The Irish William Wallace
Modern political economies and environmental conservatism have a very loose relationship at this point in time and has mostly been something that scientists and environmental activists have acknowledged as being of extreme importance. In the United States, we have few congressmen who are willing to base their campaign off environmental conservation because coincidentally conservationism affects the economy negatively. Our conservative environmental policy has only held the floodgates open to an ever increasing issue of natural resource depletion, degradation of the environment, and the extinction of many species in a relatively short time span. I would like to present information through statistical data and historical analysis, about the link between production methods, overpopulation, and increasing resource scarcity.
The inputs and outputs of our current mode of production is characterized by private ownership of the means of production. That means that the extraction of natural resources used to produce goods is almost entirely at the will of private enterprise so as their right to make profit. Most governments have weak environmental regulation, especially in third world nations where resources are essentially being extracted at increasing rates to keep a profit margin. Statistics show we are losing 2.4 acres of rainforest per second which accumulates to 78 million acres per year. The motive for having such environmental policy is obvious, if production slows so do profits which in turn slows the accumulation of wealth by those who own capital. The only economic incentives that exist are that our government offers grants and funding to companies that meet emission standards or they face a heavy fine.
Before the Industrial Revolution the methods of manufacture were produced almost entirely from hand production methods. During the Industrial Revolution new manufacture saw the transition of hand production methods to the use of machines. This is the where productivity begins to rise rapidly and soon after the world’s population. Some other contributing factors to this are advancements in healthcare, worker’s rights, and safety regulations which in turn reduce mortality rates. Since the 1950s, our productivity in the United States has risen exponentially, reaching 254.3% in 2010. After 1995, it has risen twice as fast as previous decades. This noticeable increase in production correlates with corporate profits (after tax). Productivity and corporate profits both are record high and both statistically show to be rising at incredible rates. According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, corporate profits (after tax) have reached nearly 1,800 billion dollars. The relationship between increases in production and corporate profits is undeniable; however, it is also undeniable that the increases in production correlate with increased resource consumption. At the current rate, if everyone consumed as much energy as the United States, we would need five Earths to sustain it. According the EPA estimates, in the past few decades alone we’ve used up a third of the world’s resources. To conclude production methods, it is evident that productivity and resource consumption is on the rise.
The global population has, as well, been exponentially growing alongside production and resource consumption. As the population rises, the demand for resources increases. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, the human population grew subtly. Around 10,000 BC according to the chart provided by the Population Reference Bureau, there is an estimated increase in human population during this time period from increased agricultural production. This is the first example we see the relationship between production and population growth. It wasn’t until the mid-1800’s that it hit one billion and a century later in 1950 there were roughly two and a half billion people. Only fifty years later the population grew to six billion. This is all according to the U.S. Census Bureau. On October 31st, 2011 the top United Nations officials declared we past the seven billion mark. A conservative estimate for the world population in 2050 is nine billion with the possibility of reaching ten billion. That number is also what scientists proclaim is the Earth’s “maximum carrying capacity”. That means that beyond that point the Earth would not be able to produce sustenance. Scientists believe that our population growth will make a “u-turn” and statistics have shown the growth rate to be lowering and that the world’s population will stabilize slightly fewer than ten billion. However our resource consumption rate has continued to increase. Naturally, increases in population will increase consumption whether or not they are economically able to be active consumers.
The information provided clearly shows the integral relationship between the extraction of natural resources, which are used for the production of goods to be consumed, and the continuous rise in population are directly contributing to the problem of resource scarcity. The fact that our methods of accumulating capital are based on the need for increased productivity and the fact that the means of production are in private ownership, in an economic system that is profit-driven, leaves the environment in the hands of people only interested in creating profit. If productivity is decreased, they are no longer making a profit, and if it continues to decrease than the business will be considered unsuccessful and unprofitable. It is this dilemma that faces the 21st century and the current state of modern political economy.
Thanks for reading! Comments and discussion are encouraged!
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My next work is titled: "Reaching For A Better World: Neoliberalism contre Democracy" which will be released shortly after Novemember 18th.
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