Faced with the climatic, energy and financial challenges brought about by our entry into the Anthropocene era, we will have to clearly ask the question of the purposes of our practices, uses and organizations of global air transport. Improvement, optimization or technological innovation will not be enough to bring all of our uses and our aerial organizations within the perimeter of planetary limits.
Two design philosophies oppose each other today. For the first, it is a question of “redesigning” the plane as an artefact. However, many aviation specialists show that the race for transition, efficiency and energy optimization of the aircraft and its engines has already taken place. The energy transition of a technology often follows a logarithmic evolution so that the first technical improvements allow the greatest savings to be made. The fossil fuel plane is therefore approaching an asymptote, and a new technological leap must be found. We are here faced with a typically industrial design which has the advantage of being based on modern institutions and knowledge well tested by neoliberal capitalism. This type of design is based on knowledge from engineering, on methods and disciplines that we know how to organize and channel to respond to delimited and isolable technical problems.
Read also the editorial of “Le Monde”: For a reasoned use of the plane
In the second case, it is a question of rethinking the social and anthropological design of the plane. First, it is a matter of clearly posing the question of the decrease in the volume of our air travel and a break with the logic of the permanent quest for economies of scale, which condemns many companies to seek ever greater production or sales volumes. But this question is intimately linked to another. How to re-embed the plane in a democratic and anthropological reflection? What does this spectacular technical possibility allow us to do as a society? A seemingly innocuous question but which today is rarely asked, and above all which is cruelly struggling to be taken care of.
Focus on real needs
In his book American Prosperity (Viking Press, 1928, untranslated), Paul M. Mazur, a famous American businessman of the 1920s, suggested that modern capitalism is characterized by a decorrelation between needs and wants. “Any community that lives on commodities has relatively few wants. The community that can be trained to want change, to want new things even before the old ones have been fully consumed, produces a market that is measured more by wants than by needs. And man’s desires can be developed in such a way that they greatly eclipse his needs. » For the author, this decorrelation is what makes it possible to produce the value and prosperity of a capitalist economy.
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