How the sustainability movement has been co-opted: from ecobranding by Wal-Mart to the “greening” of the American military.
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.
In this intelligent but unnecessarily obtuse exploration of ecological and cultural crisis, Parr (Deleuze and Memorial Culture) examines the "new culture of sustainability" and how it challenges "our current historic condition... of global climate change, multinational and financialized capitalism, increased religious fundamentalism, and rising militarism." She looks at the positives and negatives of ecobranding and the power of celebrities to bring change; compares and contrasts the "militarism," segregation and Disneyfication of gated communities with the ecological approach, with its embrace of conflict and effort to "empower people and communities" in ecovillages. Parr argues that while action is necessary to alter our social course, that action must be based on thoughtful questioning of status quo economics; she claims that a sustainability culture will bring art and science together, based on local conditions yet remaining open to the world. Unfortunately, the academic writing style is so difficult to read that it may discourage all but the most committed readers.