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The Shadows of Consumption: Consequences for the Global Environment

The Shadows of Consumption: Consequences for the Global Environment Cover

ISBN13: 9780262042468
ISBN10: 0262042460
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Winner of the 2009 Gerald L. Young Book Award in Human Ecology given by the Society for Human Ecology.

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. He 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 fuel-efficient 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.

Review:

"Dauvergne (Paths to the Green World) takes a look at five industries to see what consequences they have on local and global environments, showing 'the environmental spillovers from the corporate, trade, and financing chains that supply and replace consumer goods.' He points out that 'cumulative progress is not keeping pace with the impact of rising consumption in a globalizing economy' and higher environmental standards in first world countries often means transferring ecological degradation to poorer regions. The author's examinations of the ecological effects of automobiles, leaded gasoline and CFCs reveal that industries usually undermine efforts toward safety and sustainability until they find a salable substitute, thus ensuring more profits. An analysis of the harp seal hunt demonstrates that although activists saved seals from near extinction in the 1970s — 1980s, their publicity campaigns will be unlikely to make an impact in markets like Russia and China. Dauvergne proposes 'balanced consumption,' but his solutions range from the unlikely — that 'international donors... serve the interests of people and ecosystems in developing states more than the financial interests at home' — to the fanciful — that 'the World Trade Organization... guide global trade with anticipatory strategies to prevent ecological shadows.'" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Synopsis:

An environmentalist maps the hidden costs of overconsumption in a globalized world by tracing the environmental consequences of five commodities.

About the Author

Peter Dauvergne is Professor of Political Science and Canada Research Chair in Global Environmental Politics at the University of British Columbia. He is the author of the award-winning Shadows in the Forest: Japan and the Politics of Timber in Southeast Asia (MIT Press, 1997), and the coauthor (with Jennifer Clapp) of Paths to a Green World: The Political Economy of the Global Environment (MIT Press, 2005).

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unionkatehall, December 19, 2008 (view all comments by unionkatehall)
I posted a review of this excellent book on one other site but thought I would also list it here because I used to live in Portland and LOVE Powell's books...Happy reading.

Consumer culture and environmentalism make strange bedfellows -- is it oxymoronic to simultaneously love shopping and love the planet? Must The West end its love affair with consumer culture -SUVs, KFC, and "I want my MTV"? Can `greening' corporations really help prevent environmental collapse? These were some of the many questions I had on my mind when I read Peter Dauvergne's "The Shadows Of Consumption: Consequences for the Global Environment."

General readers, political economists, and anyone looking for a fresh take on environmentalism will find Dauvergne's work clearly articulated, provocative, and non-preachy. He does an excellent job of providing investigative analysis linking consumption with the ensuing, and often unseen, global repercussions. This information was of great help to me. I often wonder how to make sense of international trade patterns, global warming, biodiversity and other complex environmental factors when faced with mundane decisions at the grocery store. The consequences of our purchases often seem foggy, distant, and difficult to grasp. In succinct chapters, Dauvergne makes these complex relationships concrete by bringing to light such factors as governance structures, political economy, geography, and corporate power. The author roots his argument about the hidden costs of consumption using five clear examples: cars, gasoline, refrigerators, beef, and seals.

The author succeeds in linking these five disparate cases in support of his overarching argument about the global shadows of consumption. I learned that rising consumption patterns are increasing everywhere, at the same time, the distance between producers and consumers is lengthening so that it's more difficult to comprehend negative spillover effects (Often to the detriment of the environment, poorer countries, and indigenous communities which end up bearing the costs.) This "shadow" concept allows the reader to move beyond individualized solutions to environmental problems to examine the roles of multinational corporations, trade, finance, globalization, and governing bodies.

Sweeping reforms will be needed to create balance. Understanding why ecological shadows form, how they drift, and occasionally, why they fade away will be key in crafting effective environmental strategies on a global context. I enjoyed the way the author seamlessly weaves together these multiple dimensions of trade, governance, health, and corporate power. This book made me think twice about the broader consequences of my purchasing power. The stomach-turning details about "advanced meat recovery systems" combined with the statistics about the rise of meat consumption, rapid loss of rainforests, and broader ecological effects made me vow to "vote with my fork" and cut beef out of my diet entirely. The other chapters are equally hard hitting.

Thanks to Dauvergne, I have a new appreciation for the urgency of drastic structural reforms on a global level including greener technologies, tougher environmental standards, and ways for products to reflect their true environmental costs. At the same time, I have a more realistic understanding of consequences. I understand environmental spillover and link my individualized consumption practices to collective shadows forming in distant communities. While I'm committed to curtailing consumption as a whole, and think others should do so too, I strongly recommend purchasing this book.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780262042468
Subtitle:
Consequences for the Global Environment
Publisher:
The MIT Press
Author:
Dauvergne, Peter
Subject:
Environmentalism
Subject:
Consumption (economics)
Subject:
Environmental Science
Subject:
Earth Sciences - General
Subject:
Natural Resources
Subject:
Environmental Conservation & Protection - General
Subject:
Consumer Behavior - General
Subject:
Public Policy - Environmental Policy
Publication Date:
20081031
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
328
Dimensions:
9 x 6 x 1 in 1.4 lb

Related Subjects

Science and Mathematics » Environmental Studies » General

The Shadows of Consumption: Consequences for the Global Environment
0 stars - 0 reviews
$ In Stock
Product details 328 pages MIT Press (MA) - English 9780262042468 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Dauvergne (Paths to the Green World) takes a look at five industries to see what consequences they have on local and global environments, showing 'the environmental spillovers from the corporate, trade, and financing chains that supply and replace consumer goods.' He points out that 'cumulative progress is not keeping pace with the impact of rising consumption in a globalizing economy' and higher environmental standards in first world countries often means transferring ecological degradation to poorer regions. The author's examinations of the ecological effects of automobiles, leaded gasoline and CFCs reveal that industries usually undermine efforts toward safety and sustainability until they find a salable substitute, thus ensuring more profits. An analysis of the harp seal hunt demonstrates that although activists saved seals from near extinction in the 1970s — 1980s, their publicity campaigns will be unlikely to make an impact in markets like Russia and China. Dauvergne proposes 'balanced consumption,' but his solutions range from the unlikely — that 'international donors... serve the interests of people and ecosystems in developing states more than the financial interests at home' — to the fanciful — that 'the World Trade Organization... guide global trade with anticipatory strategies to prevent ecological shadows.'" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Synopsis" by , An environmentalist maps the hidden costs of overconsumption in a globalized world by tracing the environmental consequences of five commodities.
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