Bad En­vi­ron­men­tal­ism

Irony and Ir­rev­er­ence in the Eco­log­i­cal Age

Foreword Reviews - - Spotlight Reviews Climate Change -

Ni­cole Sey­mour, Univer­sity of Min­nesota Press (OC­TO­BER) Soft­cover $26.95 (304pp) 978-1-5179-0389-3

As it turns out, cli­mate change and the en­vi­ron­ment can be a laugh­ing mat­ter—at least, at an ab­surd or satir­i­cal level. In her wide-rang­ing schol­arly study, that’s where Ni­cole Sey­mour fo­cuses her at­ten­tion, an­a­lyz­ing films, tele­vi­sion shows, lit­er­a­ture, and per­for­mances that rep­re­sent “bad en­vi­ron­men­tal­ism,” which she de­fines as “en­vi­ron­men­tal thought that em­ploys dis­si­dent, of­ten-den­i­grated af­fects and sen­si­bil­i­ties” to the cur­rent en­vi­ron­men­tal cri­sis.

With a con­cen­tra­tion on Western cul­ture from the 1990s to the present, the works dis­cussed range from broadly popular to ob­scure. Sey­mour thor­oughly and care­fully cri­tiques each with an eye to­ward ex­pand­ing the au­di­ence’s views of en­vi­ron­men­tal­ism. She does so by com­par­ing and con­trast­ing en­vi­ron­men­tally themed films, study­ing bizarre na­ture and wildlife pro­gram­ming, and dis­cussing the man­ner by which po­etry, fic­tion, an­i­ma­tion, and com­edy take aim at en­vi­ron­men­tal­ism.

Per­haps the most star­tling as­pect of the book is the re­la­tion­ship it re­veals be­tween en­vi­ron­men­tal­ism and so­ciopo­lit­i­cal fac­tors. One chap­ter ad­dresses “queer en­vi­ron­men­tal per­for­mance” with the un­usual ex­am­ples of the Cana­dian Les­bian Na­tional Parks and Ser­vices and a US ac­tivist group, Queers for the Cli­mate. An­other high­lights the some­times un­easy as­so­ci­a­tions of en­vi­ron­men­tal­ism with Na­tive Amer­i­cans and African Amer­i­cans; as Sey­mour puts it, “sen­ti­men­tal­iz­ing Na­tive Amer­i­cans and fram­ing African Amer­i­cans as eco­pho­bic” serve as “dis­trac­tions from the en­vi­ron­men­tal in­jus­tices that both groups suf­fer in com­mon.”

The book’s con­clu­sion is as provoca­tive as the book it­self: that works rep­re­sen­ta­tive of “bad en­vi­ron­men­tal­ism” are “im­por­tant al­ter­na­tives to the sta­tus quo” be­cause they ex­pose el­e­ments of en­vi­ron­men­tal­ism in a com­pletely ir­rev­er­ent way. Ex­plor­ing those de­ri­sive works is what makes Bad En­vi­ron­men­tal­ism a unique book.

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