Ecology and Capitalist Costs of Production: No Exit
Today, virtually everyone agrees that there has been a serious degradation of the natural environment in which we live, by comparison with 30 years ago, a fortiori by comparison with 100 years ago, not to speak of 500 years ago. And this is the case, despite the fact that there have been continuous significant technological inventions and an expansion of scientific knowledge that one might have expected would have led to the opposite consequence. As a result, today, unlike 30 or 100 or 500 years ago, ecology has become a serious political issue in many parts of the world. There are even reasonably significant political movements organized centrally around the theme of defending the environment against further degradation and reversing the situation to the extent possible.
Of course, the appreciation of the degree of seriousness of the contemporary problem ranges from those who consider doomsday imminent to those who consider that the problem is one well within the possibility of an early technical solution. I believe the majority of persons hold a position somewhere in-between. I am in no position to argue the issue from a scientific viewpoint. I will take this inbetween appreciation as plausible and will engage in an analysis of the relevance of this issue to the political economy of the world-system.
The entire process of the universe is, of course, one of unceasing change, so the mere fact that things are not what they were previously is so banal that it merits no notice whatsoever. Furthermore, within this constant turbulence, there are patterns of structural renewal we call life. Living, or organic, phenomena have a beginning and an end to their individual existence, but in the process procreate so that the species tends to continue. But this cyclical renewal is never perfect, and the overall ecology is therefore never static. In addition, all living phenomena ingest in some way products external to them, including, most of the time, other living phenomena, and predator/prey ratios are never perfect so that the biological milieu is constantly evolving.
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Publication information: Book title: Ecology and the World-System. Contributors: Walter L. Goldfrank - Editor, David Goodman - Editor, Andrew Szasz - Editor. Publisher: Greenwood Press. Place of publication: Westport, CT. Publication year: 1999. Page number: 3.
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