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Bad Environmentalism

Irony and Irreverence in the Ecological Age

2018
Author:

Nicole Seymour

Bad Environmentalism

Traces a tradition of ironic and irreverent environmentalism, asking us to rethink the movement’s reputation for gloom and doom

Nicole Seymour develops the concept of “bad environmentalism”: cultural thought that employs dissident affects and sensibilities to reflect critically on our current moment and on mainstream environmental activism. Funny and original, Bad Environmentalism champions the practice of alternative green politics and expands our understanding of how environmental art and activism can be pleasurable, even in a time of undeniable crisis.

Bad Environmentalism confronts serious environmental problems by way of ‘unserious’ texts. Nicole Seymour takes on complex ideas with lucidity, economy, and a witty sense of humor. Against the familiar affects that tend to characterize both environmentalism and environmental studies—such as awe, love, guilt, reverence, and earnestness—Bad Environmentalism pits less solemn alternatives, including playfulness, impropriety, irreverence, irony, frivolity, and glee. I am a convert. Bad environmentalists, unite!

Jennifer K. Ladino, author of Reclaiming Nostalgia: Longing for Nature in American Literature*

Activists today strive to educate the public about climate change, but sociologists have found that the more we know about alarming issues, the less likely we are to act. Meanwhile, environmentalists have acquired a reputation as gloom-and-doom killjoys. Bad Environmentalism identifies contemporary texts that respond to these absurdities and ironies through absurdity and irony—as well as camp, frivolity, irreverence, perversity, and playfulness.

Nicole Seymour develops the concept of “bad environmentalism”: cultural thought that employs dissident affects and sensibilities to reflect critically on our current moment and on mainstream environmental activism. From the television show Wildboyz to the short film series Green Porno, Seymour shows that this tradition of thought is widespread—spanning animation, documentary, fiction film, performance art, poetry, prose fiction, social media, and stand-up comedy since at least 1975. Seymour argues that these texts reject self-righteousness and sentimentality, undercutting public negativity toward activism and questioning basic environmentalist assumptions: that love and reverence are required for ethical relationships with the nonhuman and that knowledge is key to addressing problems like climate change.

Funny and original, Bad Environmentalism champions the practice of alternative green politics. From drag performance to Indigenous comedy, Seymour expands our understanding of how environmental art and activism can be pleasurable, even in a time of undeniable crisis.

Bad Environmentalism

Nicole Seymour is associate professor of English at California State University, Fullerton. She is author of Strange Natures: Futurity, Empathy, and the Queer Ecological Imagination.

Bad Environmentalism

As it turns out, climate change and the environment can be a laughing matter—at least, at an absurd or satirical level.

Foreword Reviews

Bad Environmentalism confronts serious environmental problems by way of ‘unserious’ texts. Nicole Seymour takes on complex ideas with lucidity, economy, and a witty sense of humor. Against the familiar affects that tend to characterize both environmentalism and environmental studies—such as awe, love, guilt, reverence, and earnestness—Bad Environmentalism pits less solemn alternatives, including playfulness, impropriety, irreverence, irony, frivolity, and glee. I am a convert. Bad environmentalists, unite!

Jennifer K. Ladino, author of Reclaiming Nostalgia: Longing for Nature in American Literature*

In an era in which environmental crises have been normalized and environmentalists are viewed by many as overly earnest irritants, Nicole Seymour gives us something we crave (even if we’re loathe to admit it!). Bad Environmentalism offers stunningly original, creative, and playful readings of a diverse range of cultural forms; refuses the binaries of eco-purity politics; and advances a hearty support of ambiguity, irreverence, contradiction, humor, and pleasure while holding firm against the racism and homophobia that often undergird mainstream environmentalist campaigns and logics. This is a challenging, often hilarious, and game-changing book.

David Naguib Pellow, author of What Is Critical Environmental Justice?*

Bad Environmentalism

Introduction
1. “I’m No Botanist, but . . .”: Irony, Ecocinema, and the Problem of Expert Knowledge
2. “So Much to See, So Little to Learn”: Perverting Nature/Wildlife Programming
3. Climate Change Is a Drag and Camping Can Be Campy: On Queer Environmental Performance
4. Animatronic Indians and Black Folk Who Don’t: Rewriting Racialized Environmental Affect
5. Gas-Guzzling, Beer-Chugging, Tree Huggers: Toward Trashy Environmentalisms
Conclusion
Acknowledgments
Notes
Bibliography
Index