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 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.
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