Neoliberalism and Climate Change: The other side

August 10, 2015

While I earlier posted about neoliberalism and economic structure opening new markets for environmentally friendly products that will propagate strong environmental action, I feel compelled to present the ‘other’ argument. The one that argues that nature holds dignity and needs to be viewed through value-based outlook. So here it is.

Climate change presents us an opportunity to re-evaluate our perception of nature as an economic resource. Nature has an inherent value that does not involve economic terms of markets and business.. There is no doubt that climate change is going to influence our lives and those of future generations in an unprecedented scale. However, it is important to note that climate change also provides us an opportunity. Opportunity to go back to the roots, and maintain a symbiotic relationship with nature. With the advent of capitalisation and industrialization, environment has been misused and our relationship with nature has become purely economical. It is time to show care, concern and respect for the environment that selflessly sustains our mankind. Environment and nature has an inherent dignity that cannot be compromised as the way the way we use our resources is not only going to dictate the future and success of our future generations but also the relationship we share with one another today. Environment forms the basis for human relations and we cannot help alleviate this crisis by placing a monetary value on nature and looking at as a commodity. We do not finish our duty towards environment by merely becoming better consumers of environmental goods. Assuming that nature we can repair nature through current global market forces is imprudent and almost laughable. Environment today demands more. It demands duty, respect, responsibility, care, stewardship, and community management. This calls for a massive revamping of our mindsets and attitudes regarding environmental benefits. It is fundamental that we expand our horizons beyond the trifling economic world. Imminent problems of today provide us an opportunity to rethink our current troubled and non-symbiotic relationship with nature.

Rethinking involves reviving old and forgotten perception of nature. One of which is stewardship. Stewardship calls on protecting environment through sustainable practices. It provides a sense of stakeholdership, with an array of people involved: donors, volunteers and practitioners. It supports positive environmental change especially for the underprivileged and ignored members of socioeconomic strata. One other practice that can be revived is community based management of environment. Community based systems have performed exceptionally well in adding to the health of their respective local environments. It allows locals to decide and participate in the practices they deem best for their locality. This is in contrast to governing bodies that dictate the “sustainable” practices without knowing the historical, cultural and social context of the place. Moreover, community based systems amplify the simple efforts made by individuals.

As Mark Sagoff, an influential author and ecologist points out, the way we interact with nature directs our interpersonal relationships, and community action promotes better interaction between humans and environment. Environmental issues provide us an opportunity to revise our perception of environment. Thereby, these value-based choices will provide a chance to rewrite our current economic plagued society.

Neoliberalism and Climate Change

August 10, 2015

Last two weeks of the Summer Peacebuilding Program have been a whirlwind of knowledge, experiences and personal growth. As I continue to figure and process the information that I am fortunately being provided with, I am starting to make connections and links to my area of study, which is Environmental Action. One particularly interesting session held by Dr.William Arocha was based on neoliberalism, market forces and strong property rights, and irrespective of my personal opinions on neoliberalism, I recognize that neoliberalism could be a magic tool in the face of environmental crisis.

In a society that is based on profits and commoditization, nobody protects common shared resources. We live in an economic world that is driven by private and vested interests and therefore, it is but imperative that we see climate change through the lens of global market business. Climate change is the best opportunity for efficient and innovative businesses in the market to grow and develop. It is a booming market for better blueprints, technology, and invention. There is a whole new market open for experimental transformation in the way small and large scale industries run. In the neoliberalist era that is striving to strike a chord between economic development and ecological concern, these new pollution regulated and efficient goods and services will quickly capitulate to great economic success.

Also, in order to please and impress the public with green strategies, companies are focussing on reducing raw material needed for production of goods. Books become e-versions, hard disks become thumb drives, TV boxes become flat screens, etc. There is a massive reduction in the use of material. Technological and market growth extrapolates into less input and more output. Evidently market based approaches can provide solid incentives to the actors involved and new markets to grow and prosper. Thereby giving window for better, improved and efficient ways of tackling the imminent problem of climate change.

The single most benefit that market based approach can provide is that when markets are competitive and price signalling of scarce resources is present, then the markets can exactly determine the price value for these depleting resources. In most cases environmental concerns do not seem a big and imminent issue to the public because they are not quantifiable and the consequences of issues like climate change are not individualized. When one has to pay for the scarce resources, only then will she or he know the value it holds. This can be seen in global carbon markets, when emitters have to pay a certain amount of money corresponding to the emissions that they produced. This is proving to be efficient way of not only controlling emissions but also a way to spread awareness regarding imminent issues of climate change.  This awareness further promotes individual action that extrapolates into community action. For example, when big names in the industry such as Coldplay band indulge in carbon offsets as an individual action, it promotes a whole lot of growth in the carbon trade sector, and with more groups joining, it becomes a community action.  Climate change is opportunity for us to develop more efficient and beneficial products to tackling climate change and also place a value on nature.

Opponents argue that environment has an inherent value that does not involve economic terms of markets and business. In addition, they further state that nature holds dignity and needs to be viewed through value-based outlook. However, it is important to understand and acknowledge that the world we live in is market-based and if this economic structure can provide us a solution to tackling environmental crisis, then I do not see why we shouldn’t invest in these ideas.