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  • Author or Editor: Manisha Anantharaman x
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What are the cultural politics of what becomes recognised as sustainable consumption and consequently good environmental citizenship? And how does this contour who is able to participate in urban environmental politics? In this article, I draw on Bourdieusian theories of distinction to explore the links between (sustainable) consumption, moral authority and participation in environmental politics in Bangalore, India. I re-theorise the term performative environmentalism to argue that when the new middle classes successfully claim cultural authority over sustainable consumption, it obscures the daily environmental practices of the poor in a manner that further disenfranchises their already tenuous right to the city and its environments. This analysis connects the study of consumption practices to scholarship on just sustainabilities by exploring the relational poverty and class politics of sustainable consumption. By focusing on how sustainability and poverty discourses articulate with each other, I show that performative environmentalism exacerbates the exclusion of the working poor from participation in environmental politics by reinforcing class inequalities, restigmatising poverty and monopolising ecological legitimacy for higher status groups. Doing so, I connect cultural and practice-based studies of green consumption to broader questions about how inequality is reproduced in neoliberalising cities through everyday practices.

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While green public spaces have been studied in relation to biodiversity and climate change, and in relation to health and social inclusion, there is a need to further understand how they relate to a broader understanding of human wellbeing. Evidence suggests that public spaces play an important role with a view to happiness and mental health, but further evidence is needed on how people actually use such spaces and how human needs are met – and how this might compare across different contexts. This necessitates to linking conceptually, empirically and practically the consumption of such spaces, the notion of the good life, and the management of such spaces. Towards this aim, this article explores quality of life in relation to green public spaces in four cities of South and Southeast Asia: Chennai, Metro Manila, Shanghai and Singapore. Based on empirical research in these cities, we engage in a comparative analysis to discuss how and in what way ‘going to the park’ as a form of consumption is a satisfier towards meeting ‘Protected Needs’ (Di Giulio and Defila, 2020) such as to live in a livable environment, to develop as a person or to be part of a community. The analysis shows that the practice ‘going to the park’ is linked to the practice ‘making the park’, leading to a discussion on how public policies can further support quality of life in cities. On a theoretical note, the article contributes to the debate about how to conceptually link human needs and social practices.

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