Capitalism and the global environment 3
Natural capitalism 3
Green Capitalism 4
Criticism of Capitalism 4
The growth of capitalism 5
The effect of capitalism on the global environment 5
The crisis of Global capitalism and the environment 6
The influence of capitalism and climate change on humanity 7
Civilization and Earth 8
Global environmental degradation 8
The problem of scarcity in the global environment 9
The rise of global capitalism in the era of Environmental turmoil 10
The tragedy of the commons 10
The role of environmentalists 11
The threat of corporations on environmentalism 12
This paper endeavors to clarify the relationship between capitalism and the global environment. It outlines the issues of environmental degradation caused by the effect of capitalism on the global environment. It also reveals the role and influence of civilization on the global environment. Importantly, it explains the growth and nature of capitalism and analyses the influences of capitalism on the global environment. It also proposes ways in which the capitalism economic system can be used to reduce the destruction caused on the global environment.
The interaction between capitalism and the global environment has generated a lot of interest from environmentalists. Burbach and Robinson, 2009 noted that capitalism has been experiencing a period of profound restructuring since the 1970’s. Essentially, capitalism forms the context in which most of the world now responds to global environmental change. The mainstream global environmental change community rarely writes openly about ecology and capitalism.
Relationship between Capitalism and the global environment
Capitalism is most destructive towards the environment when it is functioning well and economic growth rates are high. When the growth is on a downward trend and the system is in economic crisis, capitalism is least environmental destructive. For example, when the economy is in recession, the air tends to be less polluted, and fewer minerals are extracted. This has a positive impact in the global environment conservation efforts hence; recession can be thought to be good for the environment.
However, recession can cause uncountable suffering to many people. Most importantly, there will be a high rate of joblessness due to recession and hence most people can be rendered jobless. The global integration of national economies receives two contradictory responses. One group of scholars salutes the arrival of global capitalism while the other group deplores this phenomenon.
The world has evolved a lot since time immemorial. For example, a country like the United States has come a long way into becoming free-market capitalism. The success of capitalism and other factors have resulted into more people chasing after fewer resources than ancient days. Mckibben, 2011 notes that the laws of physics and the laws of congress have grown increasingly at odds, and the laws of physics cannot project to yield. Life is determined by the same laws we are trying to ignore. For an economy to function properly, all these laws need to be in place and adhered to the later.
This is rather a new concept in the global environment. It derives its attribute in the notion of crop-derived fuel as well as offering a clean and green form of energy (Annual report, 2011). Small grassroots enterprises offering local services and organic food markets are a good example of green capitalism. With all the problems that economists claim the green capitalism causes; it is worthwhile to note that the proponents of green capitalism argue that it does not cause these said problems, but it is essentially the solution. Notably, green capitalism is itself a contradiction of terms in that one pole refers to unchecked growth of one of its components and the other pole refers to a complexly changing equilibrium surrounding the ensemble of species-life. The worthy thing with green capitalism is that it provides a platform for the formulation of green policies which restraint expansionist drives and requires efficient utilization of resources.
Criticism of Capitalism
Those people who are critics of capitalism tend to be accomplished champions of socialism. A good example of such people is Marx who argued that which was needed in a global environment was the rational regulation by the associated producers of the metabolic reaction between nature and human beings. This ought to be designed in a way as to encourage the uppermost levels of individual and collective human self-actualization at the lowest costs in terms of the expenditure of energy. Socialists and Marxists played pioneering roles in the development and growth of modern ecological critique.
Marx argued that capitalism encouraged private profits in part by destroying natural wealth (Brett and Clark, 2009). In order to deal with this double economic-ecological contradiction built on capitalism, an effective strategy will be to essentially struggle against this system itself. This may create opportunities for human development and also create jobs and security in the long run. A good presentation of socialist ecology is that of Cuba. Many countries came to the realization of the difficulties that they may face in case of the resource base cut off as witnessed by the effect on Cuba from the soviet collapse in 1991.
The growth of capitalism
Nearly all corners of the world are dominated by capitalism. Most people are encompassed with an economic system that they barely know its definition and the implications. The society has unconsciously learnt that greed, competition and exploitation of laborers are not only acceptable but are beneficial to the society because they tend to help the economy function efficiently. Capitalism is unplanned and anarchic since egoism that drives this economic system makes most people especially laborers receive unfair treatment from their bosses.
The effect of capitalism on the global environment
Capitalism has had a devastating effect on the natural environment. This is more evident on the dangers of climate change resulting from the emission of carbon dioxide and other green gases into the atmosphere. Climate change is part and parcel of the overall environmental problem which comprises of species extinction, ocean acidification, and chemical use among other components. The main challenge is how to cope with these global catastrophes affecting the global environment. Naomi, 2007 rightly explained that the age we living in as ‘disaster capitalism’. This is because of the ecological crises and its dual economic nature. Principally, there are two key ways of addressing this climate crisis. One main approach is to demand changes in society itself. This involves moving from a system focused on profit accumulation to a system focused on eliminating wasteful consumption of commodity. The other way is to look for technological ways that will curb creation of carbon markets. Through technological utilization, we can solve the environmental problem without making any fundamental social changes. Therefore, it is the last chance to save humanity (James, 2009).
The crisis of Global capitalism and the environment.
A capitalist economy tends to stagnate due to the high rate of inequality and exploitation. It is evidently shown by the fact that capital is unable to find worthwhile investment outlets and, therefore it is unable to absorb potential economic surplus at its disposal. In advanced capitalist economies, this tends to result in the decline of growth in these economies. Neoliberal economic policies have made things worse and can be easily referred to as turning back to the capitalism regime.
The ideology of neoliberalism was aimed at promoting financialization of the capitalist economies and focuses on instilling what is nowadays referred to as market-fetishism. At the end, neoliberal financialization emerged as a full-fledged economic, social and political crisis. The world may experience the worst nightmare if all these crisis to be combined. Arguably, a soviet-type system poses a negative threat to the environment (John, 1994).
The influence of capitalism and climate change on humanity
Most governments have recently resorted to construction of nuclear plants as a source of production of nuclear energy. These power plants have become cost competitive with alternative sources of energy only when government subsidies are involved. Otherwise, the running of nuclear plants to produce power is an expensive venture and more so a dangerous activity. Although, nuclear power has been suggested as an environmentally friendly substitute to fossil fuels, there is however no concrete long-term proposal on how to deal with the radioactive nuclear waste that has been piling up next to nuclear reactors located in key nuclear-power producing countries. More recent demonstration of capitalism on the effect of humanity is when the United States invaded Iraq in an apparent effort to control the most vital commodity in the world. To describe capitalism as a dynamic economic system is not far far-fetched if one was to realize that capitalism in itself is a rational system.
George, 2007 argues that governments will not necessarily act until the political cost of running a country becomes too high for them to profit from their capitalist activities. In conserving the global environment, the capitalist economies should have energy efficiency regulations and enforce them on companies.
The governments will be ensuring that far more rapid progress is made by enforcing these policies on the construction companies.
The government should enhance the quality of travel and reduce energy use by nationalizing the bus and rail systems. In reference to the global environment, capitalism can be said to exploit the people and puts the sacrifices the interests of its people and the lands for profit making. Notably, in its development capitalism has reached a point that it now essentially threatens the human civilization that we know of.
Civilization and Earth
According to Al gore, the world is witnessing a collision between the earth and civilization (Gore et al, 2006). There are mainly three factors that are the leading causes of this collision.
Population- there has been an increase of population since the WW 11, and the population has just reached 7 billion. In this regard, we are putting more pressure on the earth. This increased population has a devastating effect in poorer countries in that it put pressure on food demand, on vulnerable natural resources and most importantly it puts pressure on water demand. This pressure has been the main cause for the devastation of forest all over the world.
Science – Albeit the blessings brought about technological revolution in fields like communication and medicine, it has also brought responsibility of thinking about its consequences.
For example, an issue like war should be analyzed bearing in mind both sides of the coins. While looking at the benefits of waging a war with technologically advanced war weapons, the authorities should also look at the effects of usage of such weapons e.g. nuclear weapons.
Way of thinking – this is the final factor that transforms human being’s relationship to the earth.
The way we think is a critical factor in analyzing the effect of civilization on the global environment. The collective nervous system of people will take a sudden jolt when it becomes aware of a danger.
Global environmental degradation
Environmental degradation has occurred throughout history with profound negative consequences to the civilizations. It is therefore, not new to today’s world. Throughout civilization, there was the presence of problems such as deforestation, soil erosion and salinization or irrigated soils. The most notable difference about the current era is that many more people inhabit the earth than previous eras. There exist technologies that can do much greater damage and economic systems that know no bounds. The damage that has been done today is more widespread that it affects the entire planetary environment besides degrading regional ecologies (John, 2010). This has threatened the existence of the majority of the species on earth including the human beings. Therefore, they should be reason to be concerned about the current rapid degradation of the earth’s environment.
Capitalism focuses more on profit taking and companies forget their corporate social responsibility in taking care of their environment. Organizations need to have environmental friendly policies that will advocate for environmental conservation. Capitalism condemns most people to absolute poverty while rewarding the few fortunate individuals. As a result, the poor do not have access to good homes, healthy food supplies and environmentally friendly neighborhoods. These segments of poor people are maintained in their low economic position by the cruel workings of the capitalism economic system.
The problem of scarcity in the global environment
Mass violence in several areas of the world has been profoundly contributed by scarcity of critical environmental resources and particularly, scarcity of resources like cropland, forests and freshwater.
Most countries have ignored the pressures arising from these scarcities at their own peril. A clear example, is in Chiapas, México where resurgent rose against insecure land tenure and land scarcity. Homer, 1996 notes that environmental scarcity influences institutions and policies. Resource scarcity can be a cause of interstate war. Regions might wage a war against each other in the fight for survival in order to have control over water resources and fertile crop land. Robert and Nazil, 1970 argued that countries facing limited resource availability within their territories would seek the required resources through either conquest beyond their boundaries or trade. For example, scarcity of resources triggered violence in Mauritania resulting to tens of refugees. Evidently, there is no evidence indicating that environmental scarcity is the ultimate cause of interstate or regional wars in the world. Most poor countries have experienced low economic growth mainly due to water scarcity and pollution. Hence scarcity of resources should be taken as a lightweight issue because it can have a devastating effect in the economic growth of any country.
The rise of global capitalism in the era of Environmental turmoil
The role of nations has simply grown from providing the public goods and infrastructure to the provision of justice, rights and conducive environment for businesses to operate efficiently. Democracy has become a key ingredient of capitalism thereby stimulating economy growth. The change of power from the state to the corporate and financial realm during the 1970s is the cause of problems in terms of success of environmental legislation (Kluger, 1998). Remarkably, capitalism has grown tremendously since the 1970’s where only small countries like the United States practiced it.
The tragedy of the commons
In analyzing this creative piece of mankind, it becomes distinctively clear that it takes courage to assert that a desired technical solution is not possible nowadays unlike in the past. This is well exhibited by Wiesner and York by insisting that the way out to the problem was not easily found in the natural sciences. It is essentially easy to demonstrate that the class is not a null class and this class comprising of no technical solutions problems has its own members (Hardin, 1968).
Those people who suffer as a result of the overpopulation problem are trying to find a feasible way to avoid the tribulations of overpopulation without forsaking any of the privileges they enjoy. As the earth can be said to be finite, it is only a finite population that can occupy the planet earth.
Hence, efforts need to be put in place in controlling the overpopulation and avoid problems arising out of this menace.
We can achieve this working toward optimum population size (Adam, 1997) and make use of the invisible hand. One significant consequence of this overpopulation is the population. As the population increases, the biological recycling process becomes burdened. This calls for a redefinition of property rights.
The role of environmentalists
When ambiguous laws are passed concerning the global environment, the role of environmentalists is usually brought into question. For example, how such a law that negatively affects efforts on environmental conservation be passed by legislators under the watchful eyes of the environmentalists. Adam, 2005 argued that environmentalism is dead in America. This is to allow space for the growth of a new environment that does not set arbitrary limitations for what is regarded as an environmental issue. Historically, modern environmentalism was born in the early 1960s through scientist Rachel Carson. Environmental groups need to focus on the paramount issue arising out of the existence of capitalism and its effect on the global environment.
The threat of corporations on environmentalism
Corporations have boldly used their financial muscles to counter gains made by environmentalists over the past couple of years. Beder, 1997 argues that corporations are able to counter-react to efforts made by environmentalists in environment conservation through corporate activism. This activism of businesses has been a vital ingredient of problems arising out of environmental degradation. This has made capitalism and the global environment not to co-exist well in an established economy like the United States.
The presence of large multinational companies in the United States has occasioned the usage of similar strategies in combating environmental regulations in other countries, where these companies have considerable operations. The front groups of corporations use various strategies to promote the corporate agenda in environmental affairs. The main objective is to cast doubt on the severity of problems associated with environmental worsening and hence create confusion by amplifying uncertainties.
In conclusion, there is clear evidence that capitalism has had a negative effect on the global environment. Notably, environmental degradation has resulted from the negative influence of capitalism on the global environment. Nevertheless, authorities and environmentalists need to implement policies on curbing the negative effect of capitalism and hence reducing environmental degradation.
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