1 Mikajin

Environmental Heroism Essay

Here’s a few bits from an essay that will introduce a section of the forthcoming volume, Fluid Frontiers: New Currents in Marine Environmental History.  The book originated in this great conference, about which I blogged here. I’m introducing a cluster of essays on Steinbeck, Hemingway, and American Maritime Revivalism.

What makes an ecological hero? Can heroic self-assertion ever be compatible with ecological interconnectedness? These three essays on maritime literature and historical ecology suggest ways to bring the special insights of literary culture to bear on these questions. In a broad sense, the problem of the hero is the problem of human-centered thinking. All human heroes, by virtue of being human, exacerbate the problem of anthropocentrism. To the extent that humans want to see examples of ecological heroism in people like us, we resist the full force of the ecological thought that de-centers the merely human.  But literature, to a degree, may be flexible enough to respond to this dilemma. Literary works both reflect and modify existing ideas about what human beings are and how we interact with large-scale natural systems. The massive surge of ecocritical readings of literature since the 1990s suggests that the human-nature relationship has become an essential topic of literary interest in the present. Literary culture may help unravel, or at least illuminate, the conflict between the cultural force of anthropocentric narratives and the counter-pressure of ecosystemic thinking.

The problem of the hero remains potent for all strains of ecological thinking, but perhaps especially so in the blue oceans of maritime ecocriticism. While the green world of traditional environmental studies has always had room for the humans who till the soil and tend pastures, the oceanic world is less hospitable and, in human terms at least, less sustainable. The ocean is not really a home for people. But despite or perhaps because of the difficulties of living in or near the great waters, the sea has always been one of the most fecund sites of literary invention. To explore blue voyages instead of green kingdoms requires imagining ways for humans to endure hostile, changeable ecologies. The heroes we need, as I have argued elsewhere, are swimmers and sailors, not warriors or conquerors. These oceanic heroes, who exert themselves in intimate and dangerous contact with the fluid element, may provide models for surviving the present era of ecological crisis and disruption. Humans crave both heroes and ecological order, and it may be that we cannot have both, at least not in either’s current form. This cluster of essays suggests new currents of maritime ecological thinking that can do justice to the mind-challenging world ocean and find ways for humans to thrive in contact with salt water.

As both scientists and literary scholars know, ecology represents a system of relations in which no single part takes precedence over the inter-relating whole. To embrace ecological thinking entails refusing singularity, attempting insofar as it is possible to think outside solitary human perspectives. Heroism works in the opposite way. The hero, the example of human greatness, invites attention and focus, so that the heroic body itself becomes a vessel for transcendent values. The history of art provides probably our clearest examples of how heroism becomes embodied. Michelangelo’s famous sixteenth-century sculpture of  David, poised nude just before his combat with Goliath, visually presents the singularity and physical force of human heroism. The hero, the shepherd boy about to slay the Philistine giant, stands out from the crowd. Rather than being defined by relations, the hero exceeds them. Imagining this figure as just a participant in an all-encompassing network seems difficult, and perhaps undesirable. The tension between the human desire for exemplary heroism and an opposed but also strong penchant for harmonious exchange marks the field of ecological literary criticism. Literary scholars have no easy answer for this dilemma – we want both sides of this coin also – but literary culture contains a host of figures who try, and at times do not entirely fail, to combine these value systems.

It is tempting to answer these questions with some names from recent ecological activism: Rachel Carson. Bill McKibbon. Aldo Leopold. Sylvia Earle. Al Gore.  These and others combine in different ways human heroism and ecological insight. But the search for heroic models, for exemplary humans, on a basic level works in tension with ecological ideas that de-center human primacy and advance inter-relation rather than solitary exemplarity. To be heroic, to stand out from and dominate a crowd, on some fundamental level is a non-ecological act. Heroism, the human desire for power and display, may be part of what got our watery planet into its current ecological mess. Herman Melville’s novel Moby-Dick, in an ecological light, tells a story of human ambition in doomed conflict with the boundless sea. At the close of Melville’s novel, the waters close over Ahab and his whaleship and “the great shroud of the sea rolled on as it rolled five thousand years ago.” A collective body drowns heroes. Only the philosophical Ishmael, who represents a different kind of heroism, poetic and speculative rather than epic and violent, survives to tell the tale. In Melville’s literary model, oceanic forces frustrate or reshape human ambitions. But in our age of climate change and ocean acidification, it no longer seems clear that the sea itself can remain what it has been.


In 2007, Arnold Schwarzenegger received the European Campaigner of the Year award. Chosen by the readers of European Voice for his work on solving global environmental problems, he was hailed as a visionary environmental hero, at the pinnacle of his popularity as a politician. In Sweden the public was told to follow his lead and politicians were advised to learn from his example. How could this happen? How could Schwarzenegger be portrayed as an environmental role model, even in countries such as Sweden, a country known around the world for progressive policies in gender equality and the environment? This paper introduces and investigates the notion of ‘ecomodern masculinity,’ through the assemblage of Schwarzenegger's gender identity, environmental politics, and image in Sweden. While there has been research on gender inequity in relation to environmental and developmental goals, there has been little concern with constructions of how shifting hegemonic masculinity is embedded in environmental policy. As former California governor, actor, and Mr. Universe, Schwarzenegger's connection to the ecomodern politics that he prescribed is researched within a framework combining insights from the fields of gender and environmental studies. Ecomodern environmental politics and Kindergarten Commando masculinity are understood as attempts to incorporate and deflect criticism in order to perpetuate hegemony, to ensure that practices remain in effect, ‘business as usual.’ By looking at the historical changes in Schwarzenegger's identity intertwined with the rise of ecomodern discourse, this article illustrates those changes and broadens our understanding of global politics in the fields of energy and the environment.


At the turn of the 21st century, humanity faces some very serious environmental problems, one of which is global climate change caused primarily by anthropogenic emissions generated from fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas. While awareness about global warming gradually increased over the past three decades and became more and more socio-politically embedded, different solutions were proposed in line with dominant ecological modernization policies which view market solutions and technical fixes as the answers. Fuel Cell and Hydrogen (FCH) technology was one such solution.1 Politicians, heads of energy companies, journalists, and engineers promoted this solution as the best way to maintain private car ownership in times of environmental restraints. In Sweden, as they had often done in the past, these people turned their attention to events in California to legitimize their visions for the future. At this time Arnold Schwarzenegger was the governor of California, and his work regarding the implementation of FCH-favorable policies was hailed as visionary.

In 2003 Swedish journalist Tommy Hammarström recommended in his Expressen editorial page that readers “Drive like Arnold.”2 Hammarström hailed California as a historic trendsetter and Swedes should now “[...] follow in his tracks, when Arnold turns up on his hydrogen highway.”3 Schwarzenegger was described as an important leader with a vision for the 21st century, and in his role as governor of California he materialized their coveted energy and environmental policy. Arnold was even voted European Campaigner of the Year in 2007 by the readers of European Voice, the leading provider of independent policy conferences and debates on key issues for the EU political and regulatory affairs community, for his work on solving global environmental problems.4

But how did Schwarzenegger become an environmental hero around the globe, including Sweden, of all countries, internationally renowned for its progressive environmental and gender politics? Wasn't Arnold just an action figure in popular culture, the protagonist in nonsensical comedies or a fantasy figure in unrealistic science fiction roles? Or should he be taken seriously and analyzed in an academic article on important issues such as energy and environmental policy?

Gender analysis in the studies of science, technology, and the environment has become increasingly important in recent years. This focus has opened up different perspectives and demonstrated the need for interdisciplinary analysis, which includes in-depth research on identity issues, bodily interconnectedness, and nature-cultures.5 Gender analysis has been prominent in relation to women affected by climate change6 and environmental activism by mothers.7 But less interest has been shown in the male aspect of identity, especially how different masculinities enhance or influence environmental issues. This lacuna is surprising since one of the first studies in which the concept ‘hegemonic masculinity’ was used, dealt with men in environmental social movements.8 Some historical studies have been conducted on hegemonic masculinity and environment, for example on colonialism in India,9 and the environmental movement of the 1960s,10 but very few studies try to understand contemporary masculinities with regard to energy and environmental questions; rural studies constitute an important exception.11

Arnold Schwarzenegger's diverse character, as both a politician and an actor, has been used by several gender scholars as a litmus test to interpret hegemonic masculinity in the U.S. and the West in general.12 Scholars have shown that Arnold changes when the culture changes, as he always seems to have the ability to be at the forefront of these changes. Researchers therefore argue that with Schwarzenegger they can sense shifts in masculinity.13

This essay furthers previous gender analysis of Schwarzenegger in environmental and energy policies. It introduces and investigates the notion of ‘ecomodern masculinity’ by looking into Schwarzenegger's gender identity and connections to the gradually strengthened ecomodern politic that he prescribed. In so doing, the paper broadens our understanding of the present form of global politics in the fields of energy and the environment. I argue that Schwarzenegger's changing masculinity regarding violence and caring is also reflected in his politics, and therefore may function as an illustration of the hegemonic shifts in environmental and energy policies.14

The Influence of Schwarzenegger

The character of Arnold Schwarzenegger as a politician and an actor has been researched as an indicator to interpret masculinity in the U.S. as well as historical changes in hegemonic, dominating, masculinity.15 Arnold is very popular in the U.S. and worldwide.16 His identity goes beyond the role he plays in movies.17 Schwarzenegger has become a kind of ‘intimate stranger,’ to use the terminology of Maxwell Boykoff and Michael Goodman. This is a celebrity who has achieved such a status that they promote politics using the leverage of their popularity.18 This status makes him a relevant phenomenon to analyze if we are to understand the political shifts in gender and environmental politics.

There are several reasons to take Schwarzenegger's influence as a proclaimed environmental frontrunner seriously and to try to understand how his masculinity is entwined with environmental policy today. Schwarzenegger served as governor of California for two consecutive terms. California has a large gross domestic product (as large as France), a very high number of cars per person and a prominent political status in the world. It has a highly advanced industrialized production capability, and demanding and environmentally aware consumers. California is also recognized as a state where trends are created.19 This worldwide influence is evident if we look at how the automotive industry changed with the fluctuations in the Californian Zero-emissions Vehicle (ZEV) law. These laws were first enacted in September 1990 to deal with car emissions. They mandated that two per cent of cars sold by 1998 in California be ZEVs. Car companies would have to pay a fine for every car that missed the target.20 When ZEV was changed in 1996-97 in favor of fuel cell technologies and later on cancelled, the global automotive industry followed its alterations.21

In Sweden, Arnold was utilized as a positive example and leader of ecomodern change in the early 21st century. Arnold's initiatives for FCH were praised by researchers, included in state reports and mass media, and reused by lobby groups. Arnold was presented as a leader who took environmental issues seriously and put pressure on the automotive industry to create cleaner technologies.

Finally, celebrity status is increasingly important for politicians today. Arnold's popularity as an ‘intimate stranger’ was a major factor when he became governor of California. Along with the ecomodern promise that dominates today's politics, Arnold is said to be an apt metaphor for the U.S., and for the rest of the world's relationship to consumption and the environment. Historian Sarah Krakoff concludes “[...] like Arnold, Americans want to have it all – big cars, good times, boundless economic growth and, at the same time, clean air and water, and plenty of beautiful places to play.”22

Industrial Solutions and Cowboy Masculinity

Arnold Schwarzenegger started his career as a bodybuilder and became hugely successful, claiming the title of “Mr. Universe” once and “Mr. Olympia” seven times. It was as a bodybuilder that his acting career in the U.S. took off. He became an immensely popular role model in bodybuilding circles, symbolized in the movie Pumping Iron (1977), a film about his own career. Schwarzenegger also began to participate in politics, and his political career from then on became entangled with his acting roles. In the 1980s, he expressed his support for President Ronald Reagan, while, on-screen, he played the violent American hero who would save the world from corrupt politicians. His big breakthrough to a wider audience came when he portrayed the solitary male American hero who used weapons, spoke only a few words, and acted violently in movies such as Conan the Barbarian (1982), Conan the Destroyer (1984), The Terminator (1984), Red Sonja (1985), Commando (1985), Raw Deal (1986), The Running Man (1987), Predator (1987) and Red Heat (1988); a cowboy who would conquer the world while saving it from evil in the form of terrorists and dictators.23 To compensate for the protagonist's lack of words, his films relied on physical action.

In the energy and environmental political field, environmental historian Carolyn Merchant has identified this kind of mechanistic and objectifying masculinity as an important part of industrial modern society. During the Enlightenment, a separation between man/woman and culture/nature was created which led to the dichotomy of men/culture as rulers over women/nature. Merchant has identified an important change in organic metaphors of nature, which were dominant until this time in Europe, but then replaced by mechanical metaphors as nature was increasingly regarded as dead. This shift coincided with the rise of modern industrial-scale operators in which the use of nature in the form of resources, such as mining, drainage and deforestation, increasingly took over social practices. Merchant argues that her analysis of metaphors suggests that a shift was necessary to reshape nature in line with industrial modernity. The paramount example in her book about the death of nature is Francis Bacon's utopia The New Atlantis, in which a small group of masculine scientists with the aid of mechanical skills extract secrets from a feminized nature in order to transform them into commodities. This separation created a mechanical and economic understanding of nature that was part of the transformation of society towards industrialization, mechanization and capitalism.24

This type of separation also occurred when Sweden was industrialized. From the 1920s, Swedish energy and environmental policy was aimed at industrial and large-scale energy transformations. This meant that when a number of environmental problems (including biocides, DDT and air pollution) that had the potential to challenge the industrial modern production system were highlighted in the 1960s, the dominant political parties and environmental groups all agreed that it was possible to resolve these problems with the help of modern industrial solutions, such as nuclear power. Until the early 1970s, there was an almost complete domination of this faith in nuclear power as Sweden sought economic growth and a rationalization of production to manage energy and environmental policy requirements. Industrial modernization was simultaneously presented as a cause of environmental problems and a prerequisite to overcoming them.25

In the 1970s and early 1980s criticism was raised against modern industrial society's flaws and shortcomings in Sweden. Modern industrial logic was no longer able to handle a number of global environmental problems, such as acidification and anthropogenic climate change.26 A number of Swedish public intellectuals formulated a vision of a low energy consumption society for the future. This ecological discourse contained arguments for small-scale technologies, the decentralization of power, and criticism against economic growth as a measure of prosperity, as well as the need to develop renewable energy sources. The foundations of society were the subject of intense debate which also encouraged the environmental movement to create visions of ecotopia. These visions were seriously discussed throughout the 1980s. They challenged the dominant modern industrial energy and environmental politics.27 Meanwhile, a similar change took place in gender politics.

From Industrial to Ecomodern

By the end of the 1980s, the so-called cowboy-masculinity that Schwarzenegger symbolized, both as bodybuilder and sole perpetrator of violence in his breakthrough movies, was being increasingly challenged by another male ideal of caring and compassion.28 All of a sudden Schwarzenegger could be mocked, as shown by his character used in a sketch called “Pumping Up with Hans & Franz.” Hans and Franz were a pair of muscle-bound chaps who imitated/spoofed Arnold Schwarzenegger by using padding for fake muscles, dull grey sweat suits, weight belts, and Austrian accents. The background of the set included stories of Schwarzenegger during his competition years; the sketch was introduced with Austrian music. The Austrian characters were a recurring sketch on the hugely popular television comedy show Saturday Night Live that intervened in, and re-located, cowboy masculinity.29

Schwarzenegger himself seemed to adjust to this new masculinity. The role illustrating this shift is best found in the second Terminator film, Judgment Day. The film is the most popular and most financially successful of all the films in which Schwarzenegger has participated.30 The role in Terminator 2 can illustrate the beginning of a new form of hegemonic masculinity in which violence goes hand-in-hand with care, a change that this role came to symbolize. Cultural analysis of Schwarzenegger's character shows how the dominant norm of masculinity was challenged. In this film, he is depicted as both more sensitive and even more successfully violent. Interestingly, there are also two other potential protagonists in this film, both of whom are presented as inadequate: neither a muscular single mother nor the post-modern T-1000 robot can replace Schwarzenegger. The Terminator 2, which has a little more compassion and care, is instead described as the rational choice for a future in a messy world.31 So even if the cowboy-masculinity was challenged in this film, Schwarzenegger came out as the winner because he was able to incorporate compassion, sensitivity, and care in his masculinity.32 A similar process took place when Schwarzenegger himself appeared in an episode of Hans and Franz on Saturday Night Live. Instead of being the object of ridicule, he took over the scene by being ironic and compassionate. He came out on top; the episodes mocking him soon had to end.33

A similar test of cowboy masculinity can be found in energy and environmental politics in the late 1980s. At this time in Sweden, ecological discourse won ground and began to challenge the modern industrial discourse. This shift was visible in public opinion, the election of Green Party members to the parliamentary assembly, the mass media debate greatly influenced by an ecotopian vision, regulations that favoured an ecological discourse, and ecologically minded energy projects.34 The people who led the modern industrial discourse were fighting for their survival, challenged by those who practised an ecological discourse.35 According to political scientist Måns Nilsson, The Confederation of Swedish Enterprise, industry leaders, the Swedish Trade Union and political parties on the conservative side used all their influence to maintain power. This intense clash had far-reaching implications as environmental politics were reshaped by industry influence to give rise to an ecomodern discourse.36 The conventional ecological discourse with its preference for small-scale technologies, the decentralization of power and criticism of economic growth as a measure of prosperity, as well as the need to develop renewable energy sources, suffered a defeat that had major consequences for the future of Swedish energy and environmental policies. By the beginning of the 1990s, the ecomodern discourse had become dominant.37

Ecological Modern Politics, Fuel Cells, and Ecomodern Masculinity

The conflict between an ecological discourse and an industrial modern discourse was shoved to the periphery of the debate in the early 1990s, as an ecomodern discourse began to dominate both international and national policies on energy and environmental issues. Economic growth was said to be the basis for a transition of energy and environmental policies towards a sustainable future. This ecomodern discourse had begun much earlier, but only since the early 1990s had it become dominant in energy and environmental policy, in Sweden and across the globe.38

Ecomodern discourse spelled major change for energy and environmental policy. In descriptions, environmental problems changed from being threats to civilization, which demanded radical system-wide changes, to being characterized as mostly under control and soon to be solved. The private sector was described as a locomotive that would pull Sweden out of both economic and environmental crises. This ecomodern discourse enabled economic growth to be placed squarely at the centre of the environmental debate, as it was now claimed that there was no conflict between economic growth and environmental problems. In fact, it was declared that environmental problems actually fostered growth, innovation, and competitiveness.39 The discourse paved the way for market solutions and a belief that competition would create ‘green’ jobs. In this vein, the state-owned electricity utility Vattenfall was turned into a company, the electricity grid was privatized, and research money was increasingly directed to private/public organizations. In addition, environmental organizations like The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation participated in this shift, running several campaigns favoring eco-friendly consumption patterns without questioning the total volume of the products.40 The uniquely integrated Swedish Ministry of Energy and Environment was disbanded as well, and these issues were placed under the Ministry of Industry.41 These changes meant that the focus shifted to finding specific technologies to reduce emissions, that descriptions of technologies were modified, and new discourse coalitions were created.42

One technology supported by proponents of an ecomodern discourse was fuel cells, proclaimed as an emission-free technology (a description later fancied by Schwarzenegger). In the mid-1990s Chrysler and Daimler-Benz constructed prototypes of fuel cell and hydrogen vehicles and applied for a number of patents. To have this major investment pay off, they lobbied intensively to change the Californian Zero Emission Law (ZEW) in 1996, watering down its quotas (and hence delaying the production and deployment of battery electric autos like the EV-1), in exchange for a promise to develop the ZEV fuel cell car. In line with this effort, Chrysler introduced a gasoline-powered car retrofitted for hydrogen. According to press releases, the fuel cell emissions were perfectly harmless, and the company expected to have prototype cars rolling within two years. Chrysler marketed its technology with optimism and confidence. But this was done by leaving out some significant details, such as the fact that hydrogen has to come from somewhere, and that turning gasoline into hydrogen did in fact produce emissions. The automotive companies gave the impression that fuel cells were a solution in themselves, which journalists, politicians, and researchers duly passed on. According to engineers and motoring journalists, the ‘car of the future’ was no longer electric and part of a changed transport system, but one powered by fuel cells with less need to change automobile infrastructures.43

The heyday of cowboy masculinity, where characters spoke only a few words and acted with violence while defending the supposedly innocent, appeared to have met its end at the same time as the rise of ecomodern politics. In his films from the 1990s onwards, as well as in his political career, Schwarzenegger combined the two rather contradictory qualities of toughness and compassion in the same figure.44 This can be seen in movies such as Kindergarten Cop (1990), Junior (1994) and Jingle All the Way (1996), and in political campaigns in which he emphasized his commitment to children.45 Schwarzenegger made his way into politics as part of George W. Bush's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports 1990-1993. Later on he served as chairman of the California Governor's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. At this time he transformed himself into a Kindergarten Commando.46 Toughness, determination and hardness, which still formed the core of Kindergarten Commando masculinity, incorporated situationally-appropriate moments of compassion and, sometimes, even vulnerability.47

The Governator who will Lead us into the Green, Clean Ecomodern Future

In 2003, Arnold Schwarzenegger used his celebrity status as an ‘intimate stranger’ to gain access to The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Oprah and The Howard Stern Show, and announced that he intended to run for governor of California.48 In his campaign, he alluded to his film roles promising to “terminate” his opponents and say “hasta la vista” to California's budget problems.49

In energy and environment policies, Schwarzenegger had quite an image problem. He had ties to Enron and was the initiator and advertising pillar for an energy-inefficient vehicle, the Hummer.50 In fact, Schwarzenegger's image problem could be illustrated by his penchant for big cars and, especially, the Hummer. From the mid-1990s, these kinds of cars became dramatically larger and larger, with so-called Sport Utilities Vehicles (SUV) becoming popular. In the U.S., for example, these vehicles represented 54 per cent of new vehicle sales in 2003.51 In SUV marketing, it was Arnold Schwarzenegger and General Motors' Hummer that, in the most obvious way, symbolized a combination of violence and lack of boundaries.52 The sociologist Marius K. Leudickes' analysis of interviews and web-based discussion pages shows that the Hummer is a “[...] very special and distinctive product” cherished mainly by men.53 When the sociologist Jeremy Schulz interviewed the owners of the Hummer, they said the car symbolizes strength, violence, safety and masculine potency.54 But while the purchase of a Hummer was described as a way to achieve the American dream, General Motors and Schwarzenegger faced widespread criticism.55 Owners were criticized for encouraging irresponsible driving and exacerbating the greenhouse effect. The vehicle aroused disgust among those who argued that carbon dioxide emissions from cars should be reduced. This criticism was a problem for Schwarzenegger in his political career, especially when he tried to get elected governor of California. His solution was a Hummer with fuel cell and hydrogen technology, which connected the candidate to the great expectations raised at the turn of the millennium by the automotive industry (e.g. Daimler-Chrysler), utilities (such as Shell and Statoil), political leaders and part of the environmental movement (such as the World Watch Institute and Bellona). In a high-profile State of the Union speech in 2003, George W. Bush, a Schwarzenegger supporter, said that FCH would make international treaties like the Kyoto Protocol unnecessary because a ‘hydrogen economy’ could combine economic growth, environmental protection, and energy security.56 Bush's advocacy, backed by a national investment in FCH, was echoed by world leaders.57 Romano Prodi, the-then President of the European Commission, and President Bush spoke about their common objective to create a “hydrogen economy.”58 The attention can also be seen in significantly increased numbers of international conferences, significantly more texts and images published in the mass media, increasing numbers of articles in Swedish journals, numerous articles in international scientific journals, more patent applications per year, and a large increase in prototype vehicles manufactured primarily by the automotive industry.59

In his political performance as governor, Schwarzenegger aligned himself with high expectations for fuel cells and hydrogen. With his hydrogen Hummer, Schwarzenegger could describe himself as ecomodern. His energy-inefficient Hummer was no longer a problem when the fuel was hydrogen and the exhaust was only water. Like Schwarzenegger's combination of violence and caring in his movie roles, the combination of economic growth and the environment created the perfect image to justify the cost of driving a Hummer. The ecomodern green wash of the Hummer-with-hydrogen made it possible to brand these giant cars with an image of care and responsibility for the environment. Thus, both ecological modernization and hybrid masculinity can be understood as attempts to incorporate and deflect criticism in order to perpetuate hegemony, to ensure ‘business as usual.’ The ecomodern masculine configuration is that of responsible care for the environment while modern society can continue unchanged.

In articles on the future of the automobile, journalists in Sweden described the state of California, with Arnold Schwarzenegger as its leader, as a “pioneer.” According to environmental journalist Lars Ingmar Karlsson, problems of motoring were solved in California. In Dagens Nyheter, Karlsson stated that California should be the model to follow in order to combine growth and environmental care, thus enabling modern societies to advance “full speed towards a cleaner environment.”60 In articles from Veckans Affärer, Dalademokraten and NyTeknik, California was described in a similar way as having found the silver bullet solution. They pointed at Arnold Schwarzenegger's hydrogen-fuelled Hummer as both powerfully high-tech and environmentally friendly. As noted earlier, Tommy Hammarström urged his readers from the Expressen editorial page to follow the moves of Arnold. His political stance was a success story worth repeating.61 Schwarzenegger's vision was even more appreciated in Kvällsposten. It was Schwarzenegger, in his role as the ‘Terminator governor,’ who would put the auto industry to a challenging test, according to Lars Klint:

The Terminator challenges the powerful automotive industry based in Detroit in a way they have never experienced before. Perhaps he expresses himself a little differently than in the action role on film, but the message is as bang hard and uncompromising. Go ahead and build cars powered by fuel cells that combine hydrogen and oxygen in a process with only water as emissions.62

In the descriptions of Schwarzenegger, the journalists used his science-fiction character, Terminator, to emphasize his message and to predict and forcefully change the future. Above all, they reused Arnold Schwarzenegger's construction of himself as an avid practitioner of ecomodern discourse.

FHC as Enablers to Combine Economic Growth and Environmental Concerns

Environmental friendly technology has increasingly been a slogan for solving environmental problems since the rise of ecomodern discourse in the early 1990s. In the early 2000s, high expectations were placed on fuel cells as the epitome of ecomodern technology by ecological modernization proponents.63 A historical analysis of the ecomodernization of fuel cells is therefore a useful prospect if we are to understand the interplay between politics and technology. When cars with fuel cells were presented at motor shows they were described in terms of “looking into the future.”64 The image of a future with FCH was generally embraced by journalists and engineers, who mentioned both in the same sentence and thus formed a tight cohesion. It was clearly spelled out that cars or buses with FCH were “future vehicles” and “future coaches.”65

During this period, Schwarzenegger made a lot of public appearances and stated that FCH could reduce emissions of harmful substances by 50 per cent within 10 years. As governor, he issued an executive order to design State Highway 21 as a hydrogen highway.66 In another example, he and Maria Shriver, his former wife, lit the official and highly symbolic Christmas tree in Sacramento, which was powered by a fuel cell. This was meant to show how much Schwarzenegger supported energy efficiency and emission-free technology. The power for the Christmas tree was from the electrical grid, but, thanks to FCH could claim energy independence unaffected by power outages. The tree lights could function throughout the holiday season and not produce any greenhouse gas emissions. Schwarzenegger presented himself as a purveyor of ecomodern discourse, someone who made a serious effort to protect the environment while not forsaking growth. He constantly used ecomodern discourse, emphasizing win-win situations that combined economic growth with environmental solutions.

As stated above, Swedish journalists identified Schwarzenegger as an environmental hero in many articles, and this symbolism was also taken up by the lobby organization SamVäte. With the help of project funds from the city of Gothenburg and its region, SamVäte proposed hydrogen as the future energy carrier. At one of SamVäte's meetings, which I attended, the project leader, Sven Wolf, had a screensaver on his computer which showed Schwarzenegger refuelling his Hummer with hydrogen. At each change of PowerPoint presentation we saw a smiling Arnold, a hydrogen pump and a big blue Hummer; this image dominated the room. The fact that this image was used at the meeting in Malmö was characteristic of SamVäte. In its first meeting in Gothenburg, Wolf introduced the proposal to build a hydrogen highway along the west coast of Sweden with a picture of Arnold Schwarzenegger in his Hummer. SamVäte presented California and its leader as a model, a region to follow. This conveniently overlapped with the mass media image. California was portrayed in a final report as a frontrunner regarding non-polluting transport: cars that run on hydrogen with the help of fuel cells. California “[...] with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the lead,” was the prototype. He was regarded as an environmental hero who could point the way toward the ecomodern future.67

Asymmetric Symmetry?

The argument that economic growth did not destroy the environment was one important clue as to how ecomodern discourse preserved hegemony; on the contrary, economic growth was seen to be essential to solving various environmental problems. It has been suggested that Sweden is a pioneer in combining economic growth with solutions to environmental problems. Researchers have even claimed that the country is one of the most ambitious and ecologically modernized in the world,68 holding a key leadership position in the context of climate change.69 The basis for this argument is the so-called Environmental Kuznets Curve (EKC) and its empirical durability. It too is premised on the powerful assumption that economic growth is the inevitable solution to environmental problems.70 However, what is actually clear today is that such a correlation between the reduction of total global emissions and increased global GDP growth cannot be established.71 Even the study that formed the basis for the popularization and widespread use of the EKC hypothesis found no correlation between economic growth and lower emissions of substances that can give rise to global environmental problems, such as carbon dioxide.72 Instead, what seems to be happening is that different countries, companies, and citizens send emissions to other locations, and to different times.73 Emissions are thus displaced from countries such as the Netherlands, the USA, Sweden and Japan to countries such as China and India.74

A similar displacement practice is at work in Schwarzenegger's proposal that fuel cells might be a silver bullet technology, moving the emissions of Hummer and other vehicles from the tailpipe to hydrogen production. Schwarzenegger drew simultaneously on his image as a science fiction hero and a responsible, compassionate man, when he transformed himself into a Kindergarten Commando and Governator.75 Scholars in gender analysis claim that this hybrid masculinity might be an explanation for Arnold's popularity today.76 But when scrutinized closely, it does not seem to be a symmetrical combination; rather, it seems to be as asymmetric as ecomodern discourse. Caring and compassion are subordinated to toughness and strength reflected in Schwarzenegger's latest films Collateral Damage (2002) and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machine (2003), as well as his political statements against “girly men,” the poor, and women's rights.77 The phrase “girly men,” especially, has been analyzed as a Freudian slip, exposing values that Arnold tries to hide in various ways when doing politics in the 21st century.78

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