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Essay Samples > Research > Capitalism and the Global Environment
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Capitalism and the Global Environment

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Capitalism is a system that refers to private ownership of production and expropriating unpaid labor with a main aim of maximizing profits. This form of economic development is the most significant one in raising an average income of people. It disturbs the metabolic interaction between a man and the earth. The environmentalists are divided on whether serious threats on the global environment can be entirely eliminated when capitalism is still being practiced. The main aim of this paper is to detail the specific inter-relations between the operations of capital and a natural environment.

The environmental problems can be eliminated when capitalism is practiced because its practice does not pose any danger to the environment. For instance, the Vale mining company in Carajas has the determination to form a green environment as well as possible. This is against the common belief that mines, which operate under a capitalistic structure, always destroy the environment. However, the main problem is the restoration of the site after mining has been done. Vale, in conjunction with local ecologists, is working together to survey all the caves around the mine to determine the living creatures there. This is an effort to preserve the lives of animals dwelling there such as bats. This is done by moving them to other places before their homes are destroyed during a mining process. However, this care of the environment may not apply in some circumstances, i.e. when the whole rainforest is underlain by iron ore. Thus, the question arises whether to destroy the forest to get iron or to preserve it and forget about iron.

The mining company has promised to backfill the hole and make sure the native trees have been replanted. The mining process may last for decades; and the implementation of environmental restoration may take long. However, the problem of having the habitat destroyed for a long time has worked out effectively. The only problem lies on valuing the Amazonian forest and the value of services the ecosystem provides for sustaining the life of the earth planet earth. As this is the only one heavily habitable. The recognition of this value as being greater than the value of actual trees and what may be lying beneath a big challenge to many people, especially to capitalists.

The idea of recycling metals when we cannot dig any more digging the earth’s crust can be maximized now and the mining of fresh metals may be minimized. The challenge lies in job opportunities arising from the mining activities as well as the economic growth thirsted for by politicians. What environmentalists are opposed to is slashing and burning the environment. They refer to this human practice as ‘‘raping and pillaging’’ the earth. The exploitation of the earth is deemed to accelerate if everyone may be permitted to desire and achieve the ease and comfort enjoyed in the developed world. At the certain level of the earth’s exploitation, inhabitants will not be able to live there but forced to run out. Therefore, it s prudent to monitor the activities going on in the environment unless we find ourselves homeless, that is if we will be lucky to survive the dangers associated with  damage.

Considering the subject of sustainable development, if one mining process has been allowed to proceed, for example, of iron, then coal will be needed in manufacturing steal. Then, it is suggested, coal should not be used in other processes where there already some readymade alternatives exist. The fact is that manufacturing will not satisfy the demand for cars, televisions and even supermarkets. The fact of the matter is that the perpetual growth in a closed system, i.e. the finite earth, is not indefinitely sustainable. The same view is applicable on the quantitative growth in which food production as well as consumption of economic resources is not sustainable.

The only solution facing the reality that may seem harsh and unpalatable is that the qualitative growth needs to be achieved without any quantitative growth. However, there must be some limits on the desirable growth so that one person will not have the excess while someone else cannot even meet the basic needs. This is to limit the growth so that it does not continue the level where everyone will live as a subsistence farmer.

A capitalism system exploits the environment to create a great variety of the same type of stuff which gives people a great deal of tasks to choose. This is a positive development of technology but one of the reasons for many people to become obese as well a great demand for the increased number of supermarket stores. This has been once referred to as the growth mania by Herman Daly. It is on this ideology that capitalism success has been founded. Through it, the perpetual growth is used by capitalism to pay shareholders ’dividends with the guarantee of getting a good amount of pensions on retirement. At the moment, we are a part of the capitalism system, although it is not working very well. At least, it is responsible for the quantitative economic growth. The only worry is whether shareholders will still be happy if the quantitative growth is replaced with the qualitative development.

Referring to medieval common land, it is used by everybody but owned by nobody. Hardin argues nobody will decide to work alone to stop over-grazing because of the disadvantages that will befall one. He says that the destruction will accompany anyone rushing to pursue his own interests. Yet he lives in the society that believes in working and doing things together as a community. Although capitalism is not the best system to enhance the economic growth, those that rise and rush to oppose may soon be treading the path of the personal ruin.

Human beings seem to be destined to over-exploit the global resources at the same time causing a lot of pollution issues on the environment. There cannot be a communal agreement to stop taking the capacity to restore the environment for granted. When politicians claim to agree with scientists that burning fossil fuels must be stopped when told that time is running out being politically unacceptable. They are merely lying to themselves and us. They must be relying on the myth of carbon capture and storage being potentially dangerous through which a fossil lobby group argues. Burning fossil fuels can continue and still achieve the reduction of emissions.

It is true that the world is changing very fast. They don’t see that we have a problem because they still think this will happen in future. As long as this school of thought continues, the protests about the cost of an effective action to be taken will still continue. But it should be understood that the cost of preventing the change so catastrophic such as this is very expensive. There earth must be prepared and kept in the best condition for the sake of a future generation. That is why we cannot rest until there is a sustainable development in the world today. This means being able to satisfy the present needs as well as provide an opportunity for the future generation to meet their own needs. A global solution is needed for the global problem being in the global environment. This will be achieved when people will stop thinking that even if they don’t destroy the environment, some other people will do so.

There is a strong argument based on the evidence that the earth has been cooling since 1998. The idea that global warming is caused by carbon IV oxide emissions and other human activity. There have been some fluctuations of temperature throughout the earth’s history such as when there was the growth of grapes in Scotland during the Roman times. Therefore, the global warming cannot be blamed on human activities but associate it with the normal natural variations. This is an argument to compromise the existence of capitalist activities, which are ever blamed for various levels of environmental degradation (Hardin, n.d.)

Without coercion, capitalism enables both individuals as well as communities to pursue their own self -interests and also allows them to create corporations and other organizations in order to maximize profits and meet the individual and communal needs. To maximize profits, the greater utility is provided to consumers, while their costs minimize the meaning, the tendency to produce more using less. Human beings are required to do more using less to meet human wishes. There are less scarce natural resource inputs and materials being either re-used, where it is possible or recovered for recycling. All these processes have great benefits in return.

However, capitalism has been accused of externalizing costs and pollution. This generated pressure is a result of existence of common resources and also a failure to have some market institutions extended to take care of a full range of resources in the ecological environment. The corporations seeking to get goods without paying for their price is quite rampant. This behavior is not condemned either because people are so used to it. The source of the problem here is the existence of goods being not priced.

In the capitalism world, it is quite rational when it prefers to dispose effluent into water bodies to recycle them or transport to a disposal facility. It is one way of maximizing profits since it is the least-cost option. The system does not mind the pollution effect associated with this method of the waste disposal. The problem here is the failure to have the river incorporated into market institutions. However, because the river is not owned by anybody or nobody owns the rights to its use. If this was not the case, the company will find alternative ways of reducing the damage of their waste disposal causes and, hence, the ‘‘pressure to externalize’’ may be not be a place to do so. The most misused resources are those said to be market orphans. Those are  not owned or valued by the market system.

Those resources that are always incorporated within the market system are those least concerned about. For instance, the domesticated animals being abundant, technology, the temperate forests are fast expanding in the developed world. The market driven advances in efficiency are now making it easier to achieve a lot with a little input. All these provide for the needs of human population, which is rapidly attaining great numbers and at the same time reduces the ecological impact. On the other hand, the resources outside the market system are heading to destruction, since they are already in the state of despair. There is neither property right extended to tropical rainforests, air sheds and coastal fisheries nor are there any common laws of justice to provide the protection for them. In conclusion, the problem is not the system of capitalism operating and making its impact to be felt as too much. The problem is having too little to be done by the system.

Capitalism, which is also characterized by an open access to resources being commonly held, is faced with the opposition. The responsible stewardship incentives will be weak; and there will be the deterioration of the resources quality in the environment. It is, therefore, argued that the solution of ‘Tragedy of Commons is either obtained politically or privately. A political agency is needed to use its authority for a wise management of ranges through the law enforcement. On the other hand, there is the need to privatize the rangelands in that all the pasture land is divided into plots to increase the level of stewardship and avoid trespassing.

There are, however, the substantial benefits of capitalism. It is the system that demands efficiency which is a necessary strategy in proper management of the environment. The argument of the free market environment is that those favoring for the protection of the ecological environment. They are expected to have the role of the private stewardship’s role expanded to the resources to which protection has been denied.

This statistic, however, indicates that, in fact, capitalism can be said to be a necessary aspect of any economic success. And this calls for a legal and political system that would protect all property rights, would ensure certain economic freedom, would minimize such negative phenomena as corruption, would control any harmful activities and in the same time would promote beneficial ones. Besides, it should recognize a difference between equality of opportunity and equality of incomes. It should also welcome skilled immigrants.

Capitalism and the Global Environment

It is true that the earth has undergone some incredible transformations since the time when it was established. These changes have been associated to a large extent with human activities. The changes affect the human and nonhuman life. A climate change is one of the major effects of the transformations that the earth has undergone. It is intimately associated with some ethical quandaries daily faced by human beings. Capitalism is one of the major issues closely interconnected with the climate change. The access to economic resources by capitalism involves the exploitation of resources from the environment in the course of which it becomes seriously depleted. This is defying the requirement for a sustainable use of the planet. This results into the irreversible damage to both the services of ecosystem as well as the natural capital. Human kind has immensely increased over the last few days, while the earth has remained the same one leading to a crowded world. There is no going to be a habitable planet left for the future human generations and even for those of all other species in the world.

Environmental and Social Decay Is Witnessed Both Nationally and Globally

The successes lately by capitalism have reversed the state of industrialization as when it has come into being. There were few people, plenty of resources and few materials for well-being. In the world today, there is the exploitation of few resources in the environment to benefit not many people, hence, making them reproductive. Thus, this trend is leading to a massive waste. Capitalism is blamed for the environmental problems facing the world today for people. They have been positioned to be more of spectators rather than active participants in the formulation of policies and practices, which will not only preserve the environment but also future generations.

There are so far two groups concerned and being active in the issues of a global environment. These are scientists and environmentalists. Most often, there is a lot of uncertainties with the scientific research as well some insufficient funds to conduct the research leaving a green activist to design social realities and, hence, imply that changes in the global environment, though cannot be proved, and are being real. This they do because of their own for their personal interests to provoke a public response to the issues of the environment affecting them. The danger is that the seriousness of the situation has been exaggerated. Some different development groups have a conflict of ideologies. 

According to the groups being critical to the development of capitalism, the sustainability of the environment needs to be a social and ecological development that is ethically conscious. In contrast, those institutions in support of capitalism, are working to be appropriate to the concept of sustainability for them. This makes the market policies legitimate. It is, however, not clear whether the problems of the environment deserve to be raised to the global level as a true picture of biophysical reality. As well, doing so is a version produced by the political knowledge and the reality constructed socially. No disputing on the presence of problems, the argument is that they are locally and at the national and not global level as claimed (Redcliff, 2010).

The whole world ecosystem, and not its parts, is in a serious danger of being due to the damage inflicted on it by many people approximately in the last century. The man is called upon to be a good steward and develop technologies that will be provide for the growing needs of the rapidly expanding population in this generation. This is the inconsideration to the sustainability of the environment future generation. However, a behavior change is very fundamental in the fight to preserve the environment and not technology alone (Hoffman, 2000).

There is an opinion that through capitalism, two meanings of the term community arises. One is a positive community which is based on the survival. In this community, people take their needs from the commons only to enable them to survive. This is the case where a king can possibly own everything and his subjects use those resources as commons. The membership of people to the community is not assured and their contribution and participation in various activities is modulated. This is a remote practice of capitalism. On the other hand, nobody in the negative community owns anything and the people have the access of anything they will do. They have a right to manage and control what one has acquired from the commons. Although the latter one does not describe the capitalist community, it is not different from the much former since both of them suffer the tragedy of exploitation (Angus, 2008).

The tragedy of commons shows how the persons’ rights use the commonly owned resources and fail to match with the corresponding responsibility to care for it or the consequences arising from using the resources. The commons is a rangeland which has been by England owned but used by all citizens for grazing their cattle. All the benefits include grazing as many cattle as one wished and the growth of the cattle. The rational behavior at the individual level leads to the consequences which become tragic to the whole community due to reaching of the carrying capacity.

The person adding cows to the commons implies a capitalist that gets rewarded for increasing the rate of consumption of resources commonly held by the community. It is, therefore, not necessary to do away with capitalism as the efforts of solving the environmental degradation. It has occurred due to use of resources for the system was doing a good job by using being poorly managed for the own benefits. However, there is no limit for the rate or the level of growth in the course of using the resources and the pollution of the environment. Again, in support of the capitalism system, it is noticed that in the real world there are people changing continuously under conditions which favor for the ideas as well as individuals. They aim at maximizing the profits and make costs to be shared. If the political system introduces another system of controlling the use of resources through a simple reason will lead to ecological consequences being tragic to human beings. The ability to be able to solve the environmental problems will be mostly because we will have known how to answer the question, ”And then what?“ Thus, it is possible to solve environmental problems within the capitalist structure (Bajerna, 1991).

That Environmental Problems Cannot Be Solved Successfully within a Capitalist Structure

Beder (2002) has put forth the argument that markets cannot resolve the environmental problems. This puts the pressure to find an ethical solution that will embrace both the environmental and ethical protections in a sustainable debate. A powerful social movement emerged in the US in 1972. It argued by use of a computer model that the existing world population and economic activities cannot be indefinitely supported by the earth with its limited resources and worst of all to deal with the corruption. Critics, however, have argued that notional limits could be extended through technological and scientific innovations. However, the depletion of such resources like minerals and oil left the critics open to the idea that the world was staring at the shortages in the coming years. The article in The Boston Occupier by Fred Magdoff (2012) has stated that the purpose of a capitalist state is to invest money and make the maximum returns by selling products more than they are able to produce. For the same reason, the work of the capitalist state is not to protect the environment but to stimulate crises of all kinds including economical and environmental ones. Williams (2010) has argued that as the global climate is becoming warmer and ecosystems are collapsing, the balance of life in the earth is hanging on a thread. However, solving these environmental problems is not a priority for the capitalist states. Solutions available cannot be implemented by capitalist states, but by Marxian arguments.

Magdoff (2012) has given an example of an unfolding ecological disaster that is not just about the climate. He has cited the economic crises occurring in the intervals of 10 years are now the frequent financial crises. Also, he is concerned about the air, soil pollution as well as erosion, water, species extinction, and ocean acidification as some of consequences of the environment degradation. Many environmentalists are aware that capitalist states continue growing without an end by use of the earth non renewable resources. He gives a peep at the recently Occupy Wall Street sign that read, “Infinite Growth on a Finite Planet is not Possible.” Foster (2011) has supported the reasons for the Occupy Wall Street emergence as being due to the response of an economic crisis of capitalism. He says that it is one of the highest expressions of a capitalist threat. It should be critiqued. It is indeed with the fear that scientists say human beings are a main reason for these catastrophic effects. Disruption of a nitrogen cycle has also led to the growth of dead zones in oceans. Although little time is left to correct the anomaly, capitalists are not willing to shelve their profitable ideas and save the earth. William (2010) has even taken a shot at some of leading environmental activists, including Al Gore for overarching their focus on how people can save the earth in the course of their personal action in their daily life. Magdoff (2012) has argued that the major cause of ecological destruction is by the way of capitalism. William, however, proposes entirely practical solutions to the current crisis like the greater environmental education, eliminating the planned obsolescence, ending children into the woods, and by increasing the energy efficiency. William seems to discuss the “real solutions” like the need for class based revolutions.

Magdoff (2012) and Foster (2011), however, fear that the real solution cannot work for the capitalist state. This is because no-growth of the capitalist state is not possible. Capitalist states work by impelling owners of companies to expand to compete with others majorly to increase the market share and, thus, to ensure that the economy is growing. Clearly, there is a direct inverse relationship with capitalism and the environment. As capitalist states increase their GDP, the environment continues to degrade. Ecological damages happen as capitalist states go about processing and extracting raw materials to make products, and build factories, etc. These ideas were promoted in the 1970s and 1980s when businesses and right-wing interests with their neoclassic theories had a basic formula. It involved a smaller government and a greater role for free markets. The emphasis was less governments and more privatization as well as business deregulation to enhance the growth and competitiveness (Beder, 2002).

Then what can be the dominant ways to address a climate crisis. Foster (2011) has listed two main ways to address the climate crisis. This concerned looking for some technological ways and demand changes in the society itself. This is supported by William (2010) who also has postulated the “discussion of a vision” and to serve a contribution to what he calls the “real solutions.” Like most writers, he has discussed a new and sustainable socialist future. William’s real solutions are what Foster terms as the revolutionary change with the use of technologies and strategies. For Beder (2002), the environmental protection should be something in perpetuity; otherwise, the future of the earth remains uncertain. She has argued that the sustainable development should represent the willingness to put up a moribund environmental amenity. We need to change our economic culture and/or our economic culture. With the necessary technology, we need to adapt to an ecological and social revolution in order to promote the human community and the community with the earth.

In order to be ecologically sound, we need the society that will need the opposite of what capitalism is. We need a new form of civilization that must develop and adopt a new culture and ideology based on such fundamental principles like equality (for moral purposes). Of all the available options, human beings and indeed capitalist states are placed in between to solve this environmental problem. This is because it has been created and structured by capitalists to defend their own forces that are responsible for the destruction of the environment (Myers, 2010). It is up to the people, especially working individuals, which stand to lose everything and gain nothing from the destruction of the environment and to create the necessary consciousness that may stop capitalists. We need to save our planet as well as ourselves and create the state where the revolutionary state can destroy the political and economic power of capitalists due to the environmental degradation. This may seem impossible. However, such movements as the World Occupy Movement have shown that it is possible. We should continue struggling to make the goal of the ecological and social revolution as a reality, and to defend not only the earth but also the humanity (Foster, 2011).   

Conclusion

Capitalism refers to the private ownership of production and expropriating the unpaid labor with a main aim of maximizing profits. This form of the economic development is most significant in raising the average income of people. It disturbs the metabolic interaction between the man and the earth. The environmentalists are divided on whether serious threats in the global environment can be entirely eliminated when capitalism is still being practiced. Human beings seem to be destined to over-exploit the global resources at the same time causing a lot of pollution issues in the environment. Thus, there cannot be a communal agreement to stop taking the capacity to restore the environment for granted.

The sustainable development and the limits to the growth approach have been neglected the political and ethical dimensions. The limit to growth backs the 1960s’ and 1970s’ avoidance of social implications of aborting the economic growth. Generally, the market based mechanisms (capitalists) either free markets or political have not and will not be able to deal with some basic problems that are caused by capitalist regimes. The problems ought to have sorted out with other different means. There is an environmental crisis that hangs over the face of the earth like global warming and water shortage. However, capitalists have not changed their attitude towards the environment but only continued the further degradation. The paper has discussed some solutions to such crises through different authors and if adopted by capitalist states, then we will reverse the degradation. However, we have learnt that capitalists will rarely change their ways. Thus, if they do not the difference it can be through socialism, as suggested by the majority of authors.

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