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Environmentalism of the Rich$
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Peter Dauvergne

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780262034951

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262034951.001.0001

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Gambling with the Future

Gambling with the Future

Chapter:
(p.63) 6 Gambling with the Future
Source:
Environmentalism of the Rich
Author(s):

Peter Dauvergne

Publisher:
The MIT Press
DOI:10.7551/mitpress/9780262034951.003.0006

This chapter brings to light the risks – and at times grave costs – for human health and ecosystems of companies introducing new technologies and products to compete for profits and markets. New technologies and products can cast dark ecological shadows onto distant ecosystems, poor communities, and future generations. Sometimes these shadows arise from genuine ignorance, as with chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) drifting skyward from refrigerators, hairsprays, and air conditioners to deplete the ozone layer. But other times these shadows arise from arrogance and intentional risk-taking, as in the 1920s when Thomas Midgley, Jr., working for General Motors and DuPont, put tetraethyl lead into gasoline. As this chapter shows, corporations have a long history of deploying anti-environmental rhetoric to subvert calls for precautionary measures. Since the mid-2000s, however, the executives of multinational corporations have been avoiding straightforward greenwash, preferring a rhetoric of corporate sustainability and corporate social responsibility. To some extent this eco-business strategy is improving efficiency and reducing waste (on a per product basis), but it is not translating into a stronger precautionary approach for the introduction of new technologies and products.

Keywords:   anti-environmental rhetoric, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), DuPont, ecological shadows, General Motors, greenwash, leaded gasoline, precautionary principle, Thomas Midgley Jr.

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