The cycle of capitalism begins and ends with profit, that's what it values most. In society, you do not make a dollar being a kind and compassionate person; you make a dollar by owning a business (or for the most of us, working in a business). Let me stray away from business though, as explaining that part would take us to the microeconomic level which is not the goal of this essay. So, we have profit as the main incentive for us to work.
First, we need natural resources to make the product. This is called the "extraction" phase of any material system. This part isn't necessarily the problem; it is expected in any society. Here are some basic facts, in the past few decades 1/3rd of our resource base on Earth has been consumed. The problem with capitalist-consumerist global systems is that we need mass extraction to fulfill the demand for mass production which is the next phase.
Production is the beating heart of business. We need to produce, create, products in order to sell because otherwise you cannot make a profit. The company extracting the natural resource makes a profit off the business buying the natural resource which then the business needs to sell so they make a profit. In the United States alone, we have less than 4% of our natural forest space left which certainly doesn't mean we should up production rates but we must in order to keep the profits coming in. After production we go to the last phase.
Consumption. This is what certain macroeconomic theorists call the "golden arrow" of our system. This is when the business sells the product it produced to make their profit. Usually it is sold at an inflated price, they say it is to pay all the transportation and such but much more often we are paying five-times the amount it took to make it. This is where most of us are, and we are all in some way, consumers.
Fun fact: United States has 5% of the world's population and we use 30% of the world's resources. If everyone consumed at the rate of the United States, it would take 5 Earths. Unfortunately, we have only one.
There are more phases if we want to analyze this in a more intense ecological lens, but let me stress this essay aiming at a more macroeconomic approach. The problem with this is with the world's population rising, societies that idolize on becoming rich ($$$) when becoming rich entails selling products, the growing demand for products, and our natural resources are reaching ecological crisis faster each year (and they've reached crisis in several areas already).
So, a system that you have to keep up with demand so you up supply (production) in a world that is already running out of resources...isn't that an equation of a future crisis?
I am not some "tree-hugging hippie" preaching about "saving the planet" from the "evil corporations" as some more conservative, narrow-minded, folk may blow this off as. This is not skewed logic to push my 'agenda' on anyone. This is something that we will inevitably face within my own life time and very possibly yours (for those under the age of sixty). This is what happens when we run out of resources: starvation, non-drinkable water, wars (for resources), epidemics, economic poverty, and the list goes on. In short, it will affect you! For those of us fortunate to live in the industrialized wealthy Western nations does not make us immune to this, in fact it will hit us harder than other countries. You won't be able to live in your two story house, drive your car, always expect three meals a day, none of that.
If you say, "all we need to worry about is keeping America wealthy" that is definitely not the answer. Let us suppose during this ecological/economic crisis, we turn to hard exploitation to keep our 'standard of living' afloat during a global catastrophe. Our first problem would be we rely on other nations to supply us with many products and resources, we'd have to go bankrupt just to conquer their land or economically imperialize them. Another problem would be, other countries would seek to plunder our wealth and we could face war. Eventually, it all boils down to we are all interconnected in this world and if you think you can escape it than you are sorely mistaken.
Population rising exponentially.
Consumption rates going up.
Production, to keep up with the population's demand for consumption, going up ever faster.
Natural resources, depleting at an incredible rate each day.
One objection to this I have heard is faith in technology. I am all for funding green and alternative energy sources, but that is only one aspect of the crisis. It certainly would help, but it does not stop the problem at its core! Which is the solution to almost every on-going problem that ever existed. We are no where near the technology that will counter this crisis, we are perhaps over a hundred years away and the crisis in less than a hundred years away. I am not doubting that we will progress in technology faster than "I can imagine now", I am thinking optimistically.
I love buying things, I love consuming things, I am a consumer but maybe not as much as the average American. I do not see a reason to buy the newest 'hottest' shoes every six months, the newest video game, I do not feel a need to constantly consume other than food. But one must ask, is this "love" of consuming really worth the miserable future that awaits us?
I do not want to come off as sounding like a doomsday preacher; I write this in the spirit of optimism that you will be educated with the reason why we need fundamental change in our world. We need positive change, people willing to educate the ignorant, and if they blow that off as some 'liberal b/s' then slap them for being not willing to show a little humanity. We have one world, one human race, one life, and the life of our offspring. We should not strip the world naked of resource, hate others for irrational reasons like nationalism and racism and religion, not be selfish and waste our one life being a passive contributor to the misery of future generations, to not let our own children grow up in a world that would resemble the Dark Ages. Thanks for reading.
~ Comrade MikeBane
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