Sustainability, greenwashing, and the light green approach to sport environmentalism

Authored by: jay johnson , Adam Ehsan Ali

Routledge Handbook of Sport and the Environment

Print publication date:  August  2017
Online publication date:  July  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138666153
eBook ISBN: 9781315619514
Adobe ISBN:


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In a handbook dedicated to helping us towards understanding how sustainability is understood, problematized, measured, and mobilized in the service of sport, this chapter asks us to consider how such a word may be taken up and utilized for purposes other than addressing harmful practices that occur as a result of sport. Because this book centers upon sustainability, it seems appropriate to unpack this particular word in order to understand how useful it is when used in statements or policies that sport organizations create to address environmental concerns. This is not, of course, to say that sport entities or event organizers are not attempting to make environmentally sound decisions that show they are, at the very least, mindful of how their operations affect the environment. What is important to question, however, is what sustainability actually means. How do we understand it? How do we visibly see sustainability in action – as it is happening? How do we implement sustainable goals, and are these really helping to preserve the complex, diverse ecosystems of the planet? What are the variables by which sustainability is measured? How abstract are they? And finally, what do we mean when we say that we want a sustainable future? Do we mean a generation from now? A hundred years? Mol (2010) observes that sustainability is highly fragmented, context dependent, and is open to different interpretations, leading some scholars to argue for eliminating the word entirely. He points out, however, that despite this anxiety, sustainability remains a central concept in debates and discourse surrounding environmental action and advocacy. This makes it pertinent to our discussion of its use in the arena of sport.

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