Tough question. Many social scientists have painted a rather dire picture of the future in which capitalism’s ever-expanding levels of production and consumption eventually deplete the world of all of its resources; this is known as the “treadmill of production” theory, based on the Marxist idea that capitalist production must continually expand or perish.
Others, however, find the problem is simply with the short-sighted nature of capitalism that considers environmental hazards to be “externalities”, unimportant consequences that won’t affect production or profits. As new evidence convinces producers to work resources and wastes into corporate ledgers, and as new laws make it more and more expensive to avoid doing so, some environmentalists are optimistic as to the potential for capitalism to be more responsible and to drive the development of green technology in the future.
Only time will tell if capitalism can be “greened”; but as long as it remains the dominant ideology of the world, this must be our goal.
Many people do believe that capitalism is harmful to the environment. Inherently, capitalism may not be harmful to the environment however it does encourage globalization and the idea that economics and money will dictate all other things (i.e. social institutions, etc.). There is almost always a way to do green business however, and businesses and the desire to make money are some of the underlying factors of capitalism, so capitalism and being environmentally aware and friendly are not mutually exclusive.
Capitalism definitely has qualities that can be harmful for our environment but at the same time some of those same qualities can be beneficial to the environment. The innovation factor can be harmful to the environment but can also be beneficial by helping figure out environmental problems. The survival of the fittest can also have major implications for the environement but this again can drive people to better the environment they are living in. In all, every idea and philosophy will have to try and strike a balance with the way the world is and the way people want the world to be.
If you believe economists when they talk about “decoupling”, then no, capitalism is not bad for the environment. Economists are trying to push this idea, which states that economic progress and the environment are separate entities which can be manipulated without disturbing the other one.
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