Photo by Goran Ivos on Unsplash

This book dives into what it means to be a consumer at the heart of two conflicting narratives – buying stuff is good for the economy, and consuming resources is bad for the environment.

The result is this intriguing mashup of the two ideas in the form of eco-consumerism, which would have us buy our way out of destruction, one metal straw at a time.

Ecopiety: Green Media and the Dilemma of Environmental Virtue takes a cross disciplinary look at what the narratives around environmental behaviour really mean, and how deep they run.

Good environmental behaviour has become a recognisable mark of moral substance, author Sarah McFarland Taylor argues. For example, investments in clean energy is used to “greenwash” Fifty Shades of Grey’s sadistic male protagonist Christian Grey’s backstory as a character of upstanding virtue.

But when teamed with the narrative that positive environmental behaviour is only viable for the wealthy and the privileged, backlash ensues. Toyota’s hybrid car model, the Prius, has been the subject of this treatment, becoming the poster-child of elitist “yuppie” environmentalists who believe their possession makes them morally superior.

The author comes full circle to talk about an emerging crop of green hip hop artists. Although hip hop artists have traditionally engaged in lavish consumerism to signal their rise from lower socio economic backgrounds, some artists have started to recognise that their poorer neighbourhoods are the most vulnerable to environmental degradation. As such,  artists are calling for sustainable urban development in their music, such as community solar and urban greening, to help improve the resilience of these places.

Prepare to get well down in the weeds of subcultures (the author isn’t afraid to quote online fan fiction forums), and this book will have you thinking differentially about how environmental behaviour is presented in pop culture and the media.

Published by New York University Press. Purchase a copy here.

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