1st Edition

Metanarrative and the Environment A Story of Morality, Agency, and Governance

By Stephen James Purdey Copyright 2024

    To meet the challenge of global environmental degradation activists have tackled clear and concrete problems such as carbon emissions and climate change, the ruination of ecosystems and habitat, the precipitous loss of biodiversity, and many other unhappy consequences of irresponsible human behaviour. However, all such efforts to manually correct the course of history have been dwarfed by the magnitude and heavy forward momentum of modern industrial society. In Metanarrative and the Environment, Stephen James Purdey argues that material approaches to the environmental crisis cannot succeed without the power of a legitimating discourse – a new metanarrative – which fundamentally changes the ideational landscape of human development. Dr. Purdey begins in Part I by establishing the pragmatics of our environmental predicament – its roots and responses to it. He focuses on the concept, definition, and key features of metanarrative, introducing the hegemonic story that now rules the contemporary global mindscape. Part II takes on the moral problematic more directly, encouraging the evolution of a new metanarrative by bringing our potential for agency in the face of danger into sharper relief. Metanarrative and the Environment is multidisciplinary, with a particular emphasis on the creative humanities. It will be of interest to undergraduate and graduate students alike, as well as environmental activists and academics looking for a new way forward.

    Part I

    The Scope and Impact of Metanarrative


    Chapter 1: Metanarrative: An Introduction

    Chapter 2: Narrative Protocol and the Moral Turn

    Chapter 3: Global Governance in Contemporary Culture

    Chapter 4: The Story of Progress and Prosperity

    Chapter 5: The Folly of Growth and the New Metanarrative


    Part II

    Morality and Agency


    Chapter 6: An Introduction to Dualism, Monism, and the Problem of Reconciliation

    Chapter 7: The Material and Transcendent Worlds

    Chapter 8: The New Metanarrative: Some Ontological Considerations

    Chapter 9: Agency and the Evolution of Metanarrative

    Chapter 10: The End and the Beginning


    Stephen James Purdey is an International Relations specialist (PhD, University of Toronto). His academic research focuses on the theoretical and normative attributes of systems of global governance, and on the practical evolution of new forms of global governance to meet current socio-ecological challenges. Now retired, Dr. Purdey worked for several years in the private sector, in Canadian federal politics, and with non- governmental organizations such as the United Nations Association, the World Federalists, and the Earth Council.