Thursday, February 25, 2010

Environmentalism vs. Capitalism?

This semester, I am taking both an environmental policy studies course, as well as one on international business practice. In my e.p.s. class, economics are actually brought up quite frequently. Many people feel that environmentalism and capitalism are conflicting ideals, and therefore stand in the way of the other's progress...

...Or do they?

The trouble is that capitalism is often automatically subconsciously linked with "dirty" industrialism. This is no longer the case, as air & land quality standards have increased dramatically over the last century. While the industrial sector is still not a "clean" field, it is no longer spewing deadly toxins over our children. However, the subconscious link is still there because many people see capitalists as apathetic about environmental issues. True, the primary goal of a capitalist entity is to earn profit and many environmental ventures are not profitable...But perhaps that is where to start.

The "Green" movement has been the icon of the unspoken partnership between capitalists and environmentalists. From household cleaning supplies to environmentally-friendly hybrid cars, there has been a mass of technological advances which have proven profitable AND represent a step towards a healthier Earth. The trouble is that many environmental-tech proposals for various industries simply aren't profitable, and so they won't bother with development. Many folks are quick to demonize the corporate heads for this, but those folks should (and must) accept that a company has to earn profit in order to survive in the global economy. Instead of proposing large-scale environmental overhauls, environmentalists should focus on ventures that will not only secure the local environment, but will also create jobs/profit. The PurGen One Project is a perfect example of this (Visit for more information. Also, see for some oppositional views). The overall goal of the plant is to create jobs, earn a profit for SCS Energy, and help reduce the air pollution that still haunts the Greater NY area. Despite having some legitimate flaws which can be studied and improved, it's a step in the right direction for all of us. Until we can learn to make solar/wind energy systems more efficient, we must work with the resources we have. We cannot rely on empty standards set by the U.N. for emissions in respective countries. This is completely unfeasible in countries like India and China, who are in a sort of mini-industrial age and are economically developing at an incredibly fast rate. Instead, we should focus on aiding ALL sectors of national infrastructure, not just one or the other.

In studying this, we can see that environmentalism and capitalism do not have to remain "fields of opposition". There are numerous proposals which might not be perfect, but nonetheless stand to improve not just the quality of our wallet space, but also the very air we breathe.