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Commitment is at the heart of their activity. These women and men are inspired by the world to act differently and sustainably, and to make their environment a path of expression, creativity, innovation or solidarity. Finance, culture, crafts, industry and the media are all fields embodied by these personalities, who have agreed to take part in the Proust questionnaire La Mèche. What are their lasting secrets? For you, they "let la mèche out of the bag".

Production: Cornland Studio

Boris WastiauDirector of MEG since 2009, was responsible for the successful completion of the new museum project, which reopened to the public on 31 October 2014, as well as the reorientation and repositioning of the institution, which was awarded the European Museum of the Year Award in 2017. It is now implementing a new museological strategy decolonial.
He was a lecturer, and later a full professor, ats professor, in the Unity of History and Anthropology of Religions at the UNIGE, from 2009 to 2019. Previously, he worked for 11 years as curator at the Royal Museum for Central Africa (Belgium). After having studiedstudied anthropology at the University of Brussels and the UUniversity of CoimbraIn 1997, he submitted a doctoral thesis in art anthropology on possession cults to the University of East Anglia. Throughout his studies and his professional career, Boris Wastiau carries out numerous numerous research missions in the field, both in Africa and in Latin America. A specialist in the cultures and religions of Central Africa and critical museology, he also works on the provenance of African collections, illicit trafficking and restitution issues.
He is the author of numerous books and exhibitions: ExltCongoMuseum (2000), Mahamba (2000), Chokwe (2006), Medusa in Africa (2008), Africa Amazonia. The shaman and the thought of the forest (2016), Africa. The religions of ecstasy(2018).


Who are you and what do you do in life?
I am Boris Wastiau, Director of MEG, the Museum of Ethnography of the City of Geneva since 2009.
What is your current state of mind? 
I'm a bit worried about the end of Covid and what was called for a while the world after, because today the outlook is a bit of a return to normal, whereas in fact there is a lot to do. It seems to me that we have largely forgotten the root causes of this pandemic and that we are mainly concerned with dealing with the consequences, but that we have somewhat forgotten to think about the fundamentals.
What is your main character trait?
The requirement perhaps. 
What does it mean to be green today?
I don't really know what it means to be an ecologist today, but I'm happy to see that ecology is increasingly an issue that crosses all political parties and the population, and no longer only a certain part of the population. So it's the mainstream side of thinking about ecology that I'm happy about today. 
How did your desire to get involved come about, what was the trigger and how would you describe it? 
With regard to ecology, it is indeed the fact that we are talking about it, everyone is committed, there are many things being done, there are many projects. There is more and more talk about the climate and environmental emergency and as a museum, as a public institution, we know that we have something to contribute and to do. It seemed important to us when we prepared our strategic plan in 2019 to really include the issue of sustainability as one of the five most important strategic axes, with even the claim or the commitment to become a reference museum in terms of sustainability. Since then I have learned that talking about sustainable development is a bit of a contradiction and that we should talk about sustainability instead, because is perpetual development compatible with something truly sustainable? We have really challenged ourselves in all our practices to integrate the sustainability dimension.
How does this dimension of sustainability manifest itself in everyday life, for example in this museum and in this relationship with the collections?
In its relationship with the collections, it can be all sorts of things, a particular concern for maintenance, conservation or restoration products, it can be a particular concern for packaging materials. For example, two years ago we moved the collections from one repository to another and we made completely sustainable choices, without plastic, without extruded polystyrene, in order to have a more environmentally friendly approach. Then in our project we really have a strategic programme, the idea being that in all the major projects there is a sustainability dimension. This is particularly true for the exhibitions, which probably represent the largest carbon footprint in the museum because they require a lot of scenography and materials. We have committed ourselves to a huge reduction and for the next exhibition we have already defined sustainability constraints for the scenographers. Constraints of reuse, of re-use, of pre-use and also of materials, which will be used for the first time and then used for something else.
We are also working on themes. For example, the next major exhibition to open in September is entitled "Environmental Injustice - Indigenous Alternatives and it is entirely devoted to the point of view of indigenous peoples on the impact of environmental changes on their population and in particular on the injustices that this generates.
Then there are a variety of small projects that aim to change the work culture, to move towards eco-responsible management within the museum. There are different groups working on different issues from year to year: recycling, digital and sustainability issues, eco-actions... We also have several programmes, including in this library where we are, for meetings on sustainability issues. 
How does this lasting commitment manifest itself in your personal life?
In my personal life, the question I ask myself is how to make a commitment that is as strong and as coherent as the one I want to make at the institutional level. These are thoughts on means of transport, the idea of abandoning the car and switching to a general subscription, avoiding the plane as much as possible. And this must not remain wishful thinking, so there comes a time when we have to start. It's also about consumption and it's clear that a large part of the carbon footprint is consumption, so personally I think that one of the ways forward is really an economy of frugality, we must consume much less and more sustainably. That doesn't mean that we have to sit on the floor, but we have to make more reasoned choices about products that are much more sustainable. And also of course short circuits, which I personally do: favouring the supply of food in particular, which is as local as possible and avoiding, and the pandemic has reminded us of this, all these extremely exotic products that are produced in the antipodes, simply because we like to eat them here in Geneva.
What are the biggest challenges you face? 
If the question is placed within the museum, it is that everyone feels responsible, that everyone understands that he or she can have an impact through a change of practices in his or her work and also collectively in the way of looking at projects. We had formulated a commitment to become a reference museum in terms of sustainable development, so we can ask ourselves this question:
Does the museum necessarily have to grow, i.e. have more resources, put more money in, do more things, or does it have to be more relevant and have more impact? This does not necessarily require more resources.
If we take an example, did personalities like Gandhi or Mandela need a lot of money or resources to have an impact? No, these are people who lived in extreme frugality and who were nevertheless able to convey particular messages, in this case of peace and democracy, with extremely few means. So the idea is to see if development should not always be based on the idea of not doing more, of disseminating more, but on the contrary of developing relevance with much more modest means.


Tell me about your most beautiful nature memory?
I have many, but let's just say the last one that comes to mind is a boat cruise, inky at night off the Tuscan coast after a gale. There were huge schools of thousands of phosphorescent jellyfish floating around as we dropped anchor. It was an absolutely fascinating moment and I don't know if you've ever experienced it, but spending the night on a boat at anchor is a magnificent experience of nature. Being rocked by the waves of the sea... 
If you were a tree, which one would you be?
An oak tree because it starts out as a tiny acorn and then it becomes very big and very strong. And you can do a lot of things with the oak tree, you can build boats, it brings freshness and many other things. I really like the image of this tree.
What capacity or ability of nature would you like to have?
To be able to fly between the clouds like the wind, to be able to say to myself that I am particles and to travel from the Alps to the antipodes.
If you were a source of energy what would you be?
I would clearly be geothermal, I would be the volcano.
Your favourite season and why?
I would say it's summer because it's in summer that the mountains are most accessible and I can enjoy them the most. 
Your favourite landscape?
My favourite landscape, however, is the sea, the horizon line over the sea. 
What does preserving the planet mean to you?
It's about reflecting on our being in the world and it's something that we are concerned with and will continue to be concerned with in the upcoming exhibition programme. In recent years we have corrected the ethnocentric or Eurocentric perspectives to a more global and shared perspective.
Today we must make the effort to abandon the anthropocentric perspective and then try to get rid of everything that we have acquired in our education and which makes us, as human beings, feel like we are on top of a mountain, masters of the world that is at our feet, with a feeling of superiority over all the other species and everything around us.
The idea for me is to make the effort to think about what it is to be in the world and what it means to be in the world for other species but also for the whole universe around us and to rethink our relationship to this environment which is composed of other beings.
What kind of pollution do you dislike?
A lot, but the thing that annoys me, and I'm still complicit in it in a way, is when I find myself in a traffic jam on the motorway. I imagine that there are not thousands, not millions, but billions of combustion engines running in the world at the moment. And I really wonder how it could stop. 
What solution for the planet are you looking forward to?
A lot, but perhaps among the many issues that concern us, it would be to make real progress in protecting the oceans. 
What is the one anti-sustainable act that you find hard to give up?
In this case, the one to let go of the car, and I think about it a lot. 
What is it that you no longer have in your kitchen?
For years now, there have been no microwaves, practically no plastic and for a very long time now, no exotic products have been imported by plane.
Which environmental action makes you feel better?
What does me a lot of good and which unfortunately I have not been able to do for a few years, but which I am looking forward to doing soon, is to plant, to garden the earth.
What is your biggest contradiction?
I must have many, but the biggest one is that the character trait I mentioned to you earlier is at odds with the need for an approach that is much more participatory and puts more emphasis on teams and initiatives of other people than my own.
If you had to have one, what would be your sustainable motto?
It would be something around "let's be frugal in our consumption". It may not be a pretty motto, but something around frugality.
It is and it tells a story! What is your idea, your representation of happiness?
I would come back to this notion of being in the world and happiness for me would be truly accomplished when it is both a well-being with oneself, with other humans but also with the other beings that populate the world.
So really to be able to live as individuals and members of one in a harmonious relationship with nature. In short, a kind of planetary conviviality between species.
What about the notion of pleasure?
Part of the pleasure I feel is in the effort made, which can be the effort in accomplishing a construction, a project, but which can also be simpler. I get a lot of pleasure from trekking in the mountains, getting closer to the elements, in the sense of being cut off from social relations, finding myself and feeling alive in elements that we often see as postcard landscapes, and really feeling them in our bodies when we walk for a long time.
How do you think we can act at an individual level to make a difference?
There are many ways to act. The first is really consumption and I think, well I don't think I know, that among the younger generations there is a very strong awareness of where the clothes we wear come from (where they are made, the materials they are made from) and the food we eat. There is a growing interest in local sourcing, in organic products. I think there are a lot of individual actions that are known and I think it's something that is already well established in the younger generations.
What is your utopia?
It would be utopian to go back a few centuries and return to a period of pre-colonisation. The colonisation of the world by Europe, which successively saw the development of slave plantations, the development of the coal, steel and railway industries, which enabled further colonisation. Then extractivism, the development of mining, which allowed the development of world trade to the advantage mainly of Europe and North America and which is the main cause of the destruction of both the environment and cultural diversity in the world. So the utopia would be to be able to go back in time and avoid this colonial process which is at the origin of most of the degradation of the ecosystems because this colonisation with what it brought in terms of development of production and therefore consumption, consumer goods but also food and the associated sciences, caused this demographic explosion that the earth can no longer sustain.
What would be the three steps or the three things that could bring us closer to this utopia today? What actions could we take to move in the right direction?
First of all I think it is awarenessI think it's a lucid awareness that should not be influenced by the detractors who say that we are going to make people feel guilty. The question is not to make people feel guilty, it is to become aware that we all have the possibility of acting through our actions, through our words, through what we pass on to other generations, through what we exchange.
So it's really awareness that is the first step, which also implies a reflection that I hope will lead most people to understand that the main thing, as Greta Thunberg hammered home, is that it's not a question of opinions but of scientific facts and what science allows us to know today; it's not an illusion, it's a reality.
Then being able to understand that, that's a bit of your previous question, we can have an impact at the level of the We can have an impact at the level of our individual activity, at the level of our family, in the social group in which we evolve, but also at work and also through various forms of commitment. I am delighted to see the commitment of young people to the climate marches and the climate strike, which show us that these issues really affect this generation and their commitment is very important.
And then, if we are aware and if we commit ourselves, we must be able to implement thingsYou have to be able to build the alternatives that you imagine while remaining critical of the solutions that are proposed. Try to avoid being radical, but be able to evaluate and really take an interest and devote time to this reflection and to observing the evolution of the solutions that are emerging and that are available to us.
What should the ideal community of tomorrow look like?
The ideal society where the ideal community would be, in the context of the conversation we are having today, the one that would have the least impact in terms of overall pollution on its environment. 
Thank you very much Boris.
Thanks to you.

You too can tell us your stories that can inspire us all! If you want to try your hand at the Proust questionnaire or share your experience, your commitment, your tips or your gripes, go to the "Share with us" discussion forum on the La Mèche platform:

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