Date of Award

Spring 5-12-2016


John Van Buren


This thesis analyzes the forces responsible for stalling the urgently needed changes to America’s political and economic structures in the face of climate change. Within today’s capitalistic paradigm defined by consumerism and corporate power, there is an extremely complex network of political and economic powers at work in the climate debate. Renewable forms of energy are used as an example of an available and effective mitigation technique currently inhibited by this clogged system. The role of the fossil fuel industry in blockading the adoption of alternative forms of energy is used to highlight the malicious intent of this industry in particular. The thesis uncovers the dirty past of the oil and gas industry and considers its current abuses of public and environmental health. It’s manipulative role in policymaking and dissemination of anti-climate change propaganda illustrates corporate power gone wrong—in this case, at the expense of life on earth as we know it.

The environmental sociology that has shaped today’s paradigm is analyzed to provide a historical context of prevailing modern ideologies and their current implications in the climate change narrative. The normalization of capitalistic ideologies such as expansionism and consumerism are addressed as catalysts to destructive human-environment relationships that now dominate modern society. A range of disciplines including environmental politics, economics, psychology, and sociology are utilized to illustrate the complexity of effectively addressing climate change implications in our society. In order to ensure a sustainable future, the impediments to renewable energy expansion must be removed, the political clout of the fossil fuel industry must be relinquished, the economy’s dependence on oil and gas must be removed, and American culture must embrace new ways of respecting nature.