Literature and Environmental Rights

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The chapter explores two major reorientations for environmental politics since the 1960s through literature that influenced and was influenced by these politics. With the ‘New Environmentalism’ of the first ‘Earth Day’ (1970), a younger generation broke with a long tradition of wilderness preservation to meet the urgent new challenges of ecological crisis – a shift in genre from the Romantic resistance to modernity in the nature writing of John Muir and Edward Abbey to the science fiction of Ursula K. Le Guin and Ernest Callenbach, who were struggling to think towards possible futures at a planetary scale. The second reorientation also grapples with scale, emerging out of the tensions between the Global North and South in the wake of the first UN Conference on the Human Environment (1972). Sceptical of an environmentalism preoccupied with ‘Nature’ alone, what has been called the ‘environmentalism of the poor’ has refused to see social justice and the environment as separate, as, for example, in Marshallese poet and activist Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner, whose island home – subjected to US nuclear weapons testing in the mid-century – is now inundated by rising sea levels.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCambridge Companion to Literature and Politics
PublisherCambridge University Press
Publication statusPublished - 2022

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