On what grounds have some ecologists supported capitalism?

Some ecologists, mainly modernist ecologists, have supported capitalism because of the capacity of the market mechanism to support the environment. This has led to the development of ‘green capitalism’.

Some ecologists, mainly modernist ecologists, have supported capitalism because of the capacity of the market mechanism to support the environment. This has led to the development of ‘green capitalism’.

Modernist ecologists have supported capitalism because they believe that the market mechanism naturally responds to demands placed upon it. Therefore, the mechanism will respond to pressure from more ecologically aware consumers by forcing firms to produce ‘environmentally sound’ goods and adopting ‘green’ technologies because otherwise demand for their goods will fall and they will go out of business. This reflects the idea of consumer sovereignty, in that consumer choice is the ultimate determining factor within a market economy. Ultimately, firms have no interest in destroying the planet because long-term corporate profitability can only be achieved in a context of sustainable development.

This belief in the market mechanism leads to the development of ‘green capitalism’. Some modernist ecologists, who believe in market fundamentalism (the ability of the market to solve all problems and fulfill all wants and needs), argue that the market should be left to its own devices. However, most modernist ecologists argue that the market needs a helping hand from government. This leads to the development of market-based solutions where environmental degradation is treated as a negative externality. Tax structures can be put in place that incentivise ‘eco-friendly’ individual and corporate behaviour. Furthermore, emissions trading schemes such as that proposed by the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on climate change, reward those firms that reduce emissions because they can make money by selling ‘pollution permits’ to those firms who are more environmentally damaging.

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