SAS: Extinction or Enterprise?

By Bradley Goodwin, Volunteer

In the current climate, some socialists would love you to think that they’re the only ones who care about our planet.

Fanatical left-wing campaigners, like Extinction Rebellion, scream at us about the need to stop everyday activities like driving and eating meat. Then there’s the Green New Deal movement, which has shown itself to be old school socialist economics disguised by a green tinge. However, the reality is clear: it is capitalism that is working to save our planet.

To start with, you only need to look at the numbers, which speak for themselves.

In terms of our planet, sulphur emissions have declined from across the globe, including Europe, China and the Americas. The UK’s own emissions have fallen by 95% since 1990. The area of our planet covered by trees increased by more than nine times the size of the UK between 1982 and 2016.  

And how has this been bought about? Has it been the result of the ordinary people radically altering their lifestyle? Has it been done by people restricting themselves from eating meat or taking flights abroad? No.

The answer has not been restriction, but freedom. Rather than ordinary people making radical alterations, capitalism has been the driving force behind the biggest global corporations working to help the planet.

Coca-Cola is actively leading the way, working in both green package design and local projects spearheading community recycling worldwide. Starbucks are enforcing green production measures in producing their coffees (and even coffee tables), as well as partnering with groups like the Earthwatch Institute to implement environmental initiatives. Toyota have committed to reducing their CO2 emissions in their vehicles by 90% and in their factories to absolutely zero.

The action of such corporations is capitalism in action. Companies are responding to public opinion and using economic freedom to take the lead in making changes. Rather than forcing restrictions on ordinary people, freedom is encouraging big companies to innovate, finding new ways of keeping everyday activities possible while also behaving responsibly towards the environment.

The good work capitalism has done in saving our planet has also been noticed by leading experts. For example, the economists Gene Grossman and Alan Krueger researched the connection between the environment and economic growth. They found that “for most [environmental] indicators, economic growth brings an initial phase of deterioration followed by a subsequent phase of improvement”.

That finding is a pretty apt summary of how capitalism will respond to these environmental challenges. As problems in our planet became apparent, companies saw things needed to change and took action. The reason they could do this is because they were free enough (and successful enough) to do so. If we try and change our economic system now, as the Green New Deal does, we potentially kneecap the businesses who are trying the hardest to help the environment (and have the resources to make it happen).  

Instead of turning to government control and intervention to tackle climate change, by taxing ordinary people and restricting the things we love, we should keep faith with the freedoms which will allow companies to be our main allies in saving the planet. Instead of supporting Extinction Rebellion, we should back innovative businesses and engage with green enterprise.