The idea of capitalism is often a hot topic of debate in regard to its effect on environmental degradation. In a society that focuses on growth and wealth, it is hard to factor preservation on the environment when capitalism places an emphasis on profits. Developing countries feel the pressure to reform to the caliber of developed countries, which causes economic strain. This strain forces these developing countries to do whatever is necessary to grow their economy. Degrading the environment, poverty, and political unrest often follows. In order to account for environmental concerns while framing a more sustainable economic system, the greed that is associated with economic growth must be lessened and developing countries must learn to grow sustainably while supporting the environment and societal concerns.
Why are capitalism and the environment clashing? “According to these experts, burning less fossil fuel to slow or prevent global warming will increase the cost of meeting society’s needs for energy services, which include everything from speedy transportation to hot showers,” (Lovins, 74). Some economists believe that helping to preserve the environment is not going to help develop and progress the economy. Many economists are focused on money and the best way to maximize their profits. Their mindset is solely “grow or die” (Smith 53). Greed paired up with capitalism can have its own repercussions for the future people of Earth and its environment. Greed seems to be more of an “in the now or moment” or short-term sort of decision-making process. How can “you'” benefit from a decision that you’re making or what will you gain right now? “Somewhere along the way to free-market capitalism, the United States became the most wasteful society on the planet,” (Hawken, 1).
Thinking about actions for future generations would be a more beneficial outcome for all future parties. In order to break out of this cycle of greed, “We’re going to have to find ways to put the brakes on out-of-control growth, even if it means drastically retrenching or shutting down coal companies, oil companies, chemical companies, auto companies, even whole economic sectors dedicated 100% to waste products like the disposable products industries.”(Smith 53). In order to break out of this greedy mindset, it is essential to stop focusing on growth and re-evaluate the economy. With this mindset, people can work to improve their efficiency and make long-term goals in order to gain even more in the long run compared to what they get at the exact moment of greed. As products are able to get more advanced and become more efficient, the cost of all these products will go down and then greed will be able to work together with capitalism to become more sustainable. Just to prove this point, “fluorescent lamps cost more than $20 two decades ago but only $2 to S5 today,” (Lovins, 76). Until we become more efficient as a society, we will continue to hinder ourselves by greed for capitalism, until one day, greed will become more sustainable as the most cost-effective production.
In order to account for environmental concerns and the well-being of poorer countries to achieve higher standards of living, wealthier countries, including the U.S. needs economic reform. Growth is one of the running factors that wealthier countries obsess over even though it is not healthy for the environment. If there is not change to the system, the world will soon reap the effects of humanity’s greed and need for ‘growth’. “Historians will show, perhaps, how politics, the media, economics, and commerce created an industrial regime that wasted our social and natural environment and called it growth.”(Mother Jones, pp. 2) The idea of growth being able to continue forever is an unrealistic point of view and countries need to realize this and adjust their economy so that the long-term effect can be sustainable. Not only are wealthier countries affecting themselves but they are affecting poorer nations as well.
“Many live in areas rich in valuable natural resources that planners and ‘developers’ want to exploit, and this exploitation disrupts the local environment so as to endanger traditional ways of life.”(Our Common Future,pp.87) In terms of exploitation and endangering traditional ways of life, the technology and resources we have today can be used to help economic reform by influencing people to use sustainable goods and services without having to completely change their way of life. Richard Smith in Beyond Growth or Beyond Capitalism stated that, “I conclude that since capitalist growth cannot be stopped, or even slowed, and since the market-driven growth is driving us toward collapse, ecological economists should abandon the fantasy of a steady-state capitalism and get on with the project figuring out what a post-capitalist economic democracy could look like:”(pp. 28) In order to become sustainable as a nation, people need to open up to the idea that one can grow without exploiting resources and not taking care of the earth comes at a price.
In developing countries, they crave to build their economy to a point where they can compete with developed countries. In order to do this, they must degrade their environment and use the resources they have to try and build their economies. Often times this leads to more environmental and social problems in the future. In order to frame an economic system while accounting for poorer countries, it is essential to teach sustainable growth in these countries to ensure a higher standard of living. For example, Syria is currently in violent political unrest which began from unsustainable agriculture and environmental policies (Kelley). If Syria did not have so much economic pressure to perform better, they could have not depleted or damaged its resources. Kelley argues that global climate change, which led to droughts, caused many people to move into urban centers. This caused overcrowding and a lack of resources ultimately aiding to political unrest. If Syria learns how to develop their economy sustainably while taking care of its people, political violence would not necessarily take place due to environmental degradation.
As mentioned in the Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development, developing countries need to stop drawing “too heavily, too quickly, on already overdrawn environmental resource” and “protect the environment and to bring ecological consideration into development planning”(Our Common Future). A good way for developing countries to do this is to begin practicing sustainable farming, limit population growth, and Sustainably use valuable resources. Reframing developing countries’ economies to focus on sustainability from the beginning, could lead to less problems in the future. By promoting sustainable growth, people in developing countries will have a higher standard of living, and build their economy.
For example, sustainable farming will give food to the poor in these countries, but also create fertile soil and higher yields to benefit the economy as well as prevent ecological degradation in the future. Moreover, limiting and sustaining resources will allow these resources to be used over a longer period of time as well as prevent degradation that would affect their livelihood. The Sustainable Development Goals by the United Nations also greatly encourage sustainable management and sustainable industrialization (Transforming Our World). This would include creating “sustainable and resilient infrastructure” and achieving food production to cushion the population and economy by ensuring a “sustainable food production system and implement resilient agricultural practices that increase productivity and production, that helps maintain ecosystems”(Transforming Our World). In order to learn these sustainable practices, it is important that developed countries step in and educate developing countries. As history has shown us, the economy is the basic route to success for any country. Nevertheless, to get to a good economy one must be educated in everything that conflicts with economic growth and the long effects in the long run. When I mean the long run, it’s how we would benefit from the economy but also how it would affect us and everything that surrounds us. Take for example a third-world country that wants to make money quickly and efficiently, to do so, the country chooses deforestation.In the long run the economy will grow but the environment will not be nourished and people might be harmed by soil erosion which leads to poor farming and poverty.
Reasons like these are why we need to be educated to predict the things that might happen in the future because either your actions or others could affect everyone. Education is something good for everyone but there is some danger with the knowledge you gain by educating yourself and have others teach you. The more knowledge one gains the less creative a mind sometimes gets, and sometimes the knowledge you gain or was taught to us is not the complete truth or not even true at al (Dangers of Education). Actually, because every person is taught in a diferent style and in different perspective, it leads to unique and creative perspectives. As a developed country, it is our responsibility to educate those who do not understand the importance of sustainability and economic growth. By encouraging developing countries to practice sustainable economic practices, that could help influence a better economy that does not degrade the environment. By preventing the formation of societies that are focused on greed, we can help shape the economies of the future.
As the Earth grows older, new issues arise with humans and the environment. We must learn how we can obtain the resources we need while still allowing nature to thrive and sustain. Teach new generations what they can do to help the planet and become more efficient in our production. Whether from education, greed, or the how the economy affects how we coexist with environment, we must find new ways to tackle environmental concerns while framing a more sustainable way of supporting the environment and the social issues to come.