Recycling Is Not Enough
Recycling Is Not Enough
Faced with an endless stream of alarming news about the environment—rising temperatures and declining water supplies, population growth and species extinction, oil spills and cancer clusters—people increasingly want to know what can actually be done to address these problems. Concerned parents comb through websites late at night in search of safer products for their children. Students pack lecture halls in hundreds of environmental studies programs that have popped up on college campuses across the globe. Our grocery aisles and magazine stands are filled with advertisements promising that sustainability is just one more purchase around the corner. The major current of environmental thinking today emphasizes the small changes we can make as individuals, which (we are told) will add up to something big. Michael Maniates, a political scientist at Allegheny College, observes that the responsibility for confronting these issues too often “falls to individuals, acting alone, usually as consumers.” Yet solutions that promote green consumerism and changes in personal lifestyles strike many of us as strangely out of proportion with enormous problems like climate change, urban air pollution, and the disappearance of tropical forests. We learn that glaciers are melting and sea levels are expected to rise due to global warming—and in response we are advised to ride a bicycle to work. Scientists tell us that one out of every five mammal species in the world is threatened with extinction, and we react by switching coffee brands. Is it any wonder that people despair that real solutions are not within their grasp? You may suspect that tackling these gargantuan problems will require something more—but what? The answer, it turns out, can be found in a mountain of books and research articles published by thousands of social scientists over the past quarter century. But their discoveries have remained largely hidden from public view.
Keywords: League of Nations, Walmart, cancer clusters, citizens' movements, glaciers, melting, normative research, nuclear weapons proliferation, oil spills, population growth, preemption rules, species conservation
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