Environmentalism of the Rich

Environmentalism of the Rich

By Peter Dauvergne

What it means for global sustainability when environmentalism is dominated by the concerns of the affluent—eco-business, eco-consumption, wilderness preservation.





What it means for global sustainability when environmentalism is dominated by the concerns of the affluent—eco-business, eco-consumption, wilderness preservation.

Over the last fifty years, environmentalism has emerged as a clear counterforce to the environmental destruction caused by industrialization, colonialism, and globalization. Activists and policymakers have fought hard to make the earth a better place to live. But has the environmental movement actually brought about meaningful progress toward global sustainability? Signs of global “unsustainability” are everywhere, from decreasing biodiversity to scarcity of fresh water to steadily rising greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, as Peter Dauvergne points out in this provocative book, the environmental movement is increasingly dominated by the environmentalism of the rich—diverted into eco-business, eco-consumption, wilderness preservation, energy efficiency, and recycling. While it's good that, for example, Barbie dolls' packaging no longer depletes Indonesian rainforest, and that Toyota Highlanders are available as hybrids, none of this gets at the source of the current sustainability crisis. More eco-products can just mean more corporate profits, consumption, and waste.

Dauvergne examines extraction booms that leave developing countries poor and environmentally devastated—with the ruination of the South Pacific island of Nauru a case in point; the struggles against consumption inequities of courageous activists like Bruno Manser, who worked with indigenous people to try to save the rainforests of Borneo; and the manufacturing of vast markets for nondurable goods—for example, convincing parents in China that disposable diapers made for healthier and smarter babies.

Dauvergne reveals why a global political economy of ever more—more growth, more sales, more consumption—is swamping environmental gains. Environmentalism of the rich does little to bring about the sweeping institutional change necessary to make progress toward global sustainability.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262034951 232 pp. | 6 in x 9 in


$20.00 X ISBN: 9780262535144 232 pp. | 6 in x 9 in


  • In this important new book, Peter Dauvergne lays out the rich world's limited understanding of global environmentalism. The great strength of the book is that it focuses on people, from those at the forefront of global capitalism to the contemporary environmental activists pushing for more far reaching environmental change.

    The International Journal of Entrepreneurship and Innovation

  • Dauvergne does not fall into a trap of oversimplifying the people or organisations in his book into black and white categories. Indeed, the strength of his storytelling lies in his capacity for communicating nuance. Aware of the complexities inherent in living sustainably Dauvergne also discusses his own messy and often hypocritical existence. By acknowledging his privilage and how he undoubtedly perpetuates unsustainability while also fighting against it, he invites readers to reflect on their own place in the world and their responsibility to fight for change.

    Environmental Values


  • In the emerging climate justice movement, frontline communities and vulnerable people are at the head of the fight all over the world. That's because they understand that 'green consumerism' won't conquer the problems we face; we need much deeper shifts in paradigms.

    Bill McKibben

    author of Deep Economy

  • Dauvergne offers valuable insights on how the environmental movement has become increasingly co-opted and corrupted. This is required reading for anyone wanting to help ram the movement off its current dead-end path and build a new deep green movement.

    Erik Assadourian

    Senior Fellow, Worldwatch Institute

  • The environmental movement has expanded its reach and deepened its influence and yet the world's ecological systems continue collapsing, species are going extinct at an alarming rate, the world's old growth forests are rapidly vanishing, and the climate is still on course for massive changes. Dauvergne's starting point is the provocative question: How is it that despite the mounting impact environmentalism is having on everyday citizens, the business sector, and governments the ecological crisis persists? His answer: Environmentalism of the Rich. A must read for anyone concerned about the well-being and flourishing of current and future generations.

    Adrian Parr

    Professor of Environmental Politics and Cultural Criticism, University of Cincinnati, author of Hijacking Sustainability

  • Environmentalism of the Rich is a great book that makes an important contribution to the literature critiquing the contemporary environmental movement. The focus on key personalities and their particular journeys and experiences as a way of telling the history of environmentalism and exploring its contemporary contradictions is effective and enticing, as is the use of examples of household corporate brands to explore the tensions of big brand sustainability. The book is set to make an important and lasting contribution to debates about environmentalism and sustainability.

    Peter Newell

    Professor of International Relations, University of Sussex, author of Globalization and the Environment


  • Winner, 2017 Michael Harrington Book Award, sponsored by the New Political Science section of the American Political Science Association