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The Shadows of Consumption: Consequences for the Global Environment


  • Peter Dauvergne

    () (University of British Columbia)


The Shadows of Consumption gives a hard-hitting diagnosis: many of the earth's ecosystems and billions of its people are at risk from the consequences of rising consumption. Products ranging from cars to hamburgers offer conveniences and pleasures; but, as Peter Dauvergne makes clear, global political and economic processes displace the real costs of consumer goods into distant ecosystems, communities, and timelines, tipping into crisis people and places without the power to resist. In The Shadows of Consumption, Peter Dauvergne maps the costs of consumption that remain hidden in the shadows cast by globalized corporations, trade, and finance. He traces the environmental consequences of five commodities: automobiles, gasoline, refrigerators, beef, and harp seals. In these fascinating histories we learn, for example, that American officials ignored warnings about the dangers of lead in gasoline in the 1920s; why China is now a leading producer of CFC-free refrigerators; and how activists were able to stop Canada's commercial seal hunt in the 1980s (but are unable to do so now). Dauvergne's innovative analysis allows us to see why so many efforts to manage the global environment are failing even as environmentalism is slowly strengthening. He proposes a guiding principle of "balanced consumption" for both consumers and corporations. We know that we can make things better by driving a fuel-efficient car, eating locally grown food, and buying energy-efficient appliances; but these improvements are incremental, local, and insufficient. More crucial than our individual efforts to reuse and recycle will be reforms in the global political economy to reduce the inequalities of consumption and correct the imbalance between growing economies and environmental sustainability.

Suggested Citation

  • Peter Dauvergne, 2008. "The Shadows of Consumption: Consequences for the Global Environment," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262042460, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:mtp:titles:0262042460

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    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Kathryn Harrison, 2015. "International Carbon Trade and Domestic Climate Politics," Global Environmental Politics, MIT Press, vol. 15(3), pages 27-48, August.
    2. Peter Dauvergne & Genevieve LeBaron, 2013. "The Social Cost of Environmental Solutions," New Political Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 18(3), pages 410-430, June.
    3. repec:spr:agrhuv:v:35:y:2018:i:1:d:10.1007_s10460-017-9787-7 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Campbell-Verduyn Malcolm, 2016. "Merely TINCering around: the shifting private authority of technology, information and news corporations," Business and Politics, De Gruyter, vol. 18(2), pages 143-170, August.
    5. repec:spr:agrhuv:v:35:y:2018:i:2:d:10.1007_s10460-017-9846-0 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Graham Harrison, 2011. "Poverty reduction and the chronically rich," Review of African Political Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 38(127), pages 1-6, March.
    7. repec:spr:ieaple:v:17:y:2017:i:6:d:10.1007_s10784-017-9365-x is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Peter Dauvergne & Jennifer Clapp, 2016. "Researching Global Environmental Politics in the 21st Century," Global Environmental Politics, MIT Press, vol. 16(1), pages 1-12, February.
    9. repec:gam:jsusta:v:10:y:2018:i:1:p:104-:d:125397 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Kissinger, Meidad, 2012. "International trade related food miles – The case of Canada," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(2), pages 171-178.

    More about this item


    global environment; environmental sustainability; commodities;

    JEL classification:

    • Q5 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics


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