Green Media and the Dilemma of Environmental Virtue
Religion and Social Transformation
Published by: NYU Press
368 pages, 152.00 x 228.00 mm, 10 black and white illustrations
- ISBN: 9781479891313
- Published: November 2019
Tackles a human problem we all share―the fate of the earth and our role in its future
Confident that your personal good deeds of environmental virtue will save the earth? The stories we encounter about the environment in popular culture too often promote an imagined moral economy, assuring us that tiny acts of voluntary personal piety, such as recycling a coffee cup, or purchasing green consumer items, can offset our destructive habits. No need to make any fundamental structural changes. The trick is simply for the consumer to buy the right things and shop our way to a greener future.
It’s time for a reality check. Ecopiety offers an absorbing examination of the intersections of environmental sensibilities, contemporary expressions of piety and devotion, and American popular culture. Ranging from portrayals of environmental sin and virtue such as the eco-pious depiction of Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey, to the green capitalism found in the world of mobile-device “carbon sin-tracking” software applications, to the socially conscious vegetarian vampires in True Blood, the volume illuminates the work pop culture performs as both a mirror and an engine for the greening of American spiritual and ethical commitments.
Taylor makes the case that it is not through a framework of grim duty or obligation, but through one of play and delight, that we may move environmental ideals into substantive action.
By showing the deeper-than-acknowledged impact of pop culture on people’s beliefs about environmental issues, Taylor’s thoughtful treatise offers hope that effective storytelling can play a role in meaningfully addressing catastrophic climate change. ~Publishers Weekly
Sarah McFarland Taylor wades into the messy space of felt eco-practice with wry humor and thorough clarity. … The power of this book rests in the compelling and innovative sources McFarland Taylor explores to understand how individualistic forms of ecopiety are storied to us. … each chapter uncovers the media and messaging that make subtle, sometimes imperceptible interventions in our ecological ethics and the fundamental ways we understand our living. ~Christian Century
[Ecopiety] dives into what it means to be a consumer at the heart of two conflicting narratives – buying stuff is good for the economy, and consuming resources is bad for the environment. ... will have you thinking differently about how environmental behaviour is presented in pop culture and the media. ~The Fifth Estate
The powerful argument that repeatedly surfaces throughout Sarah McFarland Taylor's book – that while acts of ecopiety are often nice and microscopically positive, they are essentially meaningless when faced with the global scale problem they seek to combat [...] is robust, well researched, and close to irrefutable. ~Geographical Magazine
A wake-up call for all those who want to be good stewards of our planet but don’t necessarily know what they should be doing. Untangles the web of conflicting narratives, pulls back the curtain on our psyche, and shows us the roots of corporate manipulation in media. ~Brontide Journal
An astute analysis of certain features of contemporary American culture, Ecopiety addresses an important question: what should we do to make the world a more sustainable place for all? ... An interesting and timely book. ~Interpretation
The cases considered are extraordinary: erotic fiction interweaving ecopiety and consumopiety, automotive purity and trucker pollution, carbon sin-tracking apps, celebrities performing green, vampires turning vegetarian, corpses as media for living on naturally, tattoos identifying humans with endangered species, green hip-hop advancing social inclusion, and more. … Admirably, against the odds, Sarah McFarland Taylor does not contribute to eco-pessimism but advances what I would call an interpretive ethics of story, performance, and play as means for shaping the future. ... for the study of religion this theoretically informed, meticulously detailed, and surprising exploration of religious circulations through media, markets, and moral incongruities is transformative. ~David Chidester, Religion Journal
Wow! It is rare that one has the chance to preview a work which displays this level of intellectual virtuosity. Taylors work occupies an important intersection between religious studies and media/cultural studies. . . . An amazing book, which is going to generate lots of interest. ~Henry Jenkins, Author of Convergence Culture
This book could not come at a more urgent time; as the costs of human life and consumerism become clearer in the environmental crises of the planet, MacFarland-Taylor offers us a brilliant, compelling analysis of how discourses of virtue are used to re-direct the global climate crisis from a collective politics to the choices of individual consumers. The book explores green consumer marketing in the frame of ecopiety by examining a variety of practices, from cars to reality television to mediated popular cultural narratives about vampires to green burials, and in the process offers not only a trenchant critique but also possible alternatives to individualist consumption as a way to virtuously “save the planet.” ~Sarah Banet-Weiser, London School of Economics and author of Empowered: Popular Feminism and Popular Misogyny
Demonstrates the power of myths of individual moral and social power while teasing out the way resistance and counter readings of dominant narratives are possible in the interactive media world made possible by digital communications.... An important argument that adds to our understanding of environmental issues and lifestyle politics. ~Jeffrey Mahan, Iliff School of Theology
Ecopiety is a worthwhile book for anyone who is interested in the role of media and narrative in contemporary environmental discourse…Even activists and policymakers who wish to employ media for green ends stand to benefit from Ecopiety. ~Gabriel Vasquez-Peterson, Environmental Values 31.3