Capitalism and the Global Environment

Posted: August 12th, 2013

CONTENT: Could you please add “Abstract” before the “Introduction”?

The rest of it is good.


Capitalism and the Global Environment





Capitalism and the environment are two elements that are interconnected in that the environment relies on social activities such as capitalism and socialism for sustenance. In addition, capitalism relies on the environment for the production of the raw materials that are used to produce goods and services. Hence, the relationship between the two is a determinant of the presence of sustainability in the society. The modern world is coupled by a drive to make quick and supernormal profits due to capitalistic activities at the expense of ensuring that the environment is preserved or sustained. Hence, a good relationship that is based on balance and equity is paramount to ensure sustainability of the environment and subsequent survival of the human race and other living things. However, lack of balance usually results on pressure on the other resulting in either depletion of the natural resources or the denial of basic goods and services if capitalism is pressurized by sustenance efforts.



Capitalism and the Global Environment


The environment attributes its degradation to human activity in their efforts to ensure human survival and sustainability. Essentially the degradation of the environment has been a delicate issue as its decline has negative impact on the various aspects of human society such as economic conditions and the socio-political conditions. The environment and the economy are mutually dependent on the other in that one determines the condition of the other. the economic conditions determine the ability of people to ensure the sustenance and conservation of the environment. On the other hand, the environmental conditions also determine the economic conditions in that harsh environments such as weather or climate lead to harsh economic condition such as the presence of high rates of inflation. Essentially, global and environmental issues cannot be solved using capitalism as it is inherently inadequate to save the natural resources because it thrives on misuse of natural resources.

Human activity is usually evaluated from an economic perspective in that human activities are driven by the need to accrue incomes or means to ensure sustenance. Sustenance is achieved through purchase and sale of goods and services between people. Therefore, in the course of issue and purchase of goods and services people are engaged in activities or process which contribute to the degradation of the environment. In addition, the environment is the main producer of raw materials. Consequently, there is a dire need to ensure the steady flow in terms of supply of goods that rely on raw materials for production through encouraging sustainable commerce and trade.

Essentially sustainable commerce is the sure way pf ensuring that trade and commerce are encouraged and grown in a world which has declining pool of natural or non-renewable resources. Sustainable commerce is derived from the establishment of businesses, which ensure that they are able to achieve their goals and objectives using means, and approaches, which ensure the use of natural resources in an appropriate manner and the respect for the natural surroundings. Capitalism has been the main driver of trade and commerce in that large entities are usually formed as result of capitalist intentions.

In essence, sustainable capitalism is the sure way of ensuring that the environment is saved from the wrath of inconsiderate use of natural resources for capitalistic ventures. Thus, there is also a dire need for the establishment of a balance between the use of sustainable capitalism and ensuring continued economic growth while at the same time ensuring conservation of the environment and its sustainability. Economic sustainability and wealth creation in both short and long-term are paramount in the society because they translate to enabling people achieve means to satisfy their needs and wants.

In addition, the economic activities around the world rely on the presence of resources, both manmade and natural. Therefore, sustainable commerce is essential in that it preserves both human and natural resources availed to the population. Capitalism usually seeks to integrate the environmental, societal and political or governance factors into strategies, which are in form of measuring outputs and for assessing the risks and opportunities availed to various possible capitalistic ventures. In essence, sustainable capitalism focuses on the maximization of the economic values and the creation of economic values using resources both natural and human. Consequently, it seeks to ensure that the challenges posed by the economical and environmental conditions are addressed and thus creating financial returns for long-term benefits and in a responsible manner.


Capitalism and the environment are intertwined in that capitalism relies on the presence of natural and human resources for actualization and relevance. In essence, literature provides that trade and commerce or business as a whole is inseparable from the society and the environment. This is because the society provides capitalistic ventures with the resources in the form of labor whereas the environment also provides resources such as land and raw materials. Capital is also another element, which is derived from the society and falls as a necessity for capitalism. It is provided using avenues such as public offerings and other investment options availed to a society for the capitalistic ventures. For this reason, capitalism relies on the presence of the environment and environment for provision of the primary factors of production, which are namely land, labor and capital.

Various sustainability issues are present in the contemporary world. Such include the climate crisis, presence of rising poverty levels around the world, gender inequality, pandemics, and scarcity of resources such as water and fuels, and increasing urbanization. Business and their respective capitalistic ventures are usually in the best positions to ensure that they are able to address majority of the issues highlighted. However, this comes out as a controversial issue in that there is a belief that business should be specifically focused on ensuring profitability, entity growth, improved competitive positions for the organization.

Hence, the controversy brought about by the notion that sustainability could reduce or inhibit organizations from achieving their goals and objectives could be simply termed as false. This is because, the conduct of trade or actualization of capitalism in a sustainable manner ensures that organizations are able to achieve their goals and objectives as well as ensuring that they are able to ensure sustenance of the environment and ensures continued operations from a long-term perspective. Fundamentally, recognition of the presence of sustainability factors would ensure that businesses are able to achieve their goals and objects as well as the conservation of the environment and sustainability of the same into the future. Additionally, this ensures that organizations are able to ensure future operations due to the presence of adequate resources as they are used in an appropriate manner and for the reasons, which they were, intended.

Capitalism actualized in a sustainable manner is essentially part of corporate social responsibility because it ensures that organizations are able to keep their surroundings of operation in good conditions. This provides the consumers of the goods and services issued by capitalistic ventures or organizations with appropriate environments for existence. Essentially, organizations, which ensure that they are able to protect their surroundings, accrue favor in the eyes of consumers. Consequently, sustainability in a capitalistic environment could be assumed by an organization to ensure that the organization gains competitive advantage in its respective market of operation. Hence, the present challenges brought about by the changing habits and trends in the corporate and capitalistic world could be used as strong points for ensuring increased profitability and competitiveness of organizations.

Therefore, instead of viewing the challenges brought about by the changing environmental conditions as impediments towards the achievement of the organizational goals and objectives, organizations could use such to cultivate on the weaknesses and increase sustainability in terms of operations thus subsequently accrue benefits. This is essential towards the conformity with the current changes in the business world towards use of sustainable approaches in terms of operating in the business world. Reputation and branding are usually major issues in the corporate world because of the benefits accrued from such elements for a business. Hence, the reputation of a business is essential in that it determines the attractiveness of an entity in its market of operation from the respective consumers.


Authors such as Thomas F. Homer-Dixon argue that there is widespread focus on how elements such as social, political and economic factors affect the environment. He adds that this had led to little focus on the effects of the environment on the social, political and economic arrangements (Homer-Dixon, 1996). He is of the view that the presence of scarcity in the available resources in given area coupled by the presence of other social factors could lead to the presence of violent macro-level outcomes such as ethnic clashes and rebellions or insurgencies. For this reason, the role of the environment in the occurrences such as ethnic and political instabilities is express. However, the role of the environment is usually coupled by the presence of catalytic factors which lead up to occurrences such as ethnic instabilities such as the presence of inequality, rural to urban migration and the existent social institutions that enforce such existent factors (Speth, 2008).

Homer-Dixon provides his argument form a vast point of view by beginning with trends in the social-economic realms. He focused on the neo-Malthusian ideas and the existent theories on issues such as ingenuity and resource distribution models used by societies spanning a period of two centuries (Homer-Dixon, 1996). He bases his ideas on the previous theory of his work on complexity theory in that there should be a focus on the presence of existent non-linearities such as interactions. Additionally he provides that there are nine specific trends in terms of global change, which are, increase in human population size, increasing energy consumption and demand, global warming, depletion of the ozone layer, scarcity of land and other resources such as freshwater, reduced fish stocks and declining biodiversity.

Upon evaluation of the scarcity of land, which is an increasingly common yet disturbing phenomenon, he defines this as the inadequacy of land because majority of it is under use for agricultural or arable purposes. Therefore, land as a primary factor of production, its scarcity could lead to unwarranted economic effects such as slowed capitalistic activities as well social effects such as conflicts. In his discourse, he notes two specific issues in the higher order interactions, which he identifies as resource capture and ecological marginalization. Resource capture in his context is the unprecedented increase in population coupled by the decline in the renewable resource. This leads to the presence of inequalities as the elite in a society amass such scarce resources, which is essentially the capture of resources. On the other hand, ecological marginalization is the increase in population, which leads to burdening of the already strained existent resources. Essentially, he focuses on three distinct issues, the environment, scarcity, violence, and their relation to the economic structures of societies.

Paul Hawken argues that there exists a connection between the present environmental and societal decay in the contemporary societies. This is because he considers that the processes of industrialization have been marked by great inefficiencies due to the existence of moral decay. His perspective is abased on the modern day decay both from a social and environmental perspective. Hawken argues that the beginning of modern industrialization was marked by the presence of abundance in terms of adequate resources, low population levels and low costs of living and less emphasis on materialism. However, such conditions have been reduced or reversed because of increase in capitalistic and subsequent industrial activities. This has resulted in the rush for the existing resources despite their inadequacy to satisfy the needs and wants of an overgrown population (Hawken, 1997).

Hardin in The Tragedy of Commons provides that population grows based on geometric proportions. He uses the term “commons” to refer to communal lands. He uses the term “tragedy” to refer to outcomes, which are due to an individual’s actions. He defined the destruction of the common grounds due to overuse by the people as a tragedy because of the devastating effects, which would emanate from the gradual destruction of the common grounds (Hardin, 1968).

Werbach provides that there are three rules to which companies should conform to remain agile in highly competitive business environments. He provides the three rules as, the maintenance of transparency, engagement and maximization of networking efforts. He emphasizes that sustainability has not yet been achieved or yet begun. He adds that sustainability is achievable in that there is need for consensus between corporation and their respective critics through a mutual understanding and akido (Werbach, 2005). He indicates that there are four distinct streams in sustainability, which are namely, the environment, people and the economy. Thus, corporations in the modern world could achieve sustainability through focus on the four facets of sustainability provides.


On the other hand, other scholars provide the road towards achievement of sustainability by corporations in the modern society is impossible. Beder S. in his discourse Global Spin: The Corporate Assault On Environmentalism provides that modern day corporations usually use their vast resources to counter the efforts of environmentalists towards the achievement of sustainability in the business world (Beder, 1997). This is attributable to the increase in distrust between society and corporations in terms of exercising sustainable practices in the organizations. This emanates from the increased activities in environmental activism, as businesses are primarily viewed as sources of environmental pollution and degradation. As a result, governments instituted new environmental laws to curb the rates of degradation of the environment. Then fallout between the corporations and the government and society is the main driver of the corporate efforts to fight the environmentalist efforts and ensure their existence. Essentially, corporations argue that new laws would inhibit their profit making capabilities and thus lead to great losses and possible closure of such corporations.

Fred Magdoff provides in What every environmentalist needs to know about capitalism: A citizen’s guide to capitalism and the environment an emphasis of the theorem of impossibility. According to the author, there is dire need for the development of a new relationship between humanity and the earth. In addition, he is of the view that the capitalistic ventures are driven by the need to increase their values or capitals into perpetuity. Consequently, the capitalistic activities do not give precedence to issues such as sustainability. This is because they are driven entirely by the need to remain profitability or essentially increase their returns on capitals. He emphasizes that capitalism does not provide a solution to the environmental issues but is essentially the cause of the environmental problems in the modern society (Magdoff & Foster, 2011).

According to Magdoff environmental has been a dire issue throughout the history of man and society as a whole. Essentially civilization has brought about rapid means of actualizing environmental degradation such as the presence of modern day technologies. In addition, the increase in population size coupled by the presence of environmentally lethal technologies is a sure way of ensuring that the environment is degraded in a rapid manner in comparison to earlier societies. He identifies specific areas or what he terms as thresholds of environmental degradation. These are, climate change; acidification of the ocean; depletion of the stratospheric ozone; interruption of the bio-geochemical flow frontier, which are the nitrogen and phosphorus cycles; inadequacy of freshwater; changes in use of land; loss of biodiversity; atmospheric loading with aerosols; and chemical pollution (Magdoff & Foster, 2011).

He is of the opinion that the notion of increasing capitalist activities and continued activities in trade and commerce is a sure way of destruction of the environment. This is because this would encourage continued pollution and degradation of the environment through the capitalistic activities in the industries and other human activities (Foster, 2011). Hence, the environment could be saved through a slowdown in human activities and specifically the capitalist activities in establishment of industries. This is because continued activities could lead to excessive strains on the available resources, leading to inability of the existence resources to ensure sustenance of the world population. Essentially he points out a possible catastrophe are such issues are not addressed adequately.

John Bellamy Foster highlights that the effects of capitalism are experienced in terms of economic, societal and environmental perspectives. The recent events of the financial crisis of the year 2008 are sufficient to indicate that capitalism has a greater negative effect on the society, especially on the economic class of the society. Foster reiterates what was earlier stated by Magdoff, that humanity has crossed or is one the verge of crossing the “nine planetary boundaries” which could lead to devastating effects on the environment such as extinction of human and animal life and loss of biodiversity (Foster, 2010).

Foster is of the opinion that sustainability could be actualized in specific ways. He however rules out the fact that capitalism could be a driver of achievement if sustainability and reduction of the effects and trends of environmental degradation (Foster, 2010). He provides that there are two distinct means of addressing issues related to the environmental crisis. The initial means is the presence of technologic advancements; this would provide an appropriate tool for addressing environmental issues because they were essentially brought about the presence of civilization and technological advancements primarily for use in industrial settings.

Butler provides that climate change is the greatest threat, which faces the human race. This is because humanity is entirely dependent on the environment for resources and other means of survival. He attributes the environmental or climatic changes because of an economic system, which is entirely driven by the need to grow and need for endless accumulation of wealth or capital (Butler, 2011). The accumulation of wealth by the capitalistic society is driven by the presence of natural resources, which are used at the costs of the existence of the human race. In his discourse, he provides that three of the nine planetary boundaries, which had also been named by other scholars, had been depleted because of the increase in human activities, which were degrading the environment.

Some of the four elements of the planetary boundaries are currently emerging issues as they have a large role in the sustenance and survival of the human race. This is an express indication of the role of humanity in depletion of the environment as well as in the role of reducing the possibility of future survival of the entire human race. Therefore, there is a dire need to assume new strategies, which could provide a future for the human race by increasing the possibility of future survival. The current economic systems are placing an unprecedented burden on the remaining sound planetary boundaries. This is actualized by the capitalistic activities such as manufacturing and service industries, which are increasing to satisfy an increasing consumer base around the world. In addition, aspects such as globalization also have a significant role in that this has led to the increase in capitalistic activities because of a broader market segment for the various products and services for the consumers around the world.

Essentially Butler provides that, capitalism is a system, which emphasizes on two things, growth and loss. Hence, a capitalists venture determines its growth or survival through the various activities it undertakes to ensure its growth in the market or its death in the market through its activities (Butler, 2011). Thus, capitalism is driven by the need to grow because majority of entities are usually formed with an aim of increasing their profitability and size in their respective markets of operation. Additionally, the current economic system does not provide a system because it is driven on use and misuse of resources for economic gains. Furthermore, the economic system gives emphasis to economic achievement at the expense of survival of humanity. This is a clear indication that unless the economic system repealed would lead to the eradication of humanity from existence. Thus, capitalism and the economic system do not provide solutions to existence and survival of the human race unless changed to enhance sustainability.

Chris Williams in his discourse highlights the effects and the scale of changes in the environment brought about by the presence of increased human activity, which he evaluates from an economic perspective. He provides that such challenges could be easily addressed using new tactics such as a change in the consumption patterns assumed by the current societies. He evaluates that such changes could be profound as a sizeable part of the source of pollution of the environment is usually brought about by the various human activities, which revolve around human consumerism (Williams, 2009). Essentially capitalism has been able to take advantage of the growing need by the society for the various products and services, which could be termed as either necessities or luxuries.

He also engages in discussions about nuclear power as an energy source, which is expensive and dangerous to undertake. He adds that the preference for nuclear power is brought about by the costs effectiveness of the source of power. However, this alternative form is described as posing high risks to the environment because of the associated high costs and impossibilities in disposal of waste after the production of energy. Consequently, it is evident that capitalistic activities are usually associated with the need to ensure that the waste is contained because of the risks associated with exposure to the harmful chemicals from the nuclear power plants.

An increase in the demand for energy and the respective sources is largely attributable to an increase in the consumer need for various products and services. Thus, capitalistic ventures usually take advantage of the increase in demand for products and services largely attributable to increase in the population and their respective needs and wants (Baer, 2012). Given the dire need and want by modern organizations to increase their size and their profit margins, they usually engage in the quest for resources to drive their goals and objective for increase in size and wealth. This is an express indication that capitalistic venture usually drive the growth in the demand for the existent meager resources which are essentially used to drive production process as well as in the provision of services.

Another scholar who advocates for new economical systems instead of the existent capitalistic driven economic system is Victor Wallis who is of the view that the existent economic growth and system has been an instigating factor of the depletion of the natural resources and the degradation of the environment. He also points out that the current ecological crisis is of great magnitude due to the potential effects on existence of humankind and other ecological systems, which have been naturally existent. In addition, the author also provides that a capitalistic society and the presence of degraded morals due to the need to make profits is essentially the main drive of the ecological crisis (Wallis, 2008).

Additionally, society has become a mere force that is associable with the presence of amassing wealth by a specific portion of the society. Additionally, the same society is responsible for misuse of the existent environmental resources because of the need to make quick supernormal profits hence based on such a notion he points out that economic decay and social decay are the primary factors which are driving the increase in the various environmental issues such as depletion of resources and degradation of the environment. He adds that in order to address the issues of sustainability and degradation of the environment by assuming perspectives such as economical and social perspectives to ensure that ecological issues are addressed adequately.

Chronis J. Polychroniou a scholar is of the view that the existing conditions of neoliberalism are on the verge of collapse because of the sporadic economic growth experienced in the world and factors such as polarization of incomes accrued to individuals and organizations. This is an indication that he attributes much of the ecological changes in the world are because of the changes in economics and social elements in a modern world. He adds that neoliberalism has already collapsed and that the collapse is evidenced by the existent economic conditions such as the financial crisis that was experienced on a global scale in the year 2008 (Polychroniou, 2009).

He expresses that in economics assumptions are made that an economy in capitalism is usually evidenced by its natural traits of growth. However, the presence of slowed growth is usually driven by the external factors to a given market or organization such as unskilled labor and other eternal factors in a market. it is also assumed that a monopolists and capitalists society is usually evidenced by the presence of stagnation in relation to its economic conditions such as the presence of unemployment and slow growth rates. This according to Polychroniou is attributable to the exploitation of the existent resources as well as the presence of economic equality and accessibility to existent resources for level economic gains for all in a given society.

He is adamant that capitalism is in need of new avenues, which will provide the much-needed high rates of returns (Polychroniou, 2009). The investments outlets have been reduced because of the overburden on existent resources and outlets in the economy. In addition, this has resulted in the decline in economic performance in advanced societies because of the inadequate channels to provide high rates of returns. Thus, the need to exhaust the existent channels and resources has been the main driver of ecological changes.

The film A Really Inconvenient Truth by Cambiz A. Khozravi indicates that global warming is evidently an inconvenient truth in that global warming is largely manmade because it is associated with the disruption of the comfort of an entirely capitalistic society, which thrives on the presence of economic and societal inequalities. The truth about the presence and effects of global remains one of the most contentious issues of the contemporary society. Consequently, the world seems to be grappling with the need to understand a truth, which poses a risk to the existence of human kind (Khosravi, 2007).

The film provides a specific inference that the inequalities present in a society are among the main drivers of capitalistic activities. This is because a specific part of the society has the ability or power to determine usage of resources and access to the same for their collective benefits instead of the overall benefits of the society (Khosravi, 2007). A major issue in climate change and additional environmental harms is the need to gain a better perceptive of the capitalist system this is essential in that it enables to understand issues such as who derives major benefits from it, and its functionality in undermining the steady ecosystems.


Different inferences could be assumed about the achievement of sustainable human development in relation to the capitalistic activities in the modern society. Two varied perspectives are assumed based on the literature provided about the relation of capitalism and the present ecological or environmental challenges. Capitalism plays a significant role in both ecological and societal realms in that it is engaged in direct interactions with people and environment. Additionally, capitalism is usually driven by specificity to accrue higher returns with each investment made in a specific field. Hence, capitalism is naturally driven by the need to use resources, both human and natural resources to increase the rates of returns.

The authors describe capitalism as a system of apertures and changes. Its apertures are identified and evidenced in the presence of short-term benefits on which capitalism places emphasis. In addition, it also gives emphasis to growth into perpetuity, which translates to the entrenchment of a divide between the human society and the environmental conditions in the given society in order to sustain the life of the entire society. The shifts are evidenced by the movement of its operations into other areas when confronted with issues, which threaten its survival based on degradation of the environment. Such shifts usually assume geographical perspective s in that the industries, which are responsible for degradation of the environment, are usually shifted or moved to other regions and they continue in polluting new habitats or ecological systems.


Therefore, capitalism is essentially the major driver of global pollution and is direly responsible for the effects of its activities. Additionally, the presence of changing trends in social activities and perspectives have contributed to the degradation of the environment. This is because the issues such as changing consumer patterns and social values have facilitated the presence of various capitalistic ventures. Additionally, its effects are evidenced by reduced ability of the environment to sustain an ever-growing populace in the world. Due to the inherent traits of capitalism, it is essentially impossible to use capitalism to achieve sustainable means of development and preserving the environment for future existence of the human race.

Global socialism is an option, which could be used to ensure that the society is able to achieve sustainable means to support the increasing populace around the world. Socialism could ensure that the society is able to adjust to specific changes to achieve sustainability. Sustainability is assumed through the use pf sate laws and regulations, which are enforced by the authorities. This is vital in that capitalism is a force, which thrives on irregularities, under-regulation and inequalities in both economical and societal perspectives. Essentially, from the literature provided it is predominantly evident that socialism could be used to ensure that the society is able to achieve the goals and objectives of sustainability. This is because capitalism is driven by its hunger for misuse of natural resources making it impossible to use capitalism to achieve environmental sustainability.





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