Seeing Green

The Use and Abuse of American Environmental Images

Finis Dunaway

Seeing Green
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Finis Dunaway

344 pages | 73 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2015
Cloth $40.00 ISBN: 9780226169903 Will Publish March 2015
E-book $32.00 ISBN: 9780226169934 Will Publish March 2015

American environmentalism is defined by its icons: the “Crying Indian,” who shed a tear in response to litter and pollution; the cooling towers of Three Mile Island, site of a notorious nuclear accident; the sorrowful spectacle of oil-soaked wildlife following the Exxon Valdez spill; and, more recently, Al Gore delivering his global warming slide show in An Inconvenient Truth. These images, and others like them, have helped make environmental consciousness central to American public culture. Yet most historical accounts ignore the crucial role images have played in the making of popular environmentalism, let alone the ways that they have obscured other environmental truths.
Finis Dunaway closes that gap with Seeing Green. Considering a wide array of images—including pictures in popular magazines, television news, advertisements, cartoons, films, and political posters—he shows how popular environmentalism has been entwined with mass media spectacles of crisis. Beginning with radioactive fallout and pesticides during the 1960s and ending with global warming today, he focuses on key moments in which media images provoked environmental anxiety but also prescribed limited forms of action. Moreover, he shows how the media have blamed individual consumers for environmental degradation and thus deflected attention from corporate and government responsibility. Ultimately, Dunaway argues, iconic images have impeded efforts to realize—or even imagine—sustainable visions of the future.
Generously illustrated, this innovative book will appeal to anyone interested in the history of environmentalism or in the power of the media to shape our politics and public life.
Kathryn T. Morse, Middlebury College
“Dunaway clearly agrees with contemporary arguments that environmentalism has been defined narrowly and wrongly as only a white middle-class, post-war, suburban-based elite movement. But he goes further to ask why post-war environmentalism has been defined that way and how it was produced culturally and politically as exclusionary to working class and non-white Americans. It’s easy to condemn environmentalism as elitist. It’s harder and more important to figure out, culturally, how it got that way, and Dunaway is among the first to dig into that at this level of fine-grained scholarship and analysis. . . . This is an important and powerful work of scholarship on modern environmentalism.”
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