The Environmental Politics of Sacrifice

The Environmental Politics of Sacrifice

Michael Maniates and John M. Meyer

Print publication date: 2013

ISBN: 9780262014366

Publisher: The MIT Press


The idea of sacrifice is the unspoken issue of environmental politics. Politicians, the media, and many environmentalists assume that well-off populations won’t make sacrifices now for future environmental benefits and won’t change their patterns and perceptions of consumption to make ecological room for the world’s three billion or so poor who are eager to improve their standard of living. This book challenges these assumptions, arguing that they limit our policy options, weaken our ability to imagine bold action for change, and blind us to the ways sacrifice already figures in everyday life. The concept of sacrifice has been unexamined in both activist and academic conversations about environmental politics, but this book confronts it directly. The chapters bring a variety of disciplinary perspectives to the topic. Contributors offer alternatives to the conventional wisdom on sacrifice, identifying connections between sacrifice and human fulfilment in everyday life, and finding such concrete examples as parents’ sacrifices in raising children, religious practice, artists’ pursuit of their art, and soldiers and policemen who risk their lives to do their jobs. They examine particular policies and practices that shape our understanding of environmental problems, including the carbon tax, cycling incentives, and the perils of green consumption. This book puts “sacrifice” into the conversation about effective environmental politics and policies, insisting that activists and scholars do more than change the subject when the idea is introduced.