Ecological Modernization Theory: 1) Protecting the environment, reducing resource use, and reducing pollution are good for business and for the planet 2) Businesses and society are increasingly accepting that it is possible to “de-link” economic growth and resource flows
EM Theory seeks to counter three major arguments about the relationship between the economy and the environment: 1. Economic growth and the environment are fundamentally incompatible. When in conflict the needs of business should triumph over the needs of the environment. 2. Economic growth and the environment are fundamentally incompatible and the needs of business will always win under capitalism. However, this will eventually lead to capitalism’s and/or modern society’s self-destruction. 3. We need to focus on economic growth in order to be able to worry about environmental protection somewhere down the line.
The original Endangered Species Act specifically said that cost was irrelevant in determining whether a threatened species should be protected. The Clean Water Act: All the country’s waterway should be safe for fishing and swimming.
“We’ve got to pause and ask ourselves: How much clean air do we need?” — Lee Iacocca (Then CEO of Chrysler)
Cost benefit analysis: Are the benefits of a particular environmental policy worth the costs? ? “Kyoto would have wrecked our economy.” ~ George W. Bush, June 30, 2005
Neomarxism and radical ecology A radical shift in our economic, political, and social structure is required if eco- catastrophe is to be averted. Capitalist production will eventually destroy the natural resource base necessary for its continuation.
The Environmental Kuznets Curve Economic development will eventually lead to environmental protection.
Ecological Modernization Theory rejects the inevitability of conflict between economic growth and the environment There can be, and increasingly is, a “win-win-win” situation in which technological change and a significant movement to energy efficiency, greener production and consumption can benefit the economy, people, and the environment.
Techno-Corporatist Ecological Modernization It is possible to “de-link” economic growth and resource flows through: It is possible to “de-link” economic growth and resource flows through: Energy efficiency Energy efficiency Improved technology Improved technology Closed-loop production Closed-loop production This de-linking will help the environment and increase industry profits.
Goal: To double delivery truck fleet fuel efficiency by 2015 Goal: To sell 100 million compact fluorescent bulbs a year by 2008, increasing total sales of the bulbs in the US by 50 percent Goal: To drastically reduce store energy use through skylights and high efficiency light and temperature regulation Wal-Mart has become a leader in promoting energy efficiency.
Goal: To be seen as a good corporate citizen while saving money in fuel and energy costs “The environment is begging for the Wal-Mart business model.” ~ H. Lee Scott, Jr., Wal-Mart chief executive
Buys green energy credits that amount to 100% of the energy used to make Sunchips Is putting a bank of solar panels in at their plant in Modesto that will provide 75% of the energy used in that plant Is transforming its plant in Casa Grande, AZ to a “net-zero” plant.
Reflexive Ecological Modernization: The greening of states and society Changes in cultural attitudes and the structures of states and other institutions is enabling an environmentally sustainable form of modern society to emerge. Environmental concerns are being institutionalized in individual and corporate decision-making as values in themselves not just because they are profitable or trendy.
Reflexive Ecological Modernization: The greening of states and society Shift in states from top-down regulation to working with industry to reduce pollution through negotiation, market incentives and environmental taxes Cap and trade programs Cap and trade programs EPA and Department of Commerce’s Green Suppliers Network EPA and Department of Commerce’s Green Suppliers Network
Reflexive Ecological Modernization: The greening of states and society Key role for NGOs, including interacting with industry and encouraging them to be more environmentally conscious
To Ecological Modernization theorists, these three sets of changes represent a radical shift in the relationship between the environmental and the modern, capitalist political economy.
“The President knows that overcoming extreme poverty goes hand-in-hand with improving the environment. Stagnant economies are one of the greatest environmental threats in our world, because people who lack food, shelter, and sanitation cannot be expected to preserve the environment at the expense of their own survival - and poor societies cannot afford to invest in cleaner, more efficient technologies.” ~ From www.whitehouse.gov
Ecological Modernization in Southeast Asia’s paper mills? YES: Adoption of best technologies from the start Collaboration between governments and industry Important role for NGOs and social movements NO: Changes not seen in small and medium size plants Increased resource extraction (deforestation)
Critique: Breadth of the changes Is enough happening, and will it happen soon enough, to really make a difference?
Critique: Permanence of the changes Will corporate and consumer interest in energy efficiency continue if energy prices fall? ?
Critique: Lacks a theory of social change How many incidents of ecological modernization does it take for them to be indicative of a larger transformation? How many incidents of ecological modernization does it take for them to be indicative of a larger transformation? Under what social/political/economic conditions is ecological modernization more or less likely? Why? Under what social/political/economic conditions is ecological modernization more or less likely? Why?
Critique: Environmental and social justice Is it acceptable to detach environmental protection from other social change goals?
“In the end, the empirical question will of course remain whether these radical environmental reforms will be sufficient to deal with the - to a large extent socially constructed - criterion of sustainability.” ~ A.P.J Mol