Like an iceberg, the environmental crisis is an issue occurring mostly out of sight. Capitalism at its current intensity requires the degradation of the environment in order to maintain profits. Therefore it is the economic structure that is impairing the earth and leading humanity into ecological despair. Perpetuating this system is consumerism, where habitual wants result in meaningless waste and obscure a cycle of toxicity. Quality is sacrificed for quantity in hopes that consumers will purchase new and toss out the old. Here, disposable income is glorified while disposal of all the goods purchased is ignored. People think of the natural environment less and less once they become absorbed into a world of materialism. The earth was not designed to store waste at the rate capitalism produces and is significantly impacted by our disregard.
Neoclassical economists would like us to believe that it is solely agency that has led to these conditions. However, I believe that structure largely influences agency and they are inextricably intertwined. I also think that agency can be just as powerful as structure if it is multiplied. People should think about renewable energy and limiting consumption. A shift in focus may cause a devastating economic collapse, but at this point a collapse is arguably necessary to diverge from this destructive path.
It is clear that capitalism is ecologically draining and bipolar economically. If the majority agreed to make some lifestyle changes we could curtail our carbon footprint or even explore other economic systems. Since there is a relative few that possess the wealth of the world, it shouldn’t be hard to persuade the remaining class of better existing opportunities. This may be naïve, but it is an interesting possibility. I am hopeful that society will acknowledge its misery and seek alternatives before its too late. I try not to be frustrated and instead channel my energy into hope, which to me seems more efficient.