The Global Environment
The protection of the environment and economic growth is often viewed as two competing aims. This division is most profound between environmentalists and anti-environmentalists whereby anti-environmentalists claim that the gloomy forecasts on economic growth vis a vis environment preservation are inaccurate (Simon, Bailey, Henderson, and Pirages 17). Anti-environmentalists contend that sustainability can be attained through environmental legislation and regulation, as well as through green consumerism).
Environmentalists, on the other hand, argue that the measures (such as per capita) used to justify economic growth are misleading given that poverty gap has widened, and environmental problems has worsened (Simon, Bailey, Henderson, and Pirages 17). Indeed, the market economy has been the source of environmentally destructive patterns. The paper utilizes three theoretical paradigms to demonstrate why anti-environmentalists notion that the state of the world’s air and water which is “cleaner than before” is inaccurate and unattainable in capitalist societies.
Capitalism, which fosters unrestrained demand for private and public consumption, has proved to be environmentally problematic in a fundamental sense; sociological theories on political economy of the environment demonstrate how the healthy workings of industrial production harm the environment (Rudel, Roberts, and Carmin 221). Classical social theorists including Durkheim, Marx, and Weber highlighted the eroding consequences of industrial work on humans as they recognized that furthering of the “forces of production” would have large-scale destructive potential relative to material environment.
Functionalists view environmental problems as developing from the system itself, whereby the agricultural and industrial modes of production seen as destabilizing forces in the ecosystem. Giddens argued that capitalism coupled with industrialism is responsible for the environmental crisis (Munshi 256). Giddens contended that the very logic of unchecked scientific and technological development would have to be confronted, on a global basis, so as to avert harm.
Discourse on environmental problem can be viewed in terms of costs and interests (competing political and economic interest), whereby the capitalist economic system is the source of conflict over polluting (or preserving) the natural world.According to Marx, in the dialectic between humans and nature, there is no separation between the object and subject. Marx’s notion of “second contradiction” draws from the perception that environmental degradation is threatening the capitalist project owing to ever-growing accumulation. As such, the human society is generating a “metabolic rift” where ecology and environmental systems are overloaded and incapable of coping with the amount of waste generated (Foster 366). The other anarchist, gloomy view perceives the society as largely incompatible with environmental sustainability. Anarchism has some sympathy with Marxist position but resists all forms of authority not merely the dominant classes. Anti-capitalist social movements strongly suggest that environmental sustainability requires fundamental overhaul to society.
Interactionist perspective is critical to the understanding on how the environmental concerns differ over time and how some problems can be awarded higher priority relative to others. This flows from the assertion that environmental problems do not materialize by themselves, but are rather deliberately framed and packaged as problems (Munshi 254). Ulrich Beck distinguishes the modern society from the preceding societies as the risk society typified by its catastrophic potential emanating from environmental degradation (Munshi 256). According to Beck, risk societies can be typified by increasing environmental degradation and environmental hazards as consequences of modernization (Munshi 257).
The relationships between the environment and society have come under intense scrutiny in light of society’s self-evident destructive impacts on the environment. As a result, questions still remain on the compatibility or otherwise, between society and environmental sustainability. This relates to whether environmental problems can be solved in a market-based, capitalist society. As an environmentalist, I am convinced that capitalism systematically undermines environmental sustainability, a view that is pessimistic about the society being capable of adapting itself towards environmental sustainability. The capitalist system perpetuates environmental degradation since natural resources are treated as infinite and free resources. As a result, environmental degradation can be tolerated in exchange of “benefits and comforts” such as high living standards associated with market-based economies.