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The Environmental Politics of Sacrifice

Edited by Michael Maniates and John M. Meyer

Publication Year: 2010

The concept of sacrifice has been curiously unexamined in both activist and academic conversations about environmental politics, and this book is the first to confront it directly.

Published by: The MIT Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-viii

This book has been a long time coming. While, as editors, we are primarily responsible for the drawn-out timeline, we could never have finished without the support, hard work, and encouragement of a great many people. Foremost among these, of course, are the contributors...

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1. Must We Sacrifice?: Confronting the Politics of Sacrifice in an Ecologically Full World

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pp. 1-8

While this statement is imagined, the sentiment it conveys is not. Discussion about how to avoid the worst risks of climate change — through radical reductions of the carbon emissions of the world’s wealthy — often leads to easy pronouncements and conclusions about the unavoidable centrality...

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I. Asking the Right Questions

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pp. 9-11

Critical environmental systems are faltering under the strain of expanding human consumption. Cheap oil, and other previously abundant resources, are thought to be “peaking.” China, India, and other large, poor countries are climbing aboard the consumer bandwagon. Appropriately alarmed...

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2. A Democratic Politics of Sacrifice?

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pp. 13-32

Must citizens of wealthy consumer societies sacrifice to avert the worst consequences of climate change and achieve environmental sustainability? Many environmentalists suppose that considerable sacrifice is necessary but that it is unlikely to be achieved because these citizens are too self-satisfied...

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3. Sacrifice in an Age of Comfort

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pp. 33-59

Environmentalism has long preached sacrifice. Since its inception, it has counseled a type of restraint that requires foregoing certain immediate pleasures for the higher goal of ecological well-being. Environmentalism tells us, for instance, to reduce our ecological footprint, restrict the depth of our interventions...

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4. Freedom, Values, and Sacrifice: Overcoming Obstacles to Environmentally Sustainable Behavior

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pp. 61-86

Absent some tremendous technological fix, it seems clear that achieving global environmental sustainability will require significant reductions in current levels of material throughput, particularly by citizens in advanced industrialized states. Yet calling on people to sacrifice consumption seems doomed...

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II. Seeing Sacrifice in Everyday Life

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pp. 87-89

At some point, moving forward on a complicated task means seeing the bigger picture. Commanders of armies methodically assess multiple arenas of conflict before redeploying their forces. Perceptive entrepreneurs gauge market conditions and the capabilities of their competitors before making new...

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5. Ordinary and Extraordinary Sacrifices: Religion, Everyday Life, and Environmental Practice

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pp. 91-115

Especially in relation to environmental problems, many people view sacrifice as an extreme demand that bears little connection to everyday experience. In some significant aspects of our lives, however, sacrifice is frequent, mundane, and even taken for granted. The disjuncture stems from the fact that...

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6. The Sacred and the Profane in the Ecological Politics of Sacrifice

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pp. 117-143

If progress is synonymous with increased consumption of goods, does ecological sustainability entail the end of progress? “We’ll all have to make personal sacrifices,” we often hear, which, given the equation of progress with material accumulation, can only be heard as a gloomy prognosis. But what...

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7. Consumer Sovereignty, Heroic Sacrifice: Two Insidious Concepts in an Endlessly Expansionist Economy

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pp. 145-164

The three big drivers of environmental change have long been framed as population, technology, and consumption, each with its own set of drivers. Since consumption has finally begun to get its share of the attention, it might be time to ask what drives consumption and, in particular, over-consumption; that...

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8. Parental Sacrifice as Atonement for Future Climate Change

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pp. 165-183

During the past year or two, largely because of my involvement with a popular book on climate change, I have had some modest public exposure in the form of reading events and talks at bookstores, radio shows, and community libraries. The book itself stands out from the rest of the crop of recent titles...

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III. Obstacles and Opportunities

Where might opportunities lie for applying a more creative perspective on sacrifice to environmental affairs? How might these opportunities best be developed? What obstacles or lessons do efforts to highlight or hide sacrifice reveal? And what does all this say about how scholars, activists, students, and citizens...

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9. Self-Interest, Sacrifice, and Climate Change: (Re-)Framing the British Columbia Carbon Tax

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pp. 187-215

On May 12, 2009, Liberal Party leader Gordon Campbell was reelected for an impressive third consecutive term as premier of British Columbia (BC). Environmentalists from Canada and elsewhere were quick to celebrate his victory as evidence of popular support for Campbell’s controversial introduction...

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10. Civic Virtue and Sacrifice in a Suburban Nation

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pp. 217-246

The United States is now a suburban nation. In 1910, 7.1 percent of the nation’s population lived in the suburbs. By 2000, that share had grown to 50 percent. About 62 percent of metropolitan area residents live in the suburbs, up from 25 percent in 1910. Suburban historian Kenneth Jackson defines...

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11. Bikes, Sticks, Carrots

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pp. 247-269

Frequently, the idea of mass bicycling is met with a skepticism that approaches ridicule: “People aren’t going to give up their cars. They are just too lazy and too attached to them.” Although many people undoubtedly herald the bicycle as a solution to environmental problems, enthusiasm for a...

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12. Intelligent Design?: Unpacking Geoengineering’s Hidden Sacrifices

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pp. 271-292

In early 2006, Paul Crutzen, a Nobel Prize winner for his work on the chemistry of stratospheric ozone depletion, made a provocative foray into another arena of atmospheric science with a widely read lead article in the journal Climatic Change. Crutzen began his article not in the detached voice one...

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13. Struggling with Sacrifice: Take Back Your Time and Right2Vacation.org

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pp. 293-312

What I found was a colorful, printable guide on “how to make a difference,” courtesy of the Center for a New American Dream, a Washington, DC, environmental organization promoting sustainable consumption. Once properly folded and taped, New Dream’s Wallet Buddy becomes a...

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14. Conclusion: Sacrifice and a New Environmental Politics

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pp. 313-320

Given the choice, we wouldn’t have produced a book about sacrifice in environmental politics. The term is a minefield. It’s understood in several competing ways and lived in many others: positive for some, negative for others, sometimes affirming and democratic, but often hidden and forced. In part...


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pp. 321-322


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pp. 323-343

E-ISBN-13: 9780262289603
Print-ISBN-13: 9780262014366

Page Count: 352
Publication Year: 2010