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From the Earth’s Limits to Greta Thunberg: The Effects of Environmental Crisis Metaphors in China


American Journal of Economics and Sociology

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["The American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Volume 81, Issue 2, Page 305-320, March 2022. ", "\nAbstract\nThe metaphors of the environmental crisis have played a considerable role in creating the social basis for modernization in China, with humans and nature in harmony. The idea of the earth’s limits arose from several sources in the early 1970s, including the book The Limits to Growth, and became one of the most‐widely disseminated metaphors of the environmental crisis. It has brought about very positive impacts on China’s academic study, public awareness, and policymaking over the past five decades. By contrast, the rhetoric of Greta Thunberg, known in China as the “Swedish maid for environmental protection,” though successfully propagated in the Western world, is to a large extent an artificial creation of an NGO‐led alliance of various forces. Thus, it is difficult to find a serious audience in today’s China for her speeches for three reasons. First, many Chinese people insist that Thunberg’s remarks about China’s environmental actions are groundless and inappropriate. Second, the pessimistic scenario of the future, as envisioned by Thunberg, is inconsistent with East Asian history and culture. Third, the formulation and implementation of China’s national strategy to develop an ecological civilization has provided a contemporary environmental crisis metaphor with Chinese characteristics. It serves as an alternative to metaphors that feature pessimistic predictions and scary words.\n"]