Ecopiety: Green Media and the Dilemma of Environmental Virtue

Sarah McFarland Taylor. NYU, $30 trade paper (368p) ISBN 978-1-4798-9131-3
Taylor (Green Sisters: A Spiritual Ecology), a Northwestern religious studies professor, examines, in sometimes granular detail, how popular culture tells stories about environmental issues. In so doing, Taylor casts light on “ecopiety,” which she uses to encompass “contemporary practices of environmental... virtue, through daily, voluntary works of duty and obligation,” such as buying green products or taking shorter showers. She looks at how ecopiety can provide a false sense of achievement to consumers or even lead to counterproductive results, as, for example, when airlines advertise their commitment to offsetting carbon emissions, thus potentially encouraging consumers to book even more flights. While those insights will be familiar to some, Taylor’s deep dive into the environmental messages encoded into media is eye-opening. The 50 Shades of Grey series, she notes, signals billionaire antihero Christian Grey is redeemable by showing his environmentally sound handling of his businesses. Elsewhere, she explores how “a number of environmentalists... have invoked vegetarian vampires”—the Twilight series’ undead heroes, who find ethical alternatives to human blood—“as models of moral restraint” for human consumers. 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. (Nov.)
Reviewed on : 09/04/2019
Release date: 11/01/2019
Genre: Nonfiction
Hardcover - 368 pages - 978-1-4798-1076-5
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