The Environmental Politics of Sacrifice

The Environmental Politics of Sacrifice

Edited by Michael Maniates and John M. Meyer

An argument that the idea of sacrifice, with all its political baggage, opens new paths to environmental sustainability.





An argument that the idea of sacrifice, with all its political baggage, opens new paths to environmental sustainability.

The idea of sacrifice is the unspoken issue of environmental politics. Politicians, the media, and many environmentalists assume that well-off populations won't make sacrifices now for future environmental benefits and won't change their patterns and perceptions of consumption to make ecological room for the world's three billion or so poor eager to improve their standard of living. The Environmental Politics of Sacrifice challenges these assumptions, arguing that they limit our policy options, weaken our ability to imagine bold action for change, and blind us to the ways sacrifice already figures in everyday life. The concept of sacrifice has been curiously unexamined in both activist and academic conversations about environmental politics, and this book is the first to confront it directly. The chapters bring a variety of disciplinary perspectives to the topic. Contributors offer alternatives to the conventional wisdom on sacrifice; identify connections between sacrifice and human fulfillment in everyday life, finding such concrete examples as parents' sacrifices in raising children, religious practice, artists' pursuit of their art, and soldiers and policemen who risk their lives to do their jobs; and examine particular policies and practices that shape our understanding of environmental problems, including the carbon tax, incentives for cyclists, and the perils of green consumption. The Environmental Politics of Sacrifice puts “sacrifice” firmly into the conversation about effective environmental politics and policies, insisting that activists and scholars do more than change the subject when the idea is introduced.

ContributorsPeter Cannavò, Shane Gunster, Cheryl Hall, Karen Litfin, Michael Maniates, John M. Meyer, Simon Nicholson, Anna Peterson, Thomas Princen, Sudhir Chella Rajan, Paul Wapner, Justin Williams


$50.00 X ISBN: 9780262014366 352 pp. | 6 in x 9 in


$26.00 X ISBN: 9780262514361 352 pp. | 6 in x 9 in


Michael Maniates

Michael Maniates is Professor of Political Science and Environmental Science at Allegheny College. He is the coeditor, with Thomas Princen and Ken Conca, of Confronting Consumption (MIT Press, 2002).

John M. Meyer

John M. Meyer is Professor in the Department of Politics and a Faculty Member in Environmental Studies and the Environment and Community Graduate Program at Humboldt State University. He is the author of Political Nature: Environmentalism and the Interpretation of Western Thought and the coeditor of The Environmental Politics of Sacrifice (both published by the MIT Press).


  • [Maniates and Meyer] offer a series of treasurable essays that should be required reading for any Westerner contemplating the demands of a present in which climate uncertainty and resource scarcity are daily facts of life for the vast majority of humanity.

    Canadian Journal of Political Science

  • An essential contribution to the literature on environmental political theory, environmental politics, and political theory...

    Elisabeth Ellis

    Texas A&M University

    Perspectives on Politics


  • This book takes head-on one of the biggest obstacles to making change: the idea that Americans will never sacrifice for environmental goals. The stubbornness of that one idea has discouraged individuals, environmental organizations, and governments from taking the bold steps necessary to address today's ecological crisis. With that false roadblock deconstructed and out of the way, the road to real change is wide open! A must-read for anyone who has been discouraged by the 'Americans will never sacrifice' myth.

    Annie Leonard

    author of The Story of Stuff and Director, The Story of Stuff Project

  • This is an excellent, thoughtful, and original book. I came to the material skeptically and came away from it convinced that this is indeed an important area to explore, and that much more can be made of the idea of sacrifice than would generally be assumed.

    Andrew Dobson

    Keele University

  • This is not your usual academic book! Innovative in its themes and fun to read, it challenges us to a new environmental politics that avoids the dead ends of both 'sacrifice isn't needed' and 'sacrifice isn't possible.' I highly recommend it.

    James Gustave Speth

    author of The Bridge at the Edge of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability

  • This lively and highly imaginative volume demonstrates how the controversial notion of environmental sacrifice can provide an exceptionally fruitful way of reflecting on many of the burning questions associated with the transition to a sustainable society. Essential reading for anyone interested in environmental politics.

    Robyn Eckersley

    University of Melbourne