Does capitalism play a role in climate change

Years ago I had a girlfriend that played a game known as 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon, a game where kids would try to link something with Kevin Bacon through a series of direct and indirect associations.

This, to me, is a lot like the association between a capitalist’s drive for profit and eco-destruction. Example: company’s drive for profit leads to some business decision which leads to some procedure that leads to some environmental consequence.

The set of decisions that gives way to eco-destruction can be accounted for within one understanding: there is built into capitalism the necessity to please the consumer (this is not the same thing as the necessity to create good products).

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Take as an example grocery bags, whether paper or plastic. Both of these products are rendered to the marketplace for the purpose of convenienc-ing me which is a course towards profit for the store.

A store would lose my business to a competitor if it did not provide to me bags to carry my groceries (unless no stores offered bags … hmmm). The damage of billions of bags is documented: the production of, the delivery of, and the disposal of.

Compare that to the common practice in Europe where people bring their personal grocery bags with them. This practice is leftover from their pre-1990 communism. However, with the advent of aggressive competition and the necessity to please customers to beat competitors, grocery stores began to offer plastic bags to their customers in the early 2000’s, and with all of these new European plastic bags, the environmental damage increases.

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Take as another example, automobiles. I lived in Atlanta for nearly 15 years. For 5 of those years I drove a 50-mile round-trip commute … even though MARTA was available.

Chevy did not have to try hard to convince me that having a car of my own is a good thing. They, in the name of profit, built a product that appealed to me, regardless of the repercussions of pollution, etc.

And again compare this to Europe, where until just recently nearly everyone used buses and trains, company execs, dirty coal miners. This trend is coming to an end though, trains are very empty now. Why? Because they are adopting the American-style consumerism, which is a variation of capitalism.


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