The politics of unsustainability: COP15, post-ecologism, and the ecological paradox

Ingolfur Bluhdorn

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101 Citations (SciVal)


More spectacularly than ever before, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Fifteenth Session of the Conference of the Parties (UNFCCC COP15) summit in Copenhagen in December 2009 exposed the limitations of established approaches to, and institutional arrangements for, international climate and environmental politics. It illustrated the paradoxical simultaneity of, on one hand, the wide acceptance that to mitigate climate change and achieve sustainability rich consumer societies, in particular, need to radically change their established values, lifestyles, and social practices, and on the other, a profound inability and unwillingness to implement such change. Conceptualising the form of ecopolitics on display (not only) in Copenhagen as the “politics of unsustainability,” this article looks for explanations for the apparent impasse in contemporary ecopolitics and explores the practices that help advanced modern consumer societies to cope with the paradox of wanting to sustain the unsustainable. Adopting a social—theoretical approach rooted in the European tradition, the article focuses on one particular explanatory factor that in the prevalent context of environmental depoliticisation is receiving too little attention: the sociocultural norms underpinning all ecopolitics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)34-53
Number of pages20
JournalOrganization and Environment
Issue number1
Early online date10 Mar 2011
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2011


  • Environment and sustainability
  • Governance and policy design


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