Earning a Green Thumb

Inherent to capitalist systems are forces that exploit the environment. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Capitalism may be all about bringing in the green, but that doesn’t mean its practices can’t be a bit green themselves. For Santa Clara economics professor William Sundstrom, capitalism is not a monolithic system but one that can be molded to fit the needs of society—and the climate. While capitalism comes with forces that invite exploitation and environmental degradation, Sundstrom argues that individual and government action can mitigate such issues.

“We shouldn’t assume we’ve got to have a revolution or everything is going to go to hell,” Sundstrom says. “We shouldn’t assume that just because we can’t do the best possible solutions, we can’t still do a lot better. A lot of personal behavior matters, but being an engaged and active citizen working toward change in the political sphere is essential to me.”

Thumb Up Neon Sign
Image by katemangostar on Freepik.

At an event during SCU’s last tUrn week, which focuses the campus on sustainability issues, Sundstrom encouraged people to realize how they hold some level of responsibility and sway through their purchasing power. Sundstrom believes the most effective type of capitalism involves redistribution toward the disadvantaged, enfranchisement, and progressive economics.

What’s most important, he stressed, is a more humane and sustainable form of capitalism, including supporting unions and incentivizing renewable energy sources. All of these are aspects Sundstrom says could be achieved through government policies such as earned income tax credits or the carbon tax.

“It behooves us as a society to think about how to leverage capitalist incentives and some of the strengths of capitalism to serve our goals in climate change mitigation,” Sundstrom says. “Let’s figure out how to make capitalism work better.”

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