Module 6

We now turn to a consideration of how capitalism impacts the environment. Arguments supporting and refuting the position that capitalism impacts the environment negatively will be presented. Our earlier discussions concerning moral status and normativity will help you evaluate the saliency of the arguments.

Arguments Against

Use the following infographic to review two theoretical arguments supporting the position that capitalism is inherently harmful to the environment:


This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein

Resources taken from Naomi Klein's site This Changes Everything

Lesson 1: Our Global Economy's Impact On The Climate
Potential Discussion Prompts:
  • Identify the fossil fuels needed to power a T-shirt’s production process from seed to shirt, including transportation to factories overseas.
  • Discuss what incentives direct people and businesses in their economic decisions in a free market.
  • Examine the global economy’s current dependence on fossil fuels and the threats this poses for people and the environment.
  • Recognize that there are different and often opposing views about the causes of and solutions to global warming.
  • Explain how people in Germany worked to bring about their country’s rapid transition to renewable sources of electricity.
  • Explore personal ideas about globalization, climate change, and how our world will be in the future.
Lesson 2: People, The Planet, and Economic Growth
Potential Discussion Prompts:
  • Analyze a quotation that describes the conflict between the finite resources of the planet and the current push for growth.
  • Break down a case study that illustrates the relationships among people, the environment, and economic growth.
  • Work with a partner to develop a solution to the conflict presented in the case study.
Lesson 4: What Is Our Relationship With the Earth?

Lesson 4 Short-Term Projects v. Long-Term Damage HQ from This Changes Everything on Vimeo.

Potential Discussion Prompts:
  • Write definitions of the concepts of “extractivism” and “regeneration” based on textual information.
  • Identify, describe, and evaluate both historical and modern-day examples of “extractivism” and “regeneration.”
  • Determine how extractivism and regeneration differ in the ways that each places value on people and the planet’s resources.
  • Discuss whether it is possible to have economic growth that values both people and the environment.
  • Create posters that visually capture the idea of extractivism or regeneration, using stories from their study for inspiration
Lesson 8: Is Geoengineering the Answer to Global Warming?

Lesson 8 Mastering the Earth HQ from This Changes Everything on Vimeo.

Potential Discussion Prompts:
  • Describe a number of proposed geoengineering strategies that show how technology could potentially be used to manipulate the climate and curb global warming.
  • Analyze the pros and cons of spraying chemicals into the stratosphere in an effort to decrease the temperature of the planet.
  • Discuss the ethical and political challenges of trying to manipulate the climate.
  • Develop a series of Tweets that provide concise summaries of their views about geoengineering as a solution to global warming.

On the Other Hand...

Argument #1: Correlation Between Environmental Performance & Economic Freedom

Argument #2: Capitalism is not the cause of pollution and harm...

Interaction: Testing Chapman's Claim
One way you could refute Chapman's argument is to demonstrate a low carbon footprint. Do you know your carbon footprint? According to the Nature Conservancy, the average carbon footprint for a person in the United States is 16 tons, one of the highest rates in the world. Globally, the average carbon footprint is closer to 4 tons. To have the best chance of avoiding a 2 degrees rise in global temperatures, the average global carbon footprint per year needs to drop to under 2 tons by 2050. Calculate your footprint here:

What was your result? Does the result support Chapman's position or tend to refute the position as it applies to you personally?

Greenwashing Interaction: A Fiji Water Story

Potential Discussion Prompts:
  • Is eco-friendly marketing a positive or negative force?
  • How did Fiji Water use green marketing to construct an eco-friendly narrative to what was described as a non-eco friendly company?
  • What do you make of the stat that 47% of Fijans do not have access to clean water?
  • What impact will the information offered through the video have on your purchasing and consuming habits?

Pros & Cons of Capitalism