Return to the Commons

On a 14-square mile patch of western France known as Notre-Dame-des-Landes, a world is being constructed, a way of living, formed through common endeavour and a knowledge of and sensitivity to the landscape and its ecosystems. It’s a messy process that was started 10 years ago when climate activists started to squat the area to prevent the construction of a new airport. This action was known as the Zone à Défendre (area we must defend) or the ZAD. Over the years the protest morphed into a social experiment as people began to build homes, set up collective farms, breweries, workshops and libraries.

This spring the French government finally cancelled plans for the airport and in the same breath declared that those living on the land would be evicted. Eviction however has been resisted with such determination that the government has been forced to negotiate and has offered people on the ZAD the chance to apply for use of the land for agricultural projects. With the battle against the airport won, the task now is formalising the mechanisms of collective living without losing the creativity, freedom and spontaneity that has defined their movement.

A film by Ryan Powell and Pierre-Eliott Buet.

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