One of the truisms of life is that people often use words, labels and concepts without understanding their meaning or implication.
In addition many words have been so distorted by misuse, deliberate or otherwise, that their real meaning has been lost.
Lets take two of such words: Capitalism and Environmentalism.
Many people seem to think that capitalism is some sort word that can be used interchangeably with “free market” or “free-trade” or “market economy”. But an understanding of economics shows that all of these terms have very specific meanings and are not necessarily dependent on each other. You can, arguably, support a market economy and still be a Green because all that a market economy requires is that resources are allocated by the market – and that market does not have to be in private hands or necessarily exploitative. But you cannot support capitalism.
Capitalism has a very specific meaning and it is one which is absolutely antagonistic to the aims of environmentalism and the Green’s principles, (see below).
Capitalism is an economic system based on private ownership of the means of production and their operation for profit. Characteristics central to capitalism include private property, capital accumulation, wage labor, voluntary exchange, a price system, and competitive markets.
Look at some of the essential aspects of capitalism “private ownership”. “operation for profit” and “capital accumulation”, among other things. All of these aspects of capitalism require a number of things including exploitation of the environment, of individuals, flow of wealth from the many to the few. In that sense capitalism is essentially “non-peaceful”. It’s my view that supporting capitalism essentially contradicts at least three of the four pillars of the Greens, namely ecological sustainability, non-violence and social justice
In order to have profit, in order to accumulate capital those values have to be extracted from somewhere. These are not value or resource neutral terms. No matter the industry they all require exploitation of the environment in some form and the depletion and/or destruction of natural resources and inevitably impacts on the health and welfare of citizens. If you are going to accumulate capital into private hands that capital must come from somewhere else, either the environment or other citizens.
Environmentalism, on the other hand, seeks precisely the reverse. It demands improvement of the health of the environment, its restoration, including non-human elements (see definition below).
Environmentalism or environmental rights is a broad philosophy, ideology, and social movement regarding concerns for environmental protection and improvement of the health of the environment, particularly as the measure for this health seeks to incorporate the concerns of non-human elements. Environmentalism advocates the lawful preservation, restoration and/or improvement of the natural environment, and may be referred to as a movement to control pollution or protect plant and animal diversity. For this reason, concepts such as a land ethic, environmental ethics, biodiversity, ecology, and the biophilia hypothesis figure predominantly.
At its crux, environmentalism is an attempt to balance relations between humans and the various natural systems on which they depend in such a way that all the components are accorded a proper degree of sustainability.
If you accept the basic premises of the definitions of capitalism and environmentalism, ergo you cannot be both an environmentalist and support capitalism. If you are a Green you cannot support capitalism in its current form and, I would argue, at all.