Capitalism and the Global Environment Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Capitalism and the Global Environment

A framework has been formed by capitalism according to which the world is not responding to the environmental changes. Capitalism produces (or is formed by) a number of environmental changes and lays down the foundation for the social relations and for all the political institutions. This thus demonstrates our potential to respond to the changing environment very efficiently. But still the learners of global environmental change do not frequently pass on to capitalism directly (Newell, 2011).

Capitalism, although unrevealed mostly, dominates in almost all academic discussions related to global environmental change. However, in spite of all this development of rhetoric and policy considerations concerning new green deal known as the 'greening' of capitalism, the need is of a variant capitalism which has the potential of handling the climate change specially (Porritt, 2007). At the same time, the one which is less susceptible to instability and crisis. Referring to this journal, none of the article titles of the survey talk about capitalism. However, two articles debate on the Capitalism issue, which are present in a leading journal of the field, Global Environmental Politics (Humphreys, 2003; O? zler and Obach, 2009). This does not convey that Capitalism is not absent rather it is present under pretenses and in different forms such as 'globalization' (Sonnenfeld, 2008) or it exists in correspondence to certain attributes of capitalism i.e. growth (Pelletier, 2010), 'consumption' (Spaargen and Mol, 2008) or 'property rights'. The mainstream global environmental change community hardly writes on capitalism and ecology in detail although a lot of work has been done on certain related issues like payments for ecosystem services and attempts have been made on recognizing and commercializing forests, carbon and water (Bakker, 2004; Corbera and Brown, 2008). Thus, this deficiency of talks on capitalism calls for the need for this paper. The later part of the essay is divided into 2 parts. The 1st part will discuss and support the view that capitalist structure can address the environmental problems quite successfully. The part following it will negate this statement by stating that environmental problems cannot be catered by a capitalist structure.

Traditional Perspective

Werbach (2004) critically emphasizes that two schools of thought emerge as a response to modernity. Conservationists ask for more nature whereas the conservatives demand for more market. This contrast of opinions continued and the ideology evolved from attempts of developing a healthy relationship between man and nature started ditching nature against man. This effort was much appreciated by the conservatives as it would fulfill their interests. The ideology took a materialistic shape for all the conservationists and Americans which previously focused on inter-relationship of all things. The concept of environmentalism has a bright and a dark side. So if there is a side of interlink between nature and man opposed to the side which deviates nature from man, then it can be concluded undoubtedly that it is the things which have been learnt by the Americans to relate with the terminologies such as "the environment": redwoods, seal pups, clean air, clean water, Yosemite, and toxic waste (Werbach, 2004).

Certain issues are asked and taught not be discussed when the environment is concerned such as the war in Iraq, AIDS in Africa, the tax code, homeless people, asthma, highways, and good jobs. All of these things, whether they have an origin in environment or not, been exposed under the American environmentalism as well as by its homologue, liberalism, their network of connections and native habitat. Each of the issue has an individual identity and requires its resolution through a separate movement and individual expert. All the terminologies and categories should have a status of tools rather than symbolic representation of realistic things. This idea was presented by Ferdinand de Saussure almost 50 years ago at the dawn of the semiotics movement and this perspective is simply undeniable.

The theory of environmentalism which was about to lay the foundation of environmental law in 1970, was based on categorization like toxic waste, clean air and water, package seal pups, redwoods and Yosemite. But this classification did not appear to be favorable as it restricted the level of success which could be achieved otherwise if environmental boundaries permitted the completion between American conservatives and progressives (Werbach, 2004).

The fundamental concept of economic is based on resource availability. There was a time when resources were considered as abundant and economics flourished during that period. As the situation changed, the resources also declined in quantity and the old theories were no more valid and effective. It was difficult for economists of previous time to understand the downfall and plan the development in the light of new circumstances. With the passage of time, eco systems changed and the change was also reflected in living systems. The modern trend in living systems and other social conditions is based on the assumption that old economic concepts of growth will be effective enough to overcome the shortcoming in present circumstances. The assumption coupled with circumstances has led to creation of complicated policies and systems to ensure success in the modern era (Hawken, 1997). It is important to understand that success is possible even without relating the methods with classical concepts, as logically they cannot be related. There is strong need to view the capital with perspective of environment and this concept is not present in the classical theories.

The present situation is referred to as global ecological crisis which is the result of sovereign state system. This concept is promoted by many researchers including Garrett Hardin (1968) who considers it a tragedy. Many researchers believe that global factors have no power to change the state conditions. The World Environment Organization's proposals are aligned with Hardin's (1974) views as he states that authorities should play active role in controlled use of common resources which are available free of cost to human beings. However, there is a group of researchers who believe that agenda of World Environment Organization is totally opposite to that of World Trade Organization.

In the perspective of environmental economics and its relationship with resources, both scarce and abundant, researchers have conflicting views. Many researchers explored the subject and presented their own findings, however, there is lack of consensus in the findings. The most important name among the researchers in this domain is of Thomas Homer-Dixon (1991, 1994, 1999) whose evidence enjoys portion of eminence in literary circles. His work was further analyzed by Richard Matthew and Ted Gaulin (2001) but in the same period, many researchers nullified the existence of any such relationship. At the same time, Homer-Dixon was focusing his research upon new topic and he enjoyed much fame as The Ingenuity Gap was ranked as the bestseller in Canada. The researchers who opposed the views of Homer-Dixon include Nancy Peluso and Michael Watts (2001), Simon Dalby (2002), and Indra de Soysa (2002 and Chapter 10 this volume).

Critical Perspective

Environmental economists colonised sustainable development plans and the methods. Their views were focused on market mechanism which could be held responsible for environmental problems (Savage and Hart, 1993). There are certain researchers who have not supported the view but environmental economist have firm support for it.

They assume that market mechanism is responsible to add value to the environment through utilizing the profits they earn from business in the society. This is the same environment which plays vital role in profit generation for business organizations; hence its care is due on the same entities. Commercial organizations must take into consideration the element of cost incurred on acquiring the commodities which are used in market. For instance, fish, minerals and timber are traded on much lower prices than the cost incurred to obtain them. The cost must include the cost of environment as these resources play certain beneficial role in the environment and their shortage causes certain environmental degradation. There are certain elements that clean and fresh air which are used in abundance but have no cost association in the market mechanism. Environmental economists assume that these are ignored heads because of their availability and because mankind does not have to pay anything to acquire them. It is, therefore, strongly recommended that natural resources should be valued in terms of price and market method should add them in its calculations (Beder, 2004).

The most common perception about globalization is about promotion of free movement of labor, goods and capital among the countries. In other words, it is about removal of trade barriers like tariff and quotas. It is also characterized by smaller governance and market deregulation. These two factors lead to production methods that lead to enhancement of comparative advantage. It is interesting to mention that many people believe that advantages promised by globalization are over stated (Bultler, 2007) and in fact they exist at much lower scale. Globalization implies benefits from the factors like market deregulation and production methods. It does not have its own direct benefits though it claims to offer many advantages to many entities. Butler (2007) is of…

Cite This Term Paper:

"Capitalism And The Global Environment" (2012, December 12) Retrieved January 19, 2018, from

"Capitalism And The Global Environment" 12 December 2012. Web.19 January. 2018. <>

"Capitalism And The Global Environment", 12 December 2012, Accessed.19 January. 2018,