Capitalism or a Climate: Can You Have Both?

by Breanna Sewell

Hans Baer uses his 2008 article, “Global Warming as a By-Product of the Capitalist Treadmill of Production and Consumption—The Need for an Alternative Global System,” to address the causes and effects of climate change and the severity of it all. Baer classifies climate change as “one of the most important issues of the 21st century” along with the growing socioeconomic gap between the rich and the poor, which, he argues, are both caused by our capitalist society.

The author covers many of the effects of climate change that are currently taking place as well as the ones that may take place in the future if the global temperature increases by three degrees Celsius as is expected. The effects include increased flooding, droughts, and hurricanes; loss of ice caps and increased sea level; and the less well-known effect, disease. Baer states that global warming “has been implicated in the resurgence of a number of epidemics” such as malaria and cholera.

When turning to the causes of global climate change, the author places the blame on humans because of carbon emissions. Specifically, he points out that it is the capitalist system that is to blame for the situation our planet is in. This is because even after we have come to the conclusion that climate change is our doing, it is very unlikely that changes such as carbon taxes or carbon sequestration will be made. Why? He argues that our global capitalist system will not allow it. According to the author, we are far too concerned with production, consumption, and of, course profit.

Baer advocates for an alternative global system, one that will place more emphasis on protecting our planet and less on profit. He also calls for an increase in emphasis on a collaborative study of the impact of global warming on humanity between climate scientists, social scientists, and other specialists in order to fix what we have done to our planet.

Baer, H., 2008. Global Warming as a By-Product of the Capitalist Treadmill of Production and Consumption—The Need for an Alternative Global System. Australian Journal of Anthropology.



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