Skip to content

Senior Capstone 2021

Effects of Capitalism on the Environment

Abstract: Our economic system, capitalism, plays a significant role in the current state of our climate. As GDP has been accepted as the mathematical measure of well-being and success of a country, the concept of sustainability has been ignored. This has caused the disciplines of economics to be distanced and overshadowed by the idea of individualism. Economics no longer seeks to provide an evaluation to meet socially optimal outcomes; it has molded into a profit-maximizing machine. Individualism becoming part of our social construction has left our planet to suffer. Society has been so far removed from the structure of our economic system that they are not fully aware of the effects their actions have on their future. The consumer-driven model leads to a constant cycle of overconsumption and production to meet the goal of maximizing profit. After years of this, our planet can no longer handle it. Our climate is reaching its breaking point because society has excepted ignoring the externalities of our decisions and system. Throughout the years of education, the teaching of economics has failed to incorporate sustainability. The majority of textbooks and classes do not mention the relationship between economics and sustainability, which leaves students with little room to evaluate their impact on the environment. In order to create a sustainable future, these systematic issues need to be addressed. The discussion in this paper highlights the role of consumers and producers. Advocated is that consumers need to begin to feel comfortable with not constantly having everything they want and driving demand for unnecessary goods. Simultaneously, producers need to adjust their business models to focus less on short-term financial gains and focus on a sustainable and efficient future.

Kristi McNary is a 4th year student at Northeastern majoring in Economics. Her interest is in the relationship between economics and climate change and his/her immediate plans are graduate this spring and pursue a career in sustainability.