Ecological modernization and its discontents: The American environmental movement's resistance to an innovation-driven future

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Abstract

Ecological modernization provides a theoretical framework for situating the emergence of new technology-intensive modes of environmental reform such as industrial ecology, environmentally conscious manufacturing, and ecological design. These forms of professional engineering practice all seek to exploit opportunities for aggressive innovation to achieve rigorous improvements in the environmental performance of industrial processes and consumer goods. Despite the potential of this approach, the American environmental movement has not offered much active support. This reticence is attributable to the historical development of organized environmentalism in the United States and its general tendency to privilege the interests of landscape and wildlife protection over concerns about public health and industrial pollution. There also exists within major segments of the country's environmental movement an inertia that stems from an institutionalized preference for litigation and lobbying and a wariness about technologically intensive policy programs. Novel initiatives launched by Environmental Defense and the Natural Resources Defense Council over the past decade however provide some instructive lessons for coming to terms with a more innovation-driven future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)528-547
Number of pages20
JournalFutures
Volume38
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business and International Management
  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science

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