Chapter 9: Environmentalism

Chapter 9: Environmentalism
Is human-made climate change an
inconvenient truth?
© 2014 Cynthia Weber
Learning aims:
Understand what
the myth “humanmade climate
change is an
inconvenient truth”
means and how it
Understand the
core principles of
and green politics
Explore the
similarities and
between Gore’s
idealism and a
typical idealist
Critically engage
with the notion of
“inconvenience” in
Gore’s myth
© 2014 Cynthia Weber
Last week: Modernization and
development theory
Myth: “there is a clash of civilizations”
Key concepts: Identity, desire, culture
Identities are not the stable entities that Huntington
wishes them to be. They are inherently unstable and
© 2014 Cynthia Weber
Environmentalism Flashcard:
Key thinkers:
Al Gore
Key concepts:
Green Politics
Myth: “human-made
climate change is and
inconvenient truth”
© 2014 Cynthia Weber
Gore’s idealist assumptions (table 9.1)
Gore’s idealist assumptions (table 9.1)
Assumptions typical of idealism
Assumptions atypical of idealism
• Humans are good by nature
• Human-environmental conflict is
• Progress is possible
more urgent than human-human
• Bad things happen because of bad
conflict at this moment in history
• International society must
• Conflict is not inevitable
address itself to the new
• Collective action can redress
environmental security problem
injustice and avoid conflict
by tacking human-made climate
• International society can solve
global problems
• The preservation of the planet
must become our new organizing
© 2014 Cynthia Weber
The core premise of
environmental/green theory (box 9.1)
What is the core premise of
environmental/green theory
and the foundation for
environmental/green political
Our received wisdom about the
relationship between nature
and culture (that humans
should dominate nature and
extract from it whatever
humans want and need) must
be questioned
Why is this the case?
Because the current
human/nature relationship is
literally killing humans, other
species, and the planet as a
© 2014 Cynthia Weber
What An Inconvenient Truth says and does not say
What An Inconvenient
Truth says and how it
says it
(box 9.2)
What An Inconvenient
Truth does not say and
how it does not say it
(box 9.3)
What the film says:
What the film does not say:
Human-made climate change is
and inconvenient truth that can
be solved by humans because it
is a human-made problem.
Any controversial details, policy
recommendations or troubling
contradictions in Gore’s argument.
How the film says it:
By glossing these aspects of Gore’s
argument that appear in his earlier
work on the environment
By using the “factual”
documentary film form
How the film does not say it:
© 2014 Cynthia Weber
Gore’s Global Marshall Plan (1992: 305-7)
1. The stabilization of the worlds
2. The rapid creation and
development of environmentally
appropriate technologies
3. A comprehensive an ubiquitous
change in the economic “rules of
the game” by which we measure the
impact of our decisions on the
4. The negotiation and approval of a
new generation of international
6. The establishment, especially in
5. The establishment of a
the developing world – of social and
cooperative plan for educating the
political conditions most conducive
world’s citizens about our global
to the emergence of sustainable
© 2014 Cynthia Weber
Theory activity: Ontology and
1. Watch
2. Reflect
3. Discuss
What is its core message?
Who is encouraged to act on
behalf of the environment?
What is the role of US citizens,
the US state and corporations
Does the film answer
Patersen’s call to move from
“anthropocentric” to an
“ecocentric” ontology?
Is it possible to maintain neoliberal economic growth and
be environmentally friendly?
Is this an “inconvenient truth”
for everyone? Is it equally
inconvenient for everyone?
Does it matter?
© 2014 Cynthia Weber
How does the film WALL-E make sense of
the world? (box 9.4)
• By suggesting that the inconvenient truth of
human-made climate change created an
environmental catastrophe so severe that the
earth could no longer support life; and
• By claiming that what has been lost with the
earth’s ability to sustain human life is the ability
for humans to sustain meaningful relationships,
either with the earth or with one another
© 2014 Cynthia Weber
What is typical and deviant in the world
of WALL-E? (boxes 9.5 and 9.6)
What is typical is for
humans to have abandoned
inconvenient earth to
machines like WALL-E and
opted to live instead in
corporatized space where
human consumption can
carry on uninterrupted
What is deviant is for humans to
overthrow the directive of the
Buy N Large corporation and
return to inconvenient earth to
try to live there again
© 2014 Cynthia Weber
What must go without saying in order
for Gore’s myth to appear to be true?
(box 9.7)
That human-made climate change is
not necessarily inconvenient for
(particularly US-based) global
corporations because Gore’s solutions
to the problem of global warming do
not require corporations to sacrifice
economic growth to some presumed
“environmental sustainability”
© 2014 Cynthia Weber
Film activity: Animated Politics
• Trailers for WALL-E, An Inconvenient Truth and Avatar
• What is the difference between these trailers?
• How do these films present their message differently?
• How does it matter that one is animated (WALL-E), one is not (An
Inconvenient Truth) and one is a mix (Avatar)?
• What can animation do that films cannot?
• What can non-animated films or documentaries do that animation
• Why do you think both WALL-E and Avatar resort to “made up”
characters to show “human” emotion and question “human”
relations to the earth and the environment?
© 2014 Cynthia Weber
Next week: Anarchism
Film: The
Are we the 99%?
© 2014 Cynthia Weber

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