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Hijacking Sustainability

Hijacking Sustainability

Adrian Parr
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Hijacking Sustainability
    Book Description:

    The idea of "sustainability" has gone mainstream. Thanks to Prius-driving movie stars, it's even hip. What began as a grassroots movement to promote responsible development has become a bullet point in corporate ecobranding strategies. In Hijacking Sustainability, Adrian Parr describes how this has happened: how the goals of an environmental movement came to be mediated by corporate interests, government, and the military. Parr argues that the more popular sustainable development becomes, the more commodified it becomes; the more mainstream culture embraces the sustainability movement's concern over global warming and poverty, the more "sustainability culture" advances the profit-maximizing values of corporate capitalism. And the more issues of sustainability are aligned with those of national security, the more military values are conflated with the goals of sustainable development. Parr looks closely at five examples of the hijacking of sustainability: corporate image-greening; Hollywood activism; gated communities; the greening of the White House; and the incongruous efforts to achieve a "sustainable" army. Parr then examines key challenges to sustainability--waste disposal, disaster relief and environmental refugees, slum development, and poverty. Sustainability, Parr says, offers an alternative narrative of the collective good--an idea now compromised and endangered by corporate, military, and government interests.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-25486-1
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History, Environmental Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acronyms
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    Sustainability. Gone are the days when the word conjured up images of unapologetic veganism, dreadlocks, and mud-brick homes. From ecohippie to ecohip,sustainabilityis the new buzzword on the lips of many Americans. The corporate sector is going green, Hollywood is taking up the cause with a bang, cities are being ranked according to how sustainable they are, and popular media are increasingly shifting their attention onto the problem of how the United States can change color. Why have these disparate lines of cultural production begun to convert to the green cause? Some might say natural disasters such as Hurricane...

  6. I The Popularization of Sustainability Culture

    • 1 The Greening of Junkspace
      (pp. 15-32)

      At the turn of the twenty-first century, sustainability has rapidly become the buzzword on everyone’s lips. In the United States it is not ideology that is turning sustainability into a cultural hegemonic: it is a socially and environmentally conscious multitude whose investment and consumption patterns are prompting multinational corporations such as Wal-Mart and BP to develop a new image of corporate social responsibility. The rise of socially (and environmentally) responsible investment (SRI) has prompted corporations to become more accountable and transparent. At the same time, the convergence of popular culture and the sustainability movement has provided the corporate world with...

    • 2 Green Idol
      (pp. 33-48)

      Yes, it’s true! A tidal wave of environmental and social justice activism is hitting Tinseltown. The movie industry now trades in carbon emissions in order to produce carbon-neutral movies. The Oscars went “green” in 2007, at the same ceremony that gave the Academy Award for best documentary to a film on global warming,An Inconvenient Truth(2006). And movie stars are endorsing the benefits of ecofriendly living and raising money and awareness in support of the sustainability cause. In other words, the Hollywood community has gone activist, promoting a new brand of ecochic—a trendy, stylish lifestyle that is green...

    • 3 Ecovillages: An Alternative Social Organization
      (pp. 49-64)

      Founded in 1733 by British colonialist General James Oglethorpe, Savannah, Georgia, is one of America’s first planned cities. Savannah is famous for its twenty-one green squares (originally twenty-four), historic architecture, Spanish moss, the well-known Savannah College of Art and Design and of courseMidnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, the New York Timesbestseller by John Berendt and subsequent film directed by Clint Eastwood (1997). Wandering throughout the well-organized, neatly tree-lined streets past antique stores with horse-and-carriage rides clopping by filled to the brim with wistful tourists, one could easily mistake downtown Savannah as a city with a...

    • 4 The Greening and De-Greening of the White House
      (pp. 65-78)

      Concerned with how to live a healthy, responsible, and ethical life, the practices and theories sustainability culture propounds pose a whole gamut of questions that address our relationships to each other, ourselves, the world, and the future. As this system of knowledge gains influence it also raises a series of anxieties about the future and the tally of environmentally reckless behavior to date. Some of the questions this prompts include: What risks are involved if we do not act immediately to reverse or even slow the effects of global climate change? What is the right path to follow so that...

    • 5 Green Boots on the Ground
      (pp. 79-92)

      The Cold War left behind a toxic legacy that, depending on which standards were used, was estimated to “cost the U.S. taxpayers between $330 and $430 billion to clean up.”² The initiative to green the U.S. military that President Clinton inaugurated aspired to make a serious dent in a massive task and change the military’s attitudes toward the environment. Largely this entailed, and still does, modifying the culture of the military. Primarily, this is achieved by integrating environmental issues and concerns into the military’s regular activities, the services it provides, and the products it uses. This translates as managing training...

  7. II Challenges to Sustainability Culture

    • 6 Trash
      (pp. 95-108)

      Lead in the paint around the skirting of the house, asbestos tiles in the ceiling at work, pesticides on the vegetables, chemicals in the drinking water, carbon monoxide pumping through the air on the commute, and factories spewing gunk into the atmosphere—these are just a few environmental hazards we might encounter on any given day. The potential dangers are numerous, as are the health problems that arise from overexposure to these everyday toxins, only some of which we can work to avoid. The most we can do immediately to minimize damage to ourselves and the planet is to recycle...

    • 7 Disaster Relief
      (pp. 109-126)

      One of the effects of militarism and natural disasters is widespread population displacement, out of which usually arise temporary housing initiatives. The figures are alarming: the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated in 2004 that there were 20 million refugees worldwide and an additional 25 million people displaced within the borders of their own country. And these are figures from before the 2004 Asian tsunami, the continuing genocide in Darfur and the war in Iraq—both of which may have begun at the beginning of 2003 but were still raging in 2007—the 2005 Kashmir earthquake, hurricanes Katrina...

    • 8 Slums
      (pp. 127-146)

      InPlanet of the Slumsgeographer Mike Davis describes a new urban order, one defined by the rise of megacities with more than 8 million inhabitants, hypercities with populations over 12 million, and increasing disparity between cities of different sizes and economic specialization. If slum settlements are home to approximately one billion people and the developing world is projected to absorb 95 percent of the world’s total population growth, then the task facing urban developers, planners, policy makers, and designers is daunting indeed.¹ To date little planning and development has been undertaken to accommodate the growth rate of urban populations...

    • 9 Poverty
      (pp. 147-160)

      From 1996 to 2006 the earth’s surface temperature was reportedly the hottest on record (since 1850, when the recordings began), with average Arctic temperatures increasing twice as fast as the overall global average. Tim Flannery warns that if we continue with business as usual, over the course of this century there will be an average increase of 5 degrees Fahrenheit in Earth’s climate (give or take 3 degrees).³ This situation has resulted in thermal expansion and melting ice and snow, gradually causing sea levels to rise. Flannery points out: “While the scale of change is less than that seen at...

  8. Conclusion
    (pp. 161-166)

    Watching the news in December 2007 I was moved and dismayed as I witnessed a mass of green fingers fill the screen. The image was potent and precise. It condensed a variety of meanings—growth, life, environmentalism, and solidarity—in one simple gesture. These were the index fingers of environmental activists in support of the Climate Change conference held in Nusa Dua, Bali. A wry smile crept across my face as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s appearance on the cover ofNewsweekin April 2007 spinning the Earth on his finger also came to mind. But unlike the protesters in Bali, the rebranding...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 167-192)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 193-206)
  11. Index
    (pp. 207-209)