Paperback | $12.95 Trade | £9.95 | ISBN: 9780262517461 | 224 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 2 b&w illus.| February 2012
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.
About the Author
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.
"A model of utopian praxis, Parr's book shows how creative ways of thinking and living can mitigate the rapid disintegration of our planet under the sway of flexible capitalism. Direct and forcefully written, Hijacking Sustainability is a shrill and eloquent call for collective action. Her voice and her words will leave no one indifferent."
Tom Conley, Departments of Romance Languages and Visual/Environmental Studies, Harvard University
"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
"A provocative and thoroughly researched book that shows the notion of sustainability is in danger of being appropriated by its opponents in the way that 'environmentalism' has been incorporated by its adversaries. Indispensable reading for anyone reflecting on the politics of environmental protection."
Kenneth Surin, Professor of Literature, Professor of Religion, and Critical Theory Chair, Program in Literature, Duke University