Capitalists will often accuse environmentalists of worshiping the earth. In their eyes, environmentalists are a type of religious cult. To many capitalists, environmentalists don’t merely see ecosystems, they see a sacred, harmonious unity of earth, water, weather, plants, bugs, beasts, watched over by a sentient, metaphysical presence; Mother Nature, Gaia. These are environmentalists for whom trees are conscious beings and high elves walk silent and immortal in the forests. All of this is silly, the capitalists say, and maybe they’re correct.
It’s probably true that some environmentalists, maybe some of the deep ecologists, are people who worship the earth. But pure capitalism also becomes a form of fundamentalist worship when it becomes the only principle to govern all actions of civilization. To say that capitalism is the only path, the only road for society, the inevitable, triumphant endpoint of civilization, requires a religious leap of faith.
The health of the earth and the health of all living things upon the earth is also the concern and the cause of the environmentalists – all of them. Measures to improve the health of the earth and the health of all living things on the earth should not be judged solely against the backdrop of pure, fundamentalist capitalism.
An environmentalist businessperson who is willing to sacrifice higher short term profits in order to embrace sustainable, perpetual profits, does not necessarily think the tree is hugging
back. When a staunch capitalist lionizes a businessman who is strip mining arctic krill to use for fishfood on aquaculture farms, and baleen whales are starving, that’s capitalism pretty deep. Capitalism that praises someone who for a bit of nonsustainable profit will starve and exterminate whales and let the carrion birds pick their beached and wasted flesh before they’ve even finished dying, should be redirected, we think.
Capitalism today has conquered the planet not only because of the efficiency of its practice, but with the power of its ideas. To a free market environmentalist, the vast majority of the ideas of capitalism are good ideas. The triumph of capitalism cannot however blind us to the need for governments which have ideologies that include preserving the planet; governments that will send marshals to arrest the men who still
overharvest the krill.