Why do humans pollute?
Firstly, because these particular people don’t think ecologically or systemically. They think that dumping their individual or organisation waste products into the environment will not harm anything that much. They may ask, ‘how much difference can one person/organisation make?’ The answer is, over years, and with other people thinking and acting similarly, a lot.
Secondly, pollution can be encouraged by society when the costs of polluting are not factored into the economic process. If it is cheaper to pollute, there is no penalty for polluting, and it does not seem to harm them directly then people will pollute. The more that profit becomes a god the more people are likely to cut costs by polluting. The freer the market, the more intense the pollution, as those who can buy the laws and ethics make the laws and ethics.
Thirdly, if one group has conquered another and they can direct their pollution at the weaker group then they will often do so. I suspect this comes from both the brutal joy in displaying power, the aim of further weakening the conquered, and a lack of consideration for others -especially ‘the weak’. It was traditional for the wealthy to live on the top of a hill and sewerage to flow down and accumulate, and the most polluting factories and mines tend not to be in wealthy areas.
A relatively equitable society, with friendly relations with its neighbours, that did not value money above all else would probably not have as many pollution problems. If people also thought ecologically, realised that individual actions were rarely individual or unique, did not emit more than the ecology could process and turn back into ‘goods’, realised that all such processes are uncertain, ‘complex’, unpredictable, often irreversible, and cumulative and that you need to factor in lots of ‘slack’ for systems to stay relatively stable, then it would almost certainly not be poisoning itself, and would make polluters take responsibility for their waste.
Can this happen without some kind of revolution in the capitalist west? I don’t know. Let’s hope so. Otherwise our lives will be driven not by constructive production, but the production of waste.
You’ll find that Socialist and Communist countries pollute as much or more than Capitalist ones. The same can be said for “Non-Western” – I assume a dog-whistle for White – countries.
And no, the freer the market, the less pollution there is…if the market is truly and the consumer wants less pollution. We’ve whole segments of most industries that hype their lower pollution level as a marketing point, one that works if the product is close to equal to its competition.
Yes you are right socialist and communist countries can pollute heavily, just as can feudal, and sometimes tribal societies. Pollution is not confined to capitalism.
As I tried to argue pollution erupts everywhere there: a) is no support for ecological thinking; b) where the costs of pollution are not factored into the economic process; and c) where there has been conquest.
I should have added that pollution also seems to be a strong part of developmentalist options wherever they operate, as again the ecology (and often the people who depend on it) are sacrificed. This time to the gods of development; material prosperity, technology and military power – often only for some, not for everyone (and not everyone may want development). The more speedy the development the more pollution seems to occur.
Making products or energy by cheaply destroying the ecology is one way to make money, and do development, in all kinds of society, and if it takes force or law to overwhelm those who resist, then force or law will nearly always be used.
Despite many forms of organisation producing pollution, because I live in a capitalist society which has been extolling the virtues of free markets for over 40 years, I’m primarily interested capitalism and real capitalist processes, even though similar processes may occur elsewhere as well.
In capitalism it does frequently appear that if there is no cost to pollution, then pollution aids profit and is good. It is true that frequently companies will use green wash and hype (and some may even be found to be genuine), but they may well loose to cheaper companies, as after all profit, and growth of profit, is all that matters to their shareholders if not their customers. The days in which ‘the people’ could use ‘the State’ to attempt to unambiguously reduce pollution, seem pretty dead.
I have not seen that many companies protest against President’s Trump’s attempts to free the market by making it easier to pollute and poison people, but I dare say there may be some – after all being capitalist does not mean a person is inherently evil. Likewise if pollution was only marginal to capitalism we probably would not have had so much political action trying to justify pollution and make it sacred. How often do we hear something like: “If we stop polluting then the economy will crash. We can’t afford these restrictions?”
As you say, the process may be influenced if the “consumer wants less pollution”, can find correct information about pollution, find a difference between companies, can afford less pollution, or has enough power to produce (or enforce) less pollution.
We should also probably note here that in capitalism the word ‘cost’ usually means ‘monetary cost’ alone. If the creatures and the land do not belong to anyone who both cares and is wealthy enough to go to law, or to make law, then there is no recognisable cost, even if the destruction may be fatal to humans in the long term. If the person destroys their “own land” then everyone should be happy, as it is their ‘private property’ to destroy as they will. Non-monetary cost, or cumulative dysfunction, seem difficult concepts to deal with once monetary profit becomes the only mark of virtue and success.
People often seem to argue that there is an ideal capitalist market in which problems dissolve. Only this ideal never arises, and all the talk of free markets appears to do is justify a more stringent plutocracy. So I assume that producing plutocracy is the function of that talk. I may be wrong, but it does seem to be the case that the more pro-free markets the political party, the more they defend pollution and ecological destruction with vigour.
“”Non-Western” – I assume a dog-whistle for White – countries.”
No idea what you mean here. The terms ‘Western’ and ‘Non-Western’, have been used by all kinds of people for the last 50-70 years, although ‘North and South” seem to be the current fashion. If you have been dog whistled I apologise.