Ecovalley, the legacy of ecology
In the Drôme, between the Alps and Provence, farmers, craftsmen, entrepreneurs, citizens and elected representatives are testing an ambitious ecological project: to «build» a valley together where economic development is respectful of people and their environment. Born out of the determination of a few elected representatives in the 2000s, the Biovallée project rests on multiple ecological initiatives set up in the 70s by numerous «neo-rurals» won over by the back-to-the-earth movement. These were men and women who were looking for an alternative way of life, whose optimism went against the prevailing pessimism of the times, and who were the real pioneers in this adventure.
Writer: Lise Barnéoud | Photographer: Eléonore Henry de Frahan
Insulation as a lever for local development
One of the flagship projects in the Biovallée was born in a tiny isolated hamlet in a small valley near the River Drôme, Félines-sur-Rimandoule. There, some twenty engineers are hard at work on a handsome half-stone half-timber building. Olivier Sidler left Paris to renovate what at the time was no more than a ruin and to set up his business there: Énertech, specialising in low energy consumption buildings. A «green» from the early days, co-founder of the Institut NégaWatt, thanks to Biovallée he has set up several groups of tradesmen (plumbers, carpenters, electricians, masons, …) and trained them in the techniques of very low energy consumption renovation. Property owners can now call on them to effectively insulate their houses.
What of the future?
Generously subsidised until 2015, the Biovallée is now seeing its public grants dry up. And with the money ebbing away, the political will is also retreating. Some fear the death of a project that in just a few years has become a national showcase for sustainable development. And yet, even if the political cohesion behind the project is crumbling, the people involved on the ground remain, those with whom it all began. These are the men an women who make the Biovallée what it is on a daily basis. And they will not change their ideas or their way of life.