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What Every Environmentalist Needs to Know About Capitalism

What Every Environmentalist Needs to Know About Capitalism

Fred Magdoff
John Bellamy Foster
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: NYU Press,
Pages: 160
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  • Book Info
    What Every Environmentalist Needs to Know About Capitalism
    Book Description:

    Praise for Foster and Magdoff's The Great Financial Crisis: In this timely and thorough analysis of the current financial crisis, Foster and Magdoff explore its roots and the radical changes that might be undertaken in response. . . . This book makes a valuable contribution to the ongoing examination of our current debt crisis, one that deserves our full attention. - Publishers WeeklyThere is a growing consensus that the planet is heading toward environmental catastrophe: climate change, ocean acidification, ozone depletion, global freshwater use, loss of biodiversity, and chemical pollution all threaten our future unless we act. What is less clear is how humanity should respond. The contemporary environmental movement is the site of many competing plans and prescriptions, and composed of a diverse set of actors, from militant activists to corporate chief executives.This short, readable book is a sharply argued manifesto for those environmentalists who reject schemes of green capitalism or piecemeal reform. Environmental and economic scholars Magdoff and Foster contend that the struggle to reverse ecological degradation requires a firm grasp of economic reality. Going further, they argue that efforts to reform capitalism along environmental lines or rely solely on new technology to avert catastrophe misses the point. The main cause of the looming environmental disaster is the driving logic of the system itself, and those in power - no matter how green - are incapable of making the changes that are necessary.What Every Environmentalist Needs To Know about Capitalism tackles the two largest issues of our time, the ecological crisis and the faltering capitalist economy, in a way that is thorough, accessible, and sure to provoke debate in the environmental movement.

    eISBN: 978-1-58367-272-3
    Subjects: Economics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-6)
  3. Preface
    (pp. 7-10)
  4. 1. The Planetary Ecological Crisis
    (pp. 11-26)

    Environmental degradation is not new to today’s world but has occurred throughout recorded history with profound negative consequences for a number of ancient civilizations—most notably Mesopotamia and the Maya, which experienced major collapses due to what are believed to be ecological causes. Problems with deforestation, soil erosion, and salinization of irrigated soils were present throughout antiquity. Commenting on the ecological destruction in ancient Greece Plato (c. 427–347 BCE) wrote inCritias:

    What proof then can we offer that it [the land in the vicinity of Athens] is . . . now a mere remnant of what it once...

  5. 2. Business as Usual: The Road to Planetary Destruction
    (pp. 27-36)

    We strongly agree with those environmentalists who have concluded that continuing “business as usual” is the path to global disaster. To many people, this means that we must limit the ecological footprint of human beings on the earth, and to do this, we need an economy—particularly in the rich countries—that ceases to grow. If world output keeps expanding and everyone in the developing countries seeks to attain the average standard of living of the wealthy capitalist states—while the latter try to enlarge their already considerable per capita wealth—not only will pollution continue to increase beyond what...

  6. 3. The Growth Imperative of Capitalism aaa
    (pp. 37-60)

    The economic system that dominates nearly all corners of the world is capitalism. For most of us, capitalism is so much a part of our lives that it is invisible, like the air we breathe. We are as oblivious of it as fish are oblivious of the water in which they swim. It is capitalism’s ethic, outlook, and internal values that we assimilate and acculturate to as we grow up. Unconsciously, we learn that greed, exploitation of laborers, and competition (among people, businesses, countries) are not only acceptable but are actually good for society because they help to make our...

  7. 4. The Environment and Capitalism
    (pp. 61-94)

    Given the growth juggernaut that characterizes capitalism, the system is most destructive toward the environment when it is working well and economic growth rates are high. It is least environmentally destructive when the system is in economic crisis and growth is faltering. When the economy is in recession and production and transportation are decreased, the air tends to be less polluted; less CO₂ is produced from fossil fuels; fewer minerals are extracted, and so on. Recessions, then, are good for the environment. However, recessions cause tremendous suffering for many people. In the current period, beginning with the Great Recession and...

  8. 5. Can Capitalism Go Green?
    (pp. 95-122)

    Some people who recognize the ecological and social problems that capitalism brings still think that capitalism can and should be reformed. According to Benjamin Barber: “The struggle for the soul of capitalism is . . . a struggle between the nation’s economic body and its civic soul: a struggle to put capitalism in its proper place, where it serves our nature and needs rather than manipulating and fabricating whims and wants. Saving capitalism means bringing it into harmony with spirit—with prudence, pluralism and those ‘things of the public’ . . . that define our civic souls. A revolution of...

  9. 6. An Ecological Revolution Is Not Just Possible—It’s Essential
    (pp. 123-144)

    The analysis in earlier chapters, if correct, points to the fact that the ecological crisis cannot be solved within the logic of the present economic/political/social system. The various suggestions for doing so have no hope of success. The system of world capitalism is clearly unsustainable in: (1) its quest for never-ending accumulation of capital leading to production that must constantly expand to provide profits; (2) its agriculture and food system that pollutes the environment and still does not allow universal access to a sufficient quantity and quality of food; (3) its rampant destruction of the environment; (4) its continual enhancing...

    (pp. 145-158)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 159-178)
  12. Index
    (pp. 179-187)