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 sustainability development becomes, the more it becomes commodified; 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 by such companies as British Petroleum (BP) and Wal-Mart; Hollywood activism by Leonardo DiCaprio and other movie industry figures; the autonomy of communal ecovillages vs. the military-like security of gated communities; the greening of the White House (and its de-greening: Ronald Reagan famously removed solar panels installed by Jimmy Carter); 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, has captured our imagination at a time when we are discouraged and demoralized by a failed war and general governmental incompetence; it offers an alternative narrative of the collective good - an idea now compromised and endangered by corporate, military, and government interests.
I The Popularization of Sustainability Culture
1 The Greening of Junkspace
2 Green Idol
3 Ecovillages: An Alternative Social Organization
4 The Greening and De-Greening of the White House
5 Green Boots on the Ground
II Challenges to Sustainability Culture
7 Disaster Relief
Adrian Parr is Visiting Associate Professor at the University of Cincinnati's College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning. She is the author of Deleuze and Memorial Culture and other books.
None of us can afford to ignore sustainability today since the very life of the planet is at stake. And yet it is easy to forget that sustainability is a political problem and a cultural problem too. Hijacking Sustainability" is a timely reminder that sustainability is not something we should leave to the market to sort out. Parr makes clear that sustainability is a matter for which we all have to take responsibility and that to do that we have to wake up to what's really going on. Critical theory can scarcely have hoped for a more important book." --Ian Buchanan, Professor of Critical and Cultural Theory, Cardiff University