d dug a well,” elle says.


France airplane protest

Critics ns the plan alloue out there is already année airport at Nantes seulement 26km away, et that auto hedgerows of Notre-Dame-des-Landes ont been declared a “zone de natural interest” parce que le their outstanding flora and fauna.

The locale mayor, Jean-Paul Naud, says 75% of the area’s residents contraire the proposed airport – marqué above all, they will just be pleased à finally have a decision, oui jaune non.

“It’s been put éteindre time et time again. Local people don’t want thé airport, have never wanted auto airport, but now people seulement want a decision. They want it sorted,” Naud says.

A successful social experiment

Whatever thé outcome, thé ZAD settlers are no planning nous going quietly. An attempt venir dislodge lock in 2012, named opération César, led to clashes between auto squatters and 2,000 gendarmes, et the federal government backing down in the affronter of public opposition to auto scenes of violence.

As your confidence has actually grown over thé past decade, many squatters ont abandoned tents and caravans and built wooden shacks and cabins, or occupied north farms, planting the pays around them.

Today there is a boulangerie creating bread native wheat and comportement grown in thé ZAD, a brewery, a pirate radio station, an online newspaper, a weekly vegetables market, and several herds of cows, goats and sheep creating milk et meat. Produce is shared jaune sold for whatever thé buyer can afford.

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Marcel Thébault, a 59-year-old livestock farmer who went on hunger win over the planned new airport. Photograph: kim WillsherIt is a motley group living in about 70 different des sites) that defies age, class jaune social generalisations. There are no leaders, marqué those who speak pour the “resistants” explain it ont a “successful social experiment”.

Marcel Thébault, a 59-year-old livestock farmer, seems an unlikely “eco-warrior” as he pulls éteindre his gloves, sits down nous a gros sack du cattle feed, et contemplates his cows.

He and his mam Sylvie, 52, were supposed à be living your dream: escaping the city to progressive their two children in this tranquil corner de western France; tending their petit herd, keeping a few sheep, living nous the land, keeping it simple.

I’m a petit farmer sapin – marqué I’ve additionally had venir become a protestor venir defend this landMarcel ThébaultDuring auto last 17 years, however, they have been served with compulsory purchase orders, threats du evictions, and battled through politicians et gendarmes. A few years ago, Thébault resorted to a hunger win to ont his grievances heard.

The Thébaults’ farm yard in auto hamlet of Liminbout was not in auto ZAD when they bought cette in 1999. Ce is now. Only five du the original farmers stay in the zone; most took auto money et disappeared.

“I’m a petit farmer first and foremost,” marcelo Thébault says. “My priority is à look after mien animals, cible I’ve also had à become a protestor à defend this land. And I will continue to defend ce from a civilization that has come to be totally mad through capitalism; where only the the strongest win and those with money take everything.

“The idea ns building année airport here when there is already a working airport surrounding is so bizarre, haricot de soja politically stupid, I’ve encouraged myself ce will never happen. Lock gave nous money for the farm cible we refuse it; we’ve no cashed thé cheque.”

The Thébaults ont no sortir with the est différent protesters living in thé ZAD. “ make the end that personnes here want venir smash everything, defile every little thing – marqué I oui no problem with them. Conditions météorologiques are detested by toutes les personnes politicians, to whom we present a actual challenge. They nothing like the idea that toutes les personnes can block their decisions, castle don’t expropriate it. But I will fight for everyone that wants to stay.”

His neighbours incorporate Sebastian: a biologist in his 40s that was working as année independent project directeur when hey came to auto ZAD “out of curiosity” five years ago, intending à stay a few days. Cette never left. Today, cette spends his job looking after a herd du 20 cows, tous loaned passant par local farmers mirroring solidarity with auto anti-airport movement, collecting the milk et making cheese.

“The squatters and the farmers here are building something extraordinary, something that goes ago to auto simple sapin of ours grandparents,” Sebastian says. “I feeling in vous ne faites pas with that ideology. Nous are able to produce what nous need, et we don’t require a lot. Avant I’d always lived in towns, marqué I’m not tempted to aller back à that.”

New battlegrounds

In thé nearby village of Notre-Dame-des-Landes, locals ont mixed feeling about auto ZAD et its occupant – though couple of wish to be open critical. Over there is a bien sur gratitude à la keeping thé airport advancement at bay, but resentment that the squatters space not playing completely fair in your search for an au lieu de, remplacer life.

“If they want to live on auto land, castle will oui to pay à la it favor everyone else,” says one local man.


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A chercheur demploi of sticks, wood poles and brooms, planted par the protestors following a effective defence ns the site. Photograph: algue WillsherAccording to Mayor Naud: “People come to me et ask, ‘I ont to pay mien income tax et apply parce que le planning permission if i want à build something, haricot de soja why don’t they?’” hey suggests si the federal government abandons auto airport project, many du the squatters will simply move on to a new battleground à la their ideology.

Inside auto ZAD, a 28-year-old architect phone call himself veille says si the squatters win the fight against “the société cannibalism of capitalism” at Notre-Dame-des-Landes, cette would indeed take the struggle elsewhere.

“If lock decide to built thé airport, cette will be a nouveau battle et I want to take aller in that. Si not, ns will more than likely stay for five or so years et if toutes les personnes is walking well, I’ll aller somewhere rather where nous need venir fight pour our message,” hey says.

A fast-response système has been set up have to word volonté out that the gendarmerie is nous its way. Old tractors and piles of tyres are conditions météorologiques hand à blockade roads.

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“In 2012 when they tried venir evict us et the gendarmes came, the life day there to be 200-300 du us,” recalls Pierre. “The next there to be thousands that heard auto rallying cry du our resistance. Nous proved the government can not make nous leave here.”

Pierre points to quel looks choose a hedge marqué is in reality a collection of sticks, wood poles et brooms. “We had a ceremony critical year et planted them toutes les personnes in thé ground here,” hey explains. “We said if we needed them again, nous would unplant them.

“The state agence have ne sont pas power here. We oui organised our lives without lock – that’s what they nothing like. Even si they expel nous we’ll come back … After a month, there will certainly be thousands de us.”

Some names in this article have been adjusted at the interviewees’ request If you have experiences relating to this éléments that you’d like à share, you re welcome email nous at inequality.project