Review: Environmental Citizenship

By Behme, Christina | Electronic Green Journal, January 1, 2006 | Go to article overview

Review: Environmental Citizenship


Behme, Christina, Electronic Green Journal


Review: Environmental Citizenship Andrew Dobson and Derek Bell (Eds.) Reviewed by Christina Behme Dalhousie University, Canada Andrew Dobson and Derek Bell's. (Eds.). Environmental Citizenship . Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006. 285 pp. ISBN: 0-262-52446-5 (paperback original); US$24.00.

Andrew Dobson and Derek Bell combine the work of specialists in sociology, political theory, philosophy, psychology, and education to provide a multidisciplinary perspective of the theory and practice of environmental citizenship. The book consists of a thorough introduction and ten thematically grouped chapters: the chapters in p art I illuminate what environmental citizenship is and how it can be achieved; the chapters in part II examine existing obstacles and opportunities for environmental citizenship.

John Barry introduces a concept of sustainability citizenship, which goes beyond the purely environmental sphere and includes social and economic practices. He holds that sustainability citizenship has to be learned and that the state needs to play an active role, encouraging citizens to fulfill their obligations to secure the common good and their own interest . Barry doubts that citizenship requires suppression of private interests in favor of public ones. Instead, he suggests: "the private sphere can partake of ecological virtue and be a site for practicing green citizenship" (p.37).

Drawing on the work of philosophers from Aristotle (350 BC/1976) to Rawls (1973), James Connelly explores the concept of green virtue, defining it as: "character trait a human being needs to realize environmental ends" (p.51). Environmental citizenship does not require establishing new virtues but utilizes existing virtues to bring about a new, sustainable form of society. That means, "an eco-virtue is an internally motivating ecological thoughtfulness leading to action" (p.66). Further, Connelly explores a legislative framework within which virtues can be exercised and stresses that environmental citizenship requires an active state. Taking a Heideggerian (1962) approach, Bronislaw Szerszynski employs three visual metaphors (blindness, distance, and movement) to illustrate how citizenship requires "an imaginative removal of the self from immediate everyday engagement in the world" (p.75). He emphasizes the need to combine a locally rooted "wayfinding" (p.94) with an abstract universal approach to environmental citizenship.

The next two contributors examine the concept of environmental citizenship from a feminist's and an activist's perspective. Sherilyn MacGregor critiques the gender blindness of existing environmental citizenship concepts and highlights the tensions between advocating labor- and time-intensive lifestyle changes and demanding more active citizen participation in the public sphere. Dave Horton examines "green lifestyles" lived by activists, the role of green networks, spaces, materialities, and times, and how the activist derived "elite model" of environmental citizenship can be broadened (p.127). Horton emphasizes that "the practice of groups and networks of the environmentally concerned and committed" best define environmental citizenship (p. …

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