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Against SustainabilityReading Nineteenth-Century America in the Age of Climate Crisis$
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Michelle Neely

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780823288229

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823288229.001.0001

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Embracing Green Temporalities: Indigenous Sustainabilities, Anglo-American Utopias

Embracing Green Temporalities: Indigenous Sustainabilities, Anglo-American Utopias

(p.147) Coda Embracing Green Temporalities: Indigenous Sustainabilities, Anglo-American Utopias
Against Sustainability

Michelle C. Neely

Fordham University Press

Against Sustainability concludes with a coda that contrasts Anglo-American and certain Indigenous American approaches to “zero waste.” Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle (1906) illustrates the limitations of a manufacturing-focused ethic. By contrast, Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass (2013) links a zero-waste ethic to a decolonized relationship to the land. Achieving this version of zero waste requires transforming not simply U.S. manufacturing and disposal processes, but its culture. Using these examples, the coda suggests that there are contexts in which sustainability works as a paradigm. It makes sense to “sustain” Indigenous environmental cultures that resist rather than perpetuate the systems responsible for our environmental degradation. By contrast, Anglo-American sustainability maintains continuity with capitalism’s profit and growth imperatives, with settler colonial resource extraction, and other values and practices inimical to just biotic community. Radical action will only come from transformative environmental ethics that help Americans confront our past truthfully and then imagine and act for a more ecological present. Replacing sustainability with an orientation toward functional utopianism, and remaining committed to strategic, provisional ethics—such as joyful frugality and radical pet keeping—might help bridge the gap between our deadly present and a more livable future.

Keywords:   capitalism, colonialism, environmental ethics, indigenous, The Jungle, Robin Wall Kimmerer, Upton Sinclair, sustainability, utopianism, zero waste

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