Thursday, 31 March 2011

Portfolio Task 6 – Sustainability and Capitalism.

Sustainability in the text Balser, E (2008) 'Capital Accumulation, Sustainability & Hamilton Ontario'is defined as being an ‘inter and intra-generational equity in the social, environmental, economic, moral and political spheres of society’. (Meadows 7) It is also stated that ideologically it is a communal concept, however in reality environmentally conscious decisions have largely fallen to the individual and through technology. It is said that sustainability is a concept that only the rich can afford.
The characteristics and tendencies of Capitalism are that it is constantly looking for things to commodify; it thrives on creating and is constantly expanding. It subsumes non-capital markets and intensifies internal markets. Capitalism is not a linear system but a diverse web that continuously expands and traps.
The natural world is a necessary pre condition of any profitable business and therefore a crisis of capitalism would be the loss of natural conditions needed for production.
Solutions that have been offered are –
Radically increase the productivity of resource use.
Shift to biologically inspired production with closed loop, no waste, and no toxicity.
Shift the business model away from the making and selling of things to providing the service that the thing delivers.
Reinvest in natural and human capital.
An example of a solution is the BIOX Corporation in Canada, which was built to provide ‘high quality, accessible and affordable bio-diesel for environmentally concerned consumers’. However this plan is flawed due to a sacrifice of social equality. The local community have seen their quality of life diminish and residents of the area are exposed to potentially harmful chemicals and pollutants. Bio-fuel is also expensive and therefore can only be afforded by the rich, at the expense of the poor. The plant was built on community green space and constant tremors have caused damage to the nearby resident’s houses, this is also an example of ‘crisis of Capitalism’.
I think the lines between the concepts of sustainability being compatible with Capitalism are quite blurred due to the contradictions it makes. It states that ecological integrity and economic prosperity are important for sustainability, however this is at cost to the local environment and at the sacrifice of the poor. In theory sustainability is supposed to be a communal concept but in practice it is down to the individual and technology, this creates a class divide in the population. It blames capitalism for the environmental problems we face but also asks for its help to rectify them. The ideology of sustainability is not compatible with capitalism, however in practice the reality of sustainability is that it is compatible.

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