Living Green and Living Well: Climate Change and the Low-Carbon Imaginary
23 Pages Posted: 29 Mar 2010 Last revised: 26 May 2014
Date Written: March 29, 2010
Given imperatives to dramatically reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and the entrenched social norms that countenance and even encourage carbon-intensive lifestyles, it has become clear that any effective response to these imperatives will have to combine policy instruments that incentivize decarbonization efforts with normative critique that dissociates greenhouse pollution from living well. What is needed, in other words, is the development of a low-carbon imaginary as a positive vision of individual sustainability without the associations between green living and the austerity and sacrifice that such efforts typically connote. Unlike temporary crises for which temporary austerity measures are sometimes effectively mobilized, the spectre of global climate change requires permanent normative transformation that equates living sustainably with living well. In this paper, I examine a variety of critical social movements that aim to create such a new cultural imaginary, including what Juliet Schor terms 'downshifting,' Michael Pollanﾒs food activism, and Kalle Lasnﾒs culture jamming, with the aim of assessing the extent to which such movements and the critical normative work they represent might effectively assist in the difficult transition to a low-carbon society, supporting and supplementing the policy efforts that cannot succeed without them.
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