The environmental change which occurs in the world is a major problem facing the mankind in the modern times and in the times to come. The environment provides a means of support, as per the Australian aboriginals believe that they get their life from the land. For this reason, the environmental change the real effects of which have become visible via the naked eyes in recent times is a cause to worry. This is a threat to the life of humans. The environmental change leads to the ecological imbalance in the eco system. According to Darwin’s law, the strongest ones survive. However, the environmental change that occurs in the world is not natural. Instead of this, it is driven by the bad social economic interaction of humans with the environment. Therefore, the environmental change can be viewed as a human made problem. Among various issues associated with the environmental change are economic systems. Basically, the states in the world operate with either a capitalist or socialist economic system with the majority of them being capitalist nations.
Ideally, there is a direct relationship between the economic systems and the environmental change. Many environmental and economic experts propose that the capitalist economic system is sufficient to ensure that there is no negative climate change. But is capitalism made of strong foundations guaranteeing the good governance of the environment? The answer is - certainly, not. On the other hand, does socialism provide the solution to the environmental change menace? Neither does it. This gives the need for the establishment of mid-point economic systems, which integrate the aspects from the two systems. Hence, this comes up with a sustainable economic system. Each of the economic systems has its own advantages and disadvantages, which are reflected in the economic, political and social aspects of the society (Walis, 2008). However, as per the current situation in the globe, none of these two systems have the capability of solving the environmental change problem by its own. The following paper will identify why today’s most difficult environmental challenges cannot be successfully overcome, as long as the global economic system remains capitalist.
Capitalism and the Environmental Change
Capitalism is an economic system which upholds the need for the individual accumulation of wealth. The capitalist system is very common in the world owing to its ability of generating the rapid growth in the economy within a short span of time in comparison with its socialism counterpart. With the onset of capitalism, there have been the developments of certain trends in the social, political and environmental fronts. They are directed towards the individual accumulation of wealth. Ideally, capitalism has led to what is might be referred to as the wealth rush. Specifically, capitalism has led to the growth of greediness in the society. This has ultimately led to the use of unorthodox means in order to get it. This is the point where capitalism loses its highly regarded ability of providing the sustainable economic development.
Some unorthodox means of amassing wealth have led to the environmental degradation and change. One of major practices is the massive emission of greenhouse gases from industries. Greenhouse gases are a main cause of the climate and environmental change. Green gases, which are technically known as carbon gases, tend to cover the atmosphere above the earth, hence, resulting to global warming. This, in turn leads to the climate and environmental change. Looking at the statistics of carbon emissions from several countries around the world, it can be noted that most of emissions are coming from the developed states. These are the capitalism powerhouses of the world. Taking a look at the recent global climate change conference in South Africa, it is heartbreaking to realize that no tangible resolution had been passed to strive for reducing carbon gases and the environmental change in the globe. It can be seen that the industrialized states had remained silent over the issues of reducing carbon gases in the world. This was oblivious of the fact that the global warming had been leading to the climate change affecting the third world countries. They have little to do with the emission of carbon gases into the atmosphere. This is a practical show of capitalism and its inability to solve the environmental change mystery. Former Kyoto protocol had been well established. However, its enforcement had been too negatively affected by the full use of capitalist economic systems. Other bad practice, which had resorted from the need to amass wealth, being a basic principle of capitalism, includes the wastage of natural resources and the pollution of environment. On this point, Adam Werbach was talking of death for environmentalism. This is a result of the people accepting practices being certain to lead to adverse effects in the climate. In his article, Werbach (2005) has noted that Senator Adams has moved from drilling in the national wildlife refuge located in the Arctic.
Proponents of the capitalism use in solving the environmental change propose that it is not a result of capitalist economic systems. However, this is a result of the moral and ethical decay in the society. By this, they state that there is a natural capitalism system which occurs naturally, and it brings competition (Hawkens, 1997). Hawken has proposed that this is this natural competition that bears fruit to the capitalist economic system. Another point capitalism is based on is that there are scarce resources in the world. Hence, there is the need to compete for them aggressively if an individual, a corporation or states want to realize the economic flourishing (Dixon, 1996). In this point, Homer Dixon has proposed that the natural resources have been of great interest to many people even the way back before the effects of the environmental change to be. Thus, capitalism existed in a traditional setup, but not in a formalized manner as it is today. As a result of capitalism, some people have been able to become very rich, while others have become very poor. Looking at the figures on each side, it can be seen that the rich people are being the minority. Meanwhile, the poor ones form the major part. Ironically, capitalist activities of the rich have more adverse effects on the majority as compared to the minority number. The situation is referred to as ‘the tragedy of the commons’ (Hardin, 1968).
But why cannot capitalism lead to solving the current environmental change problems in the world. The following section will take the deep analysis of several aspects in the economy, which are directly affected by capitalism.
One of the most important pillars of the economy is energy. This is with the help of energy that humans are able to do things, drive machines, operate industries; in fact, nothing can be done without energy. There are many sources of energy, which can be broadly divided into the renewable and nonrenewable energy. Renewable energy includes green energy such as solar, wind and tidal energy. Nonrenewable energy includes crude oil and wood. Due to the high dependency of the economy on energy, capitalism has found its way into it. Ideally, countries and corporations are turning to energy sources which best fit their situations. For instance, the industry using a wood fired boiler is next to the forest oblivious of the fact that wood is nonrenewable. The continued felling of treed leads to the reduction in a vegetation cover in the country, it triggers the carbon imbalance in the atmosphere. Also, this leads the weather change due to the relationship in case the forest cover is with rainfall. This is just one of many energy situations facing countries. The issue about energy cannot be discussed without the debates on oil. This is the most prominent fuel used in the world today. As a result of the oil value, various civil wars and conflicts have developed in rich oil countries, with the main issue of the contention being wealth. This is basically capitalism at its best.
Looking at the relationship between energy and the climate change, it can be seen that burning fossil fuels is a major contributor of carbon gas emissions to the atmosphere. As identified earlier, carbon gas emissions are the main cause of the climate and environmental change. Therefore, the basic logic is that solving the energy menace is to solve the climate change problem. However, this is not as easy as it is put. With the availability of green energy in the market, the reason as to why many countries and organizations have still not harnessed them is being questionable. This can be traced back to capitalism. Investing into green energy is a rather expensive exercise. Thus, many states and corporations view it as economically correct to continue using the traditional carbon emitting fuels which make them more competitive. From this perspective, it can be seen that as long as the capitalist economic system exists, the solution of environmental change problems facing the world remains as illusion.
Comparing the capitalist perception of energy use and the socialist perception, a sharp line dividing the two ones can be identified. This line is the care and concern about the well being of the majority in the world population. For instance, in the socialist economy, the care of effects of the specific forms’ use of energy will be taken into account while reviewing the use of specific types of energy (Butler, 2010). Actually, there are many concerns about the use of nuclear energy. Oblivious of the fact that nuclear energy is green. There is a high risk of exposing humans to radioactivity, which has far much more severe effects as compared to the environmental change. The impacts of radioactivity even have the chance to alter a human being. Therefore, the possible adoption of the socialist economy system is a recommended movement if the realization of environmental sustainability should come.
The climate change is another major problem facing the world as a result of the environmental change. The climate change is a result of many causes with the main one being carbon gas emissions. As identified earlier in this paper, most of greenhouse gasses are emitted from industrialized countries being basically the developed countries of the world. However, the adverse effects of the climate change are felt in the life and hearts of poor people in the global southern countries. This is not ethical by any standards. It is in the third world countries that famine leads to drought and has the high impact on people. The weather patterns are no longer favoring the food production; the lands are no longer productive. This is an ideal situation caused by the climate change. Moreover, there is an increase in the arid and desert regions in the world. The ice on the snowed mountains, i.e. in Iceland, Antarctic and Arctic regions, is slowly melting, hence, increasing the amount of water in the sea leading to the submerging of dry land.
All the above aspects have a direct effect on the climate and weather patterns, hence, a direct effect on the ecosystem. Therefore, it is logical that various stakeholders involved should make the appropriate moves towards ensuring the fact that the climate change has been placed at the minimum rate. This is not possible with the completely fledged capitalism economic strategies used in the world today. This is due to the fact that the dire need to amass. Such wealth is possible by states and corporations have led to the adoption of crude methods with the minimization of expenses being top in the list. The less demanding practices do not have some negative impacts on the environment are being adopted. For instance, the recent world environment conference under the United Nations has not born any fruit owing to the fact that capitalistic nations do not want to disadvantage their chances to amass more wealth by adopting environmental sustainable practices being expensive to them.
The socialistic economist’s perception to the climate change is the one which will see that the economic activities done in one location do not compromise in the ability to enjoy the full benefits of the good environment in other locations and in future generations (Foster, 2011). For example, the economic activities in Europe are known to affect the environment in Africa and vice versa. Ideally, the notion that the world exists in the ecosystem whereby activities in one region affect another region directly should be fully acknowledged. This ultimately means to a socialist the amassing of wealth will not be the priority, but instead of the well-being of the general society.
Use of Natural Resources
Natural resources are given freely by nature; hence, no humans should be deprived of the chance of enjoying them to be now or in the future. However, the current trends in the world are threatening to deplete certain resources from the phase of the earth. One of natural resources, which are being over exploited, is crude oil. Basically, the world economy has a high dependency on oil, which explains the reason concerning why the high inflation rates are seen when the global prices of oil change. At the current exploitation rate, it is expected that the future generation will not have the oil to use. This is not ethical. The capitalist nature of states has even pushed them to starting and fueling civil wars and conflicts in resources of rich countries to benefit from the countries by exploiting natural resources illegally. The civil war in Congo, Africa, and the war in the Middle East is a perfect indicator of the extent to which countries and corporations are driven by the capitalist intuition to deal with unorthodox manners of the wealth creation. For instance, two cases have been indicated above.
Generally, every other corporation and state wants to take as much wealth as possible before the chance has gone away. This is the literal grabbing of natural resources without taking into consideration wellbeing of other people. In such world, there is the high likelihood of adverse effects of the practice. One of the effects of such practice is the environmental change. With the need for the mass accumulation of wealth associated with capitalism, many corporations and states have resorted to using all crude means to achieve their objectives. Some of them is the over and ill exploitation of natural resources, for instance, leaving the uncovered pits after mining, the over exploitation of some resources leading to the depletion among other effects.
For this reason, there arises a dire need for the adoption of a socialist approach to the exploitation and management of natural resources. This ensures that the equality of all stakeholders involved into consideration. An important aspect in the socialist approach to management of natural resources is sustainability. Sustainability is the practice which ensures that the present generation has been able to enjoy all benefits of natural resources without compromising the same chance to enjoy natural resources to future generations (Magdoff & Foster, 2011). The socialist approach to management of natural resources ensures the majority of people. They are able to enjoy the benefits associated with the specific natural resource. For instance, in the oil rich country, the socialist approach will ensure that all residents of the country are able to feel the effects of the expensive natural resources in the country (Williams, 2009). This ensures that the poverty gap between the rich and the poor people in the society has been minimized by as much a big margin as possible.
Pollution is another aspect to have adverse effects in the environment. On this point, it is important to acknowledge the issues about waste management and the fuss it has created in the world today. The calls for the use of biodegradable packaging materials, the treatment of waste and its proper disposal are some of the issues campaigned by environmentalists. However, there still lies the problem with respect to waste the management in the world. The creation of Garbage Mountains is not a strange thing in most cities. This is emptying the sewerage into water lines. One of the most prominent things around is the plastic waste. Owing to the fact that plastic materials are not bio-degradable, there has been a continuous deposition of the same environment. The effects of the improper waste disposal are adverse. For instance, the disposal of waste into water resources, rivers prove to be a major threat to the aquatic life. The disposal of plastic materials on land renders is unproductive additionally to the fact that heaps of plastic materials. Other forms of pollution include air pollution, especially the emission of carbon gases, which has been already discussed in details earlier in this paper. All these aspects are acts of the exercise of capitalism, which water down the achievements which have already been gained by environmental conservationists (Beder, 1997).
Looking at the pollution as a whole, it can be acknowledged that organizations polluting the environment are able to evade a lot of costs, which may be incurred. They dispose the waste properly or possibly change their operations in order to cut the pollution. Looking at the broader picture, it can be seen that this is an act of fully fledged capitalism (Polychroniou, 2009). As a move to counter this, it is recommended that the economic system turns around from being a capital driven economy to a social one. This ensures that all stakeholders in the economy take into consideration the effects of their actions or practices to wellbeing of other people. This will create some sorts of the systems’ direction.
In conclusion, this paper has been able to show that the solution to the environmental change in the world cannot be achieved if the capitalist economic system continues to exist in the world. From the paper, it is clear that a major objective of capitalist economies is to amass as much wealth as possible. This proves to be a major hurdle to the environmental conservation. This paper has taken a deep insight into four common aspects namely the climate change, energy, the use of natural resources and pollution of the environment. From the paper above, the direct link between the environmental change, capitalism and the four aspects identified above has been shown. It is evident that there is the need to embrace the sustainability in all practices in the world. In so doing, it will ensure that the present generation is able to enjoy the benefits of the good environment today without compromising the chances of future generations doing the same thing. All in all, it is clear from this paper that the today’s most difficult environmental challenges cannot be successfully overcome as long as the global economic system remains capitalistic.