Capitalism and the Global Environment essay


Capitalismand the Global Environment



Inthe modern society, capitalism has formed the context upon which mostof the countries respond to changes inthe environment. Thisis attributedto the belief that capitalism offers a solutionto challenges in the ecosystem. However, this may not be true andimplementing policies aimed at safeguarding the environment frompotential threats in a global capitalist system may not be possible.The review thus considers how capitalism relates to the ecosystem byevaluating whether environmental challenges can beaddressedin the context of a global capitalist system.

Capitalismand the Global Environment

Environmentaldegradation is a major global problem. Different states have setrules and regulations to govern the conduct of industries and otherhuman-relatedactivities such as farming with respect to environmental pollution.Environmentalists have continuously developed strategies aimed atminimizing some of these pollutants that pose a great threat to theenvironment. These interventions have always beenbasedon the idea that the desired changes can beobtainedwithin the dormant global capitalist system present in mostcountries. However, recently researchers and activists havequestioned the previously held belief. This papertherefore,aims at examining whether proposed changes aimed at minimizingdegradation of the ecosystem as a result of human activities canoccur within the context of a global capitalist system. Toachieve this objective,the review isbasedon a hypothesis that these changes cannot be achieved in a capitalistsystem present in most of the countries.

Correlationbetween the Environment and Capitalism

Accordingto Newell&amp Paterson (2010),it is difficult to ascertain what constitutes environmentalism.However, the concern for the environment among individuals hasincreased substantially in the recent years with more focus beingdirectedto global warming. This has compelled states and organizations toundertake measures aimed at protecting the ecosystem (West&amp Brockington, 2012).Implementing these changes is influenced by a variety of factors withcapitalism being an aspect of worry among environmental activists.Kaletsky(2010) arguesthat attaining a long-termenvironmental solution will involve changing the relationship betweenthe ecosystem and human beings. The author suggeststhat eco-socialismisa feasible solution to environmental challenges.

AccordingtoNewell &amp Paterson (2010),capitalismrefers to an economic system whereby factors of production (capital,labor,and land) are owned privately and activelyusedin generation of profits. Capitalism refers to a social and economicsystem whereby individuals possessing capital accumulate the surpluscommodities produced by the workers leading to amassing of wealth(ThisChanges Everything review).Individuals under this system areledby self-interest which iscontrolledby forces in the market and mutual competition (Newell&amp Paterson, 2010).Kaletsky(2010) ascertainsthat the idea of competition and accumulation forces capital boostthus forcing massive production. The system has advantages as well assetbacks in the society and the environment. These includepolarization of income wealth and income, often economic crisis,unemployment, underemployment, large cost on theecosystem and the society in general (ThisChanges Everything review).The degree of capitalism varies among different countries andregions. Set backs possed by this economic system in addressingenvironmeantal challaenges often arise in many debatesofglobal environmental change (West&amp Brockington, 2012).

Newell&amp Paterson (2010) arguethat capitalism is a system that deals with commodity productionwhich is controlled by competitive conditions and market sales.Maximization of profit is the major goal of capitalism. However, itseffectiveness inrelation tothe welfare of the society and environmental sustainability cannot bejustified (West&amp Brockington, 2012). AccordingtoNewell &amp Paterson (2010), theeconomic system is unplanned and is charaterised by minimal socialcontrols and regulations. As a consequence of this freedom, numerousunintended consequences are present in its operation processes suchas production and distribution of commodities. Kaletsky(2010)refers to these impacts as externalities since they representthe side effects of the profit maximization undertakings. Theseexternalities includepollution of air, water, soil, prolonged unemployment rates, anddisparities inwealth distribution which makes it difficult for individuals tosatisfy their basic needs. Newell&amp Paterson (2010)argue that these setbacks of capitalism occur since the system failsto include externalities in its structure despite the fact that theycontribute to environmental and social costs.

Pollutionof the environment ishighly linkedto the economic activities that occurin a given society and the region as well. According to Kaletsky(2010),environs with a higher concentration of industries and highlyproductive commercial activities are more likely to be polluted incomparison to ecosystems with minimal investments activities.Pollution in these societies ismainly causedby motor vehicle and industrial emission gasses.Newell&amp Paterson (2010)argue that environmental pollution of any nature caninfluence the market system of a given region. Thisin turn,affects the activities of the capitalists in the given area. Marketimperfection is common in regions why environmental pollutiondominates (Magdoff&amp Foster, 2011).Most of the factors of production which contributeto accumulation of capital dependon ecosystem gifts and therefore their ineffective use limits theiravailability. According to Kaletsky(2010), humanundertaking such as intensive mining and cutting down of trees bringsmarket imperfection in a given country.

Accordingto Newell&amp Paterson (2010),the ecosystem is faced with numerous challenges that span over avariety of aspects. Currently,environmentalists are focusing most on components of the environmentsuch as water, food resources, energy, air, and land (Kaletsky,2010).Additionally, some are interested in the lossof biodiversity due to the rate at which the exhaustion has increasedin the current society. Various studies have beendoneby environmentalists in aims of developing countermeasuresto deal with ecosystem threats. However, capitalism has acted as abarrier to their effective implementation (Magdoff&amp Foster, 2011).According to Kaletsky(2010), theseresearchers attribute the failure of implementing changes to the linkbetween the environment and global poverty. As a result ofcapitalism, wealth in most countries globally is owned by only aportion of its population with a great number of individuals fallingbelow the poverty line especially in third world countries (Kaletsky,2010).Capitalists continuously develop strategies and innovate ways toamassmore wealth. As a result of their activities, environmentalpreservation struggles turns out to be an issue of the poor and thewealthy (Magdoff&amp Foster, 2011). Variousconnected independent forces determinethe connection between capitalism and challenges present in theenvironment.

Newell&amp Paterson (2010)affirm that there exist a relationship between pollution of theecosystem and capitalism. The authors affirms that marketimperfections arelinkedto degradation of the environment. There havebeen various attempts by stakeholders in the environment sector toincorporate the government in the formationof laws and regulations aimed at controlling the acitivities of thecapitalist investors who have the potential of impacting theenvironment directly and thus influencing the market forcesindirectly (Magdoff&amp Foster, 2011).The market reacts negatively to the activities which pollutes theenvironment.

TraditionalPerspective of Addressing Environmental Challenges within aCapitalist Structure

Accordingto Magdoff&amp Foster (2011), environmentalchanges can be effectively obtained globally in the presenceof capitalist economic system. The authors argue that capitalism hasminimal impacts to the ecosystem when the economy is incrisis,and its growth rates are faltering. The economy of most countries andthus capitalism are not stable and fluctuate as a function of timeand the strength of the state’s currency withrespect tothe global market (Newell&amp Paterson, 2010). Kaletsky(2010) ascertainthat changes can be implemented at the period when the capitalistsystem is performing poorly. Under this condition, interventionsdeveloped to counter the effects of negative human activities on theecosystem can be effectively applied to deliver the desired changes.

Newell&amp Paterson (2010)argue that desired environmental changes can beobtainedin a global capitalist society. According to the authors,capitalism has the capacity of going green and therefore contributingto the designed measure aimed at minimizing serious threats to theeconomy. The author adds that markets which are present in acapitalist economic system can be used effectively to addressenvironmental concerns. Policies can be developed based on the marketdue to its ability totranscendinternational boundaries in a more efficient manner (Newell&amp Paterson, 2010). The current developing networks of international and regional carbonmarkets can be used to safeguard the ecosystem through principalsbased on the market. Anexampleof such mechanism is the Clean Development Movement(CDM). Magdoff&amp Foster (2011)ascertain that countries such as China and South Africa adopted suchmechanism with an aim of addressing the environmental challenges intheir countries.

Accordingto Newell&amp Paterson (2010),changes design to eradicate major threats to the ecosystem can beeffectively used in a dormant global capitalist society. The scholarsargue that not all types of capitalism are a threat to the ecosystem.Magdoff&amp Foster (2011)ascertain that they are two common types of capitalism namelyCoordinated Market Economies (CMEs) and Liberal Market Economics(LMEs). The author states that CMEs can be used to deliverenvironmental benefits. Newell&amp Paterson (2010)ascertain that in this kind of capitalism, organizations have arelatively longer time frame which aids greatly in the functioning ofthe CDM market mechanism of protecting the environment. Further, theform of capitalism relies on banks and sharesform institutions withgreater stability and therefore making them less subjective toshort-term profits urge (Kaletsky,2010).

Newell(2013) ascertainsthat CMEsinvestment projects are characterized by less drive for profits.This makes them considerand internalize externalities such as air, water and other forms ofenvironmental pollution during their production process. CDMparticipation by CMEs capitalist companies attains a greaterenvironmental income than other types of capitalism (Magdoff&amp Foster, 2011).Thisis attributedto the fact that organizations in CME type of capitalism factorvalues of the stakeholders in their operational plans early on andthese characteristic enablethe companies to address ecosystem issues.

CriticalPerspective of Addressing Environmental Challenges

Accordingto Kaletsky(2010),lawsand regulations have been formed by the government in many countriesglobaly to regulate capitalist’s activities that pollutethe ecosystem. The authors affirmthatthe legal approaches in these states are usually addressed due to thenature of capitalism. Newell(2013)regards this economic system as expandable and predatory and thusmaking it challenging to minimize or eradicate the effects itpossessesto the environment. Newell&amp Paterson (2010)support this idea by affirming that implementing environmentalchanges in a capitalist society is a difficult undertaking. Theauthors states that capitalism holds the resources that could beeffectively usedin implementing changes designed to eradicate or minimize potentialenvironmental pollutants and human activities that degradethe ecosystem. Additionally, implementing environmental preservationchanges is undermined by the rate at which capitalism spreads to theextent of dominating in the regions with minimal environmentaldegradation(West &amp Brockington, 2012).

Kaletsky(2010) arguesthat various ways designed to enumerate most serious threats to theenvironment cannot beaccomplishedin a dormant global structure of capitalism. According to the author,capitalism is characterized by greed and destroys the ecosystem whenit’s working well with minimal fluctuations. When capitalism is atits best, it indicates better performance of the economy. Productionand transportation of products arethus high,and therefore,air tends to be more polluted by emissions from vehicles andindustries using energy obtained from fuelsuch as petrol and diesel. Additionally, fewer minerals are extractedsince production is limited. Thisreducesair and noise pollution fromthe mining sites (Magdoff&amp Foster, 2011).

AccordingtoKaletsky (2010),it is difficult to attain desired changes aimed at minimizing seriousthreats to the ecosystem confined in a capitalist structure. Theauthors arguethat natural resources are always limited,and there is no effective way of prioritizing their usage in asociety dominated by wealth accumulation minds. Newell(2013)affirm that despite regulations that may exist regarding theexploitation of a given ecosystem goal, capitalistcompanies usetheir purchasing power controlled by their investment decisions todictate how environmental resources should be used and allocated.Additionally, the use of global resources by private companies iscompounded by the government (West&amp Brockington, 2012).Examples of this include the tax breaks awarded to companies by thegovernment.

Kaletsky(2010) furthersupports the idea that it is challenging to control the pollution ofthe environment in an economic system controlled by accumulation ofwealth and private self-interest. The author argue that in such acountry, the state has minimal capacity in aiding relevant bodies inmanaging the ecosystem resources unless a catastrophe has occurred(West&amp Brockington, 2012).Thisleavesthe environment prone to pollution by the capitalist since their aimis maximizing profits and minimizing costs such as those incurred inproper waste disposal mechanisms (Magdoff&amp Foster, 2011). Implementingany environmental change in such a society without the support of thegovernment discourages stakeholders and environmentalists since itturns out to be a competition betweenthe capitalists and the individuals concerned with ecological gifts(Newell &amp Paterson, 2010).The investors always have the competing edge due to their purchasepower due to accumulated wealth. Magdoff&amp Foster (2011)term it as a race of the mightywhereby the richexploitresources provided by nature and utilize it for personal gain with noconsideration to the environmental impacts posed by their activities.

Accordingto Newell&amp Paterson (2010),designing environmental changes in a capitalist world have minimalbenefits. The authors term capitalists as individuals andco-operations with a single-mindedgoal of optimizing profits for a shortperiod of times after which they leave a devastated environmentbehind. Thisindividualfails to adhere to limits set for both renewable and nonrenewableresources. West&amp Brockington (2012)argue that capitalists are known for overshooting resources whichhappenwhen renewable products areexploitedbefore they can renew naturally. Examples of these includeunderground water, aquatic animals,and trees especially in the tropics (Magdoff&amp Foster, 2011).

Accordingto West&amp Brockington (2012),capitalist companies and governments try to attain more and morewealth, exhaustion of exploitable resources is common. The authorsaffirms that after the productivity of an extraction site isdiminished,open pits which areusually leftwith minimal or no rehabilitation. These open sites have no aestheticappeal and forms a threat to human health since they act as bleedingsites of disease-causingorganisms (Newell&amp Paterson, 2010).Exhaustion of easilyaccessible products forces capitalists to utilize deposits and othermaterials that are more difficult to reach. With deep extractions,environmental ruin is inevitable regardless of the measures that mayhave been developed to minimize potential environmental pollutants(Newell&amp Paterson, 2010). For instance drilling oil in deep oceans, hydraulic fracturing ofshale deposits, and extraction of oilfromsand possess great environmental pollution (West&amp Brockington, 2012).

Newell(2013) ascertainsthat it is challenging to deal with environmental problems in aneconomic system controlled by the accumulationof capital and private self-interest. According to the author,multinational companies scour ecological resources and otheropportunities in all manners that may be profitable to them. Newell&amp Paterson (2010) ascertainthat this co-operations takethe full advantage of lax laws and regulations designed to safeguardthe ecosystem. Additionally,these capitalist sytems rely on cheap laborand tax benefits in third world countries. West&amp Brockington (2012)affirm that these global companies have no loyalty to any aspectincluding the environment. Therefore, implementing any environmentalpolicy that can affect the process of acquisition of raw materials bycapitalist companies cannot be successful since the companies havehigh purchase power and capacity to influence government decisions(Newell&amp Paterson (2010).


Capitalismimpacts the environment in varied ways both negatively andpositively. However, from the review of literature,it is evident that the cons of capitalism outdoes its pros.Implementation of any proposed change designed tobetter safeguard the ecosystemfrom serious threats faces numerous challenges in a dormantcapitalist society. The setbacks areattributedto the nature and goal of capitalism. The review has depicted theeconomic system is aonegoal oriented investment that focuses on maximizing profits whiledisregarding the externalities such as air and water pollution.Despite the support presented by various authors on how environmentalpolicies can be effective in a global capitalist structure, theeconomic system has numerous setbacks which have made researchersdisregard the minimal benefit it may have in protecting theenvironment. The system is characterized byendlessthirst for the accumulationof wealth on a continuously growing rate, and which thus resolves toconvertevery single ecosystem good into a product with a price, is a systemwith no human nature in it and thus advocating for changes in theenvironment cannot deliver any outcome in a capitalist structure. Thereview thus affirms the hypothesis previously made that changesdesigned to safeguard the ecosystem against potential threats cannotbe achieved in a capitalist systempresentin most of the countries globally.

Basedon the analysis, it is clear that our environment and humanity has noplace in capitalism. Eco-socialism is a viable alternative ofaddressing environmental changes since it involves the dismantlingof capitalism and advocating for means of production which arebasedon common ownership of ecosystem goods and services.


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Newell,P. (2013).&nbspGlobalizationand the environment: capitalism, ecology and power.John Wiley &amp Sons.

West,P., &amp Brockington, D. (2012). Introduction: capitalismand the Environment.&nbspEnvironmentand Society: Advances in Research,&nbsp3(1),1-3.

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