Why Capitalism is Anathema to Environmentalism

The dissolution of capitalism is a matter of incredible urgency because beyond the relative moral ills, there is an absolute ecological crime that is being perpetrated by this system of endless, thoughtless, careless consumption.

I’m not going to expound too much on the various ways such as deforestation that capitalism and free markets lead without fail to climate change and environmental destruction. I’ll leave the environment talk to the environmentalists.

What I’m here to talk about is why. 

At the root of the problem is the fact that the nature of capitalism provides that profit is not only often preferable to sustainability but is actually the personally and fiscally superior choice within the system.

For example, a company might make more money by making their product out of unreliable parts with shoddy, cheap, quick manufacturing techniques and charging for repairs and replacement parts (or having people by a new unit altogether) than they would by making a product that is going to be reliable and that will last. Thus, producing for short-term is the more fiscally responsible option for an enterprising capitalist.

There are two primary problems with this system of production, though. The first is the obvious moral dilemma of being able to produce sustainably and choosing not to in order to turn a higher profit. The second is that this sort of economic standard leads to uncontrollable levels of production. Things are made to be replaced, not to be kept.

This is the central issue. To quote the old trope, capitalism is a system of infinite expansion and consumption in a world of finite resources. We haven’t even a modicum of what capitalism and the free market’s selfish infinite expansion demand, but we have so much more than the needs of humanity demand.

We can no longer trust business to self-regulate. One can’t even really blame business for not self-regulating; it’s the fault of the system that it’s in that demands that a profit be made in order to live. It’s not acceptable under capitalism to simply provide to society; it’s demanded that you provide enough to make enough money to live. The profit motive by its coercive nature demands that one turns a profit in order to even survive. So under capitalism, we cannot simply put out enough for society to thrive. We cannot keep from tearing down forests and destroying wildlife in order to expand our development even further. The system constantly demands more and more from its inhabitants in order for them to not starve or be homeless.

It’s an impossibly sad reflection, but the answer lies in an economy decided by the people, for the people. One where resources are allocated by democracy, not where democracy is destroyed by those who allocate the resources. One where society isn’t coerced to make more than we need just to get some of what we desire, one where people aren’t coerced to make more of anything and everything to gain a profit. Capitalism consumes so much that it has consumed the Earth, and we just might be next unless we make sure it consumes itself first.


In solidarity,

Kolt Day

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