CAPITALISM AND ENVIRONMENTALISM: TWO DIAMETRICALLY-OPPOSED IDEOLOGIES ON A COLLISION COURSE IN THE POST-MODERN ERA
I was alone in my apartment this evening, mulling over the state of the world, when it dawned on me after quite a bit of contemplation, that basically, the world we live in is faced with one major predicament. That essentially we live in a global society which advocates for the maximization of the extraction of animal, vegetable and mineral resources, and their transformation into the maximum quantity of goods and services possible.
Whereas the environmental movement is telling us just the opposite: That we should reduce, re-use and recycle as much as we possibly can in an effort to conserve our planet’s scarce resources to the best of our abilities so as to live in a sustainable society which will endure for future generations.
These two ideologies seem to be diametrically-opposed to each other. The first is driven by capitalism and free enterprise and the market mechanism. It has led us to a situation whereby existing markets, that is those which are considered to be ‘developed’ in the sense that they are in societies where high levels of consumption of goods and services occur, are now essentially saturated and played out and overdeveloped and over-exploited, often leading to problems of sluggish economic growth, negative growth, fragmentation of the social fabric, including an inverted population pyramid, obesity from over-consumption of food, and an overall over-consumption at all levels of most types of goods and services.
This has led our elites to seek out the opening up of new markets in the emerging world, mostly through a very aggressive foreign policy, which has included the deployment of hundreds of thousands of western troops throughout the world, mostly in the east, to help us gain access to new markets for animal, vegetable and mineral resources which we ostensibly need to guarantee our current standard of living, while by the same token transforming eastern societies in a very rapid and aggressive way, and very painfully I might add, into mostly secular, pluralistic, post-modern liberal-democratic civilizations based on the rule of law which is expressly intended to support a form of free enterprise economic development which includes a system of rights and freedoms which facilitates the free flow of goods, services, money, capital, ideas, knowledge, and information within borders and between borders on an international level.
This is essentially a post-modern form of core-periphery development akin to the original mercantilist core-periphery forms of imperialism practiced by the European Empires during the Age of Discovery, except that the current form of core-periphery relationship is much more corporately-driven by mostly western-based corporations, backed by western governments and their military-industrial apparatus.
However, where does this leave the whole notion of conservation and environmentalism if, at the very root of things this core-periphery model of development perpetuates a culture of over-consumption and entitlement here at home, while making it very difficult for emerging countries to actually emerge from the chaos of having their territories occupied by foreign troops whose primary objective is to secure access to resources for domestic consumption back home and to keep the western military-industrial machine humming so that troops can remain deployed overseas so that they can continue to secure access to resources for domestic consumption back home so as to keep the military-industrial machine humming, and well…. You get the picture.
Should there not be an overall move towards reducing our world’s consumption of everything? Especially here in the west. If we consumed less in the west, there wouldn’t be such a need to aggressively seek out so many resources through military intervention in foreign countries. Our energies could be shifted towards the peaceful development of the world’s economic potential, with a particular focus on agriculture and the protection of water, land and forests.
It all hinges on consuming less. Less is more. The less we consume, the better off we’ll be, the less cluttered our homes will be. The less we will eat, the less we will weigh, the less fuel we will burn, so we won’t need to go out and start a war somewhere to get more oil. Being frugal has always been a virtue. Since when has wasting a lot of stuff for nothing become fashionable?
Most people I know, their basements and garage are overflowing with stuff and assorted junk that they never use because they’ve accumulated so much stuff over the years. As long as capitalism continues to try and get us to produce and consume as much as possible and to dominate the political agenda by telling politicians that we have to continue to ‘grow the economy’ and increase production and consumption, then environmentalism never stands a chance and therefore the planet never stands a chance.
The planet’s resources by nature are finite, but in economics the first thing we learn is just that, that we live in a world of scarcity but with unlimited wants. Who decided that? Some marketing guy on Madison Avenue? Who says our wants are ‘unlimited’? Who wrote that economics textbook and where did they come up with their line of reasoning? Why should we be so selfish and self-centred and self-seeking in an almost mad way to want to possess an unlimited quantity of material goods and services?
Isn’t that sinful? Doesn’t that go against natural law? The only thing which is truly unlimited is divine love, goodness and Grace, which only God Almighty possesses. All else is of a limited variety. Are we to believe that through our insatiable desire for an unlimited quantity of material wealth that we somehow seek to be on an equal footing with God by being unlimitedly wealthy in the temporal realm to somehow compete with God’s unlimited spiritual wealth in the realm of eternity?
If so then we are surely breaking the 1st Commandment, which states that there is but one God and that we shall have no other God but Him. We are in this case placing ourselves on the same level as God or worse yet, making ourselves into our own God by exalting ourselves above all others.
This is the twisted nature of capitalism as it relates to its emerging competitor environmentalism. Maybe Mother earth is finally speaking up for herself on behalf of Father Creator. Maybe we haven’t heard the last from this debate. A final reckoning surely awaits humanity in this regard. In the meantime we shall all live to die another day and I will retire for the evening as I began this opus, mulling over the state of the world, alone in my apartment.