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Global Crisis, Green Consumers

Global Crisis, Green Consumers

The Media Packaging of Earth Day 1990

(p.239) Fifteen Global Crisis, Green Consumers
Seeing Green
Finis Dunaway
University of Chicago Press

This chapter views Earth Day 1990 through three broad contextual lenses—the dramatic expansion of recycling and green consumerism; the media’s marginalization of the environmental justice movement; and the end of the Cold War—to understand how popular environmentalism intersected with the emotional life of capitalism. The chapter moves back and forth between The Earth Day Special, a star-studded TV program that ABC aired during primetime on the twentieth anniversary of Earth Day, and other media texts that stressed the personal and psychological dimensions of environmentalism. Indeed, what makes The Earth Day Special so telling as a cultural text is how it merged so seamlessly with the larger media extravaganza of that day. Across a wide variety of visual and cultural fields, spectators were repeatedly urged to seek both personal therapy and a sense of political empowerment through individual action. From the popular guidebooks listing what you could do to save the planet to the endorsement of green consumerism by Earth Day organizers, lifestyle decisions and the marketplace became the dominant sites of environmental activity. During this pivotal moment, mainstream depictions of the movement worked to enshrine neoliberal models of environmental citizenship.

Keywords:   Earth Day 1990, The Earth Day Special, recycling, green consumerism, environmental justice, end of the cold war, neoliberalism, environmental citizenship, emotions, capitalism

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