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Environmental Spectacle in a Neoliberal Age

Environmental Spectacle in a Neoliberal Age

(p.187) Twelve Environmental Spectacle in a Neoliberal Age
Seeing Green
Finis Dunaway
University of Chicago Press

This chapter shows how media coverage of toxic waste, the Mobro garbage barge, and other environmental problems suggested the limits of free-market fundamentalism and thus encouraged environmental reform even in the midst of the conservative resurgence. As Earth Day 1990 approached, the concept of an overarching environmental crisis once again gained increasing purchase in American public culture. Yet this crisis-oriented coverage ultimately moved from corporate malfeasance to visions of individual hope and consumer-induced change. Popular images of recycling and green consumerism constructed templates for neoliberal citizenship by addressing consumer anxieties about the environmental future. In the neoliberal age, media packaging of environmental hope often framed the movement as a form of therapy, a way for individuals to cope with the distressing imagery of environmental crisis. From ecological systems in peril to choice-making individuals saving the planet, media framings of Earth Day applied micro-solutions to a macro-crisis. Neoliberal models of citizenship mediated this apparent contradiction between planetary crisis and personalized solution. By equating economic choice with political power, this vision of popular environmentalism reinforced the inequities of neoliberal citizenship and promulgated hope in short-term, consumerist solutions to environmental problems.

Keywords:   toxic waste, Mobro garbage barge, neoliberalism, conservative resurgence, green consumerism, recycling, citizenship, Earth Day 1990

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