The Shadows of Consumption gives a hard-hitting diagnosis: many of the earth's ecosystems and billions of its people are at risk from the consequences of rising consumption. Products ranging from cars to hamburgers offer conveniences and pleasures; but, as Peter Dauvergne makes clear, global political and economic processes displace the real costs of consumer goods into distant ecosystems, communities, and timelines, tipping into crisis people and places without the power to resist. In The Shadows of Consumption, Peter Dauvergne maps the costs of consumption that remain hidden in the shadows cast by globalized corporations, trade, and finance. Dauvergne traces the environmental consequences of five commodities: automobiles, gasoline, refrigerators, beef, and harp seals. In these fascinating histories we learn, for example, that American officials ignored warnings about the dangers of lead in gasoline in the 1920s; why China is now a leading producer of CFC-free refrigerators; and how activists were able to stop Canada's commercial seal hunt in the 1980s (but are unable to do so now). Dauvergne's innovative analysis allows us to see why so many efforts to manage the global environment are failing even as environmentalism is slowly strengthening. He proposes a guiding principle of “balanced consumption” for both consumers and corporations. We know that we can make things better by driving a high-mileage car, eating locally grown food, and buying energy-efficient appliances; but these improvements are incremental, local, and insufficient. More crucial than our individual efforts to reuse and recycle will be reforms in the global political economy to reduce the inequalities of consumption and correct the imbalance between growing economies and environmental sustainability.
McDonald's promises to use only beef, coffee, fish, chicken, and cooking oil obtained from sustainable sources. Coca-Cola promises to achieve water neutrality. Unilever seeks to achieve 100 percent sustainable agricultural sourcing by 2020. Walmart has pledged to become carbon neutral. Big-brand companies seem to be making commitments that go beyond the usual “greenwashing” efforts undertaken largely for public-relations purposes. In Eco-Business, Peter Dauvergne and Jane Lister examine this new corporate embrace of sustainability, its actual accomplishments, and the consequences for the environment.
For many leading-brand companies, these corporate sustainability efforts go deep, reorienting central operations and extending through global supply chains. Yet, as Dauvergne and Lister point out, these companies are doing this not for the good of the planet but for their own profits and market share in a volatile, globalized economy. They are using sustainability as a business tool. Dauvergne and Lister show that the eco-efficiencies achieved by big-brand companies limit the potential for finding deeper solutions to pressing environmental problems and reinforce runaway consumption. Eco-business promotes the sustainability of big business, not the sustainability of life on Earth.
Over the last fifty years, environmentalism has emerged as a clear counterforce to the environmental destruction caused by industrialization, colonialism, and globalization. Activists and policymakers have fought hard to make the earth a better place to live. But has the environmental movement actually brought about meaningful progress toward global sustainability? Signs of global “unsustainability” are everywhere, from decreasing biodiversity to scarcity of fresh water to steadily rising greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, as Peter Dauvergne points out in this provocative book, the environmental movement is increasingly dominated by the environmentalism of the rich—diverted into eco-business, eco-consumption, wilderness preservation, energy efficiency, and recycling. While it's good that, for example, Barbie dolls' packaging no longer depletes Indonesian rainforest, and that Toyota Highlanders are available as hybrids, none of this gets at the source of the current sustainability crisis. More eco-products can just mean more corporate profits, consumption, and waste.
Dauvergne examines extraction booms that leave developing countries poor and environmentally devastated—with the ruination of the South Pacific island of Nauru a case in point; the struggles against consumption inequities of courageous activists like Bruno Manser, who worked with indigenous people to try to save the rainforests of Borneo; and the manufacturing of vast markets for nondurable goods—for example, convincing parents in China that disposable diapers made for healthier and smarter babies.
Dauvergne reveals why a global political economy of ever more—more growth, more sales, more consumption—is swamping environmental gains. Environmentalism of the rich does little to bring about the sweeping institutional change necessary to make progress toward global sustainability.
This comprehensive and accessible book fills the need for a political economy view of global environmental politics, focusing on the ways international economic processes affect environmental outcomes. It examines the main actors and forces shaping global environmental management, particularly in the developing world. Moving beyond the usual emphasis on international agreements and institutions, it strives to capture not only academic theoretical debates but also views on politics, economics, and the environment within the halls of global conferences, on the streets during antiglobalization protests, and in the boardrooms of international agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and industry associations. The book maps out an original typology of four contrasting worldviews of environmental change—those of market liberals, institutionalists, bioenvironmentalists, and social greens—and uses them as a framework to examine the links between the global political economy and ecological change. This typology provides a common language for students, instructors, and scholars to discuss the issues across the classical social science divisions.The second edition of this popular text has been thoroughly revised and updated to reflect recent events, including the food crisis of 2007-2008, the financial meltdown of 2008, and the Copenhagen Climate Conference of 2009. Topics covered include the environmental implications of globalization; wealth, poverty, and consumption; global trade; transnational corporations; and multilateral and private finance.
This trailblazing book is the first to expose what's happening inside corporate commodity chains with conclusions that fundamentally challenge our understanding of how and why deforestation persists. Authors Peter Dauvergne and Jane Lister reveal how timber now moves through long and complex supply chains from the forests of the global South through the factories of emerging economies like China to the big box retail shelves of Europe and North America. Well-off consumers are getting unprecedented deals. But the social and environmental costs are extraordinarily high as corporations mine the world's poorest regions and most vulnerable ecosystems.
The growing power of big retail within these commodity chains is further increasing South-North inequities and unsustainable global consumption. Yet, as this book's highly original analysis uncovers, it is also creating some intriguing opportunities to promote more responsible business practices and better global forest governance.