This panel brings together research on environmental subjectivity. In exploring grassroots interventions in contemporary China, we ask if sustainable living is possible through these acts by reflecting on their implications for civil society, green capitalism, and the global environmental movement.
Decades of unrestrained development has made China's environmental degradation as breathtaking as its economic miracles. Sustainable development and effective enforcement of pollution control remain a challenging task in most parts of China. However, a number of recent studies have shown that a grassroots "green movement" is under way in Chinese societies. As Chai Jing posed the question in her influential documentary about air pollution in China, Chinese citizens, especially the emerging middle class, have lost the patience to wait for the government to respond to the problem. More and more citizens choose to address their concerns about pollution, climate change, and the social, political, and moral ramifications of rising neoliberal values through the means of religion, art, music, vegetarianism, self-cultivation, sustainable farming, ethical consumption, corporate social responsibility (CSR), social entrepreneurship, green credits, and numerous mundane everyday practices like BYOB, recycling, cleaning one's plate, etc. Unlike environmental protests that have the potential to become a political upheaval, such interventions rarely catch the attention of the media as they tend to emphasizes cooperation, communication, and individual change. This panel brings together scholars whose work focus on agency and the formation of "environmental subjectivity" in the broadest sense. In exploring the rich ethnographic accounts of these bottom-up interventions in contemporary Chinese societies (including work about Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, etc.), we ask if sustainable living is possible through such interventions by reflecting on their implications for civil society, green capitalism, authoritarianism, and the global environmental movement.