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“I get involved, because I love life”: meeting with Hugo Clément

Hugo Clément in four dates

1989: birth on October 7 in Strasbourg. He grew up in the Toulouse region
2015: media coverage in “Le Petit Journal” with Yann Barthès
2019: start of his program “Sur le front” (France 5)
2020: installation in Biarritz

What brought you to Biarritz?

We had been coming there for a very long time, Alexandra and I, before we even knew each other. It’s a place that I love. There is the ocean, the mountains right next to it, a super beautiful hinterland with very green and hilly countryside. A sweetness of life that you feel immediately when you arrive. People take the time to do what they love, it’s not the pace you find in big cities like Paris. I grew up in Pompertuzat, a small village south of Toulouse, in Lauragais. Before, over there, the villages were separated by fields, and now there is almost no break between the villages: Toulouse is growing and swallowing everything… When I grew up there, it was the countryside, we played football, we went to the woods, we took the bus to go to college. My childhood memories are mostly exterior. Here, I find a little of that, which I didn’t have at all in Paris. And then our respective parents are not far away: mine to Toulouse, those of Alex to Béziers…

Hugo Clément in four dates

1989: birth on October 7 in Strasbourg. He grew up in the Toulouse region
2015: media coverage in “Le Petit Journal” with Yann Barthès
2019: start of his program “Sur le front” (France 5)
2020: installation in Biarritz

What brought you to Biarritz?

We had been coming there for a very long time, Alexandra and I, before we even knew each other. It’s a place that I love. There is the ocean, the mountains right next to it, a super beautiful hinterland with very green and hilly countryside. A sweetness of life that you feel immediately when you arrive. People take the time to do what they love, it’s not the pace you find in big cities like Paris. I grew up in Pompertuzat, a small village south of Toulouse, in Lauragais. Before, over there, the villages were separated by fields, and now there is almost no break between the villages: Toulouse is growing and swallowing everything… When I grew up there, it was the countryside, we played football, we went to the woods, we took the bus to go to college. My childhood memories are mostly exterior. Here, I find a little of that, which I didn’t have at all in Paris. And then our respective parents are not far: mine to Toulouse, those of Alex to Béziers.

How do you live the fact of settling in a region where the feeling of being “invaded by Parisians” is sometimes significant?

Already, we are not Parisians! We didn’t feel any mistrust, but I think it depends on how you arrive. When you arrive from Paris and you buy very expensive second homes to which you come once every six months, contributing to the fact that there are plenty of empty houses and that people can no longer find accommodation, we can understand let it be frowned upon. There is also the behavior of some tourists which is not related to the way of life of the people here. We arrived from a different perspective. We live here, and we live like people live here. It is more a question of relationship to others than of geographical origin. As long as we respect the ways of life, we have a great welcome.

When did your journalism practice become “committed”, almost militant?

There was not a click but it was progressive, by being confronted with reality through the reports, by seeing with my own eyes the consequences of environmental degradation, the collapse of biodiversity, climate change… They are observed everywhere, especially in the most vulnerable countries. The poorest are the most exposed. I realized that we didn’t talk about it or little in the media, in any case in the “mainstream” media, in any case on television, and so I wanted to devote to this subject the airtime that was granted to me and the exposure that I had in the networks, to try to get things done.

Did you use notoriety as a tool?

I didn’t look for it, it came with “Le Petit Journal” and “Quotidien”, which were very fashionable, with a lot of exposure, with a very particular way of doing journalism, a mixture of news and entertainment and a tone that responded to a real desire of youth. Now, yes, it is leverage. Having people who follow you, who like you and who trust you, helps bring the issues that are important to you to light, to give them a greater impact than if it had been done in a less embodied way. When I post a video of animal abuse, there are often reactions from ministers and companies. It’s a question of exposure, of balance of power. At the same time, notoriety is not everything: it is not enough to have distribution channels to make things happen, you need above all content, investigation.

Do you think you will change things with your show “Sur le front” and your activity on social networks?

We are not enough. We participate, on our scale, in a great movement which tends to move towards a world more respectful of the living. Information is really the key to this battle. You can’t expect people to change their behavior if they don’t have the keys to understanding. We must explain on each part of our daily life what we do not see, what we do not know, what we have a hold on through our consumption choices, our societal choices of energy policy, etc. And that is information, investigation. On each subject, our compass is: what are we going to be able to teach people that will then enable them to initiate a change or an action? Being in the “We’re all going to die” doesn’t generate anything behind it. Each program has an impact: there are political reactions, companies that make commitments, awareness…

It is not because we are sensitive to the environment that we are necessarily depressed.  On the contrary


It is not because we are sensitive to the environment that we are necessarily depressed. On the contrary “

Nicolas Mollo

You adopt a military lexical register: “front line”, “combatants”, etc. Are we in a theater of war?

The warrior vocabulary is not usurped because there is a real ecological war in the literal sense, with people dying. And there is a symbolic war, against polluting industries, against the ways of life that we have collectively on this planet. A war against ourselves for the greatest stake: to save our species. If we don’t use that vocabulary, we won’t be able to provoke the emergency reaction that we need to have. We saw it on the Covid. As we were facing imminent danger, as the dead were there, we reacted as if facing a war. We had a large and radical reaction, because we were facing an immediate danger, and we accepted measures that would not have been acceptable without this imminent danger. The problem with climate change and the collapse of biodiversity is that we don’t see the dead right away: we will have them, but not today.

Isn’t it too late?

No. My conviction is that we must put scientific discourse back at the heart of political decisions, listen to people who know. There is a global scientific consensus on causes and consequences. And all projections, including the most pessimistic, are overtaken by the reality of the facts.

“I got into pala and I was really stung by this sport”


“I got into pala and I was really stung by this sport”

Nicolas Mollo

And is there a consensus on the actions to be taken?

Of course, except that we don’t listen. On the climate aspect, the number one problem is fossil fuels. The absolute urgency is to reduce their use, whatever the cost. On the biodiversity aspect, the urgency is to drastically reduce the consumption of meat and fish. We know that the first cause of the collapse of biodiversity in the ocean is fishing and, on dry land, it is the intensification of agriculture which is linked to livestock farming: 70 to 80 % of the world’s agricultural area is intended to provide feed for livestock. Already, just with these two major themes, we know what to do and how to do it.

Can’t we accuse you of defending “an ecology of small steps”?

No. I am against the fact of saying: “It is not enough, it is useless. If even the little things that we can change, we don’t change them, how are we going to advance those that involve changes in society? So, at our level, we need to identify the small actions we can take to reduce our impact, without opposing them to major measures. It goes together. I understand the frustration of people who are going to be told that they have to lower their heating by one degree or use less plastic when we see what is authorized for large companies. When we see a politician take a private jet to go and put a ballot in the ballot box, we can say to ourselves that we don’t give a damn about ourselves. I can understand that feeling. But I try to push him away. It’s not because the “big guys” do anything that I won’t do what I can.


“I’m not going to ruin my life because the world is absurd: we do what we can to change it, and we can enjoy the good times that life offers”

Nicolas Mollo

We can assume that you yourself are not “flawless”. How do you handle this?

I do not claim to be irreproachable and it is very difficult, if not impossible, to be. I’m just saying we need to know what our actions entail. In my personal life, I do my best. I am a vegetarian, I use almost no plastic, nothing single-use, I buy all the seasonal fruits and vegetables locally; for the holidays, we never take the plane. Afterwards, in my professional life, I have a large carbon footprint since my job is to investigate all over the world. Each time, before making a show, we ask ourselves the question: is it worth going there? Will the positive impact that the emission will have exceed the carbon expenditure? Lately, we’ve been focusing a lot on France, but when we follow a sector and it takes us to Bangladesh because clothes are made there, we have to go there, because we can’t know what’s going on if we don’t don’t put your nose in it. So I’m not blameless, far from it, but I do my best. We must avoid the discourse of militant purity, that is counterproductive. You can always blame something, and that generates inaction.

Are you ever desperate by the scale of the battles to be fought?

Never. Either way, here we are. It’s like that. You have to do what you can and you have to live too. I’m not going to ruin my life because the world is absurd: we do what we can to change it, and we can enjoy the good times that life offers. I have children, I like pelota, I like to cook. It is not because we are sensitive to the environment that we are necessarily depressed. On the contrary. If I get involved, it’s precisely because I love life, I love nature and I find it an absolute joy to live in a healthy ecosystem.

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