21. 7. 2021

‘Grey greening: Quiet sustainability at auto salvage yards’ presentation at Vox Populi Visegradensis: The Anthropology of East-Central Europe conference

Pavel presented a paper at the Vox Populi Visegradensis: The Anthropology of East-Central Europe conference, Schloß Ringberg, July 14 – July 17, 2021. The conference was organized by Chris Hann (with Berit Eckert and Anke Meyer)

Grey greening: Quiet sustainability at auto salvage yards

Pavel Mašek 

In recent debates on environmentally responsive behaviour, one can detect mainly two opposite points of view: on the one hand, there is top-down sustained awareness in the form of environmental legislation; on the other hand, there is grassroots movements’ bottom-up approach. In both cases, their debates and arguments are heard; they are not silent. However, amid the noise of their voices, one might almost forget that human life quietly carries on. In this quietness, one can find a different kind of environmentally responsive behaviour that we might call ‘quiet sustainability’ (Smith, Kostelecký, Jehlička 2015) that exists and emerges in everyday practices rather than being generated by policies or PR campaigns. These practices are not, in fact, consciously trying to achieve sustainability; yet they are widely practised and do have positive environmental impacts. While auto salvage yards might be perceived as places that ‘ecologically discard’ unwanted and useless things – broken-down cars – the sustainability of practices happening there does not consist in the disposal of the cars, but rather in reusing spare parts and repairing seemingly totalled vehicles. Building upon my ethnographic research at an auto salvage yard in Central Bohemia, I attempt to reveal that ‘greening’ can be done quietly through the grey economy of breaking cars.