Environment: does capitalism play a role in global warming ?

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.

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 in order to survive ( this is not the same thing as the necessity to create good products in order to compete ).

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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 folks bring their personal grocery bags with them. This practice is a sensible consequence of their pre-1990 communism. However, from my understanding stores have begun offering plastic bags earlier this decade.

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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 without humiliation.

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One response

  1. I would say that human economic activity is a primary cause of climate change. I am pretty sure the upper atmosphere doesn’t care much whether the greenhouse gases were unleashed by a capitalist American, or a Chinese communist, or a Russian something-in-between. Or, for that matter, a South American village burning green wood to meet its needs. To attribute climate change to “capitalism” misses all of that.

    Steve Miller
    The Center Square

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