Carbon Footprints as Cultural-Ecological Metaphors  book cover
1st Edition

Carbon Footprints as Cultural-Ecological Metaphors

ISBN 9780367263041
Published March 5, 2019 by Routledge
200 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations

USD $56.95

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Book Description

Through an examination of carbon footprint metaphors, this books demonstrates the ways in which climate change and other ecological issues are culturally and materially constituted through metaphor.

The carbon footprint metaphor has achieved a ubiquitous presence in Anglo-North American public contexts since the turn of the millennium, yet this metaphor remains under-examined as a crucial mediator of political responses to the urgent crisis of climate change. Existing books and articles on the carbon footprint typically treat this metaphor as a quantifying metric, with little attention to the shifting mediations and practices of the carbon footprint as a metaphor. This gap echoes a wider gap in understanding metaphors as key figures in mediating more-than-human relations at a time when such relations profoundly matter. As a timely intervention, this book addresses this gap by using insights from environmental humanities and political ecology to discuss carbon footprint metaphors in popular and public texts.

This book will be of great interest to researchers and students of environmental humanities, political ecology, environmental communication, and metaphor studies.

Table of Contents

List of figures


Introduction – How Big is Yours?


  1. Cultural-Material Resonances of ‘Carbon’ and ‘Footprint’ and the Emergence of a new Compound Metaphor
  2. Mise-en-Scene: Metaphor, Affect, Politics, Ecology

PART II – A Tale of Three Footprints 

  1. Carbon Subjectivity
  2. Carbon Citizenship
  3. Carbon Vitality

CONCLUSION - Fostering Critical Eco-Aesthetic Literacies

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Anita Girvan is a Visiting Scholar at the Centre for Global Studies and teaches in the School of Environmental Studies at the University of Victoria in Canada.


"Few ecological tropes have achieved as much cultural currency as the carbon footprint. Girvan undertakes to explain why as she traces carbon footprint metaphors through a series of case studies captivatingly posed as "tales". This book does crucial work recalling that footprints are metaphors with profound material and political stakes. As Girvan shows, struggles over the power of metaphor will help determine the ecological futures of humans and non-humans in a time of global climate change." — Nicole Shukin, author of Animal Capital: Rendering Life in Biopolitical Times, and Associate Professor of English, the University of Victoria

"There is an urgent need to review the economy of metaphor in this time of heightened climatic and ecological instability, particularly as we seek to better attune to cultural and material meanings for they consequentially shape nuanced approaches to climate change. The carbon footprint and its affective mediation is innovatively linked to the behaviour of carbon subjects and the geopolitics of energy development in this study’s unique contribution to a newly climatic understanding of the materiality of cultural inscription."Tom Bristow, Department of English Studies, Durham University