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Can the capitalist economic system deliver environmental justice?

Bell, Karen


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Karen Bell
Senior Lecturer Environmental Management


© 2015 IOP Publishing Ltd. Can a healthy environment for all social groups be delivered through capitalism via market mechanisms? Or is it the capitalist system, itself, that has been at the root of the environmental and social crises we now face? This letter engages with this ongoing debate by drawing on material from a wider study, 'Achieving Environmental Justice', which examined the extent, form and causes of environmental justice and injustice in a range of countries with varying depths of marketization - United States, South Korea, United Kingdom, Sweden, China, Bolivia and Cuba. The analysis described here focuses on the interview material from this mixed methods study, drawing on over 140 interviews with officials, policy makers, and civil society leaders. The letter argues that there is an apparent propensity for capitalist processes to exacerbate, rather than reduce, environmental problems and inequities though the pursuit of relentless economic growth and profit accumulation. Therefore, we should perhaps let go of efforts to resolve environmental injustice within the constraints of capitalism and, instead, build an alternative economic system that can meet human needs in the context of a harmonious and respectful relationship with nature.


Bell, K. (2015). Can the capitalist economic system deliver environmental justice?. Environmental Research Letters, 10(12),

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 12, 2015
Publication Date Dec 22, 2015
Deposit Date Mar 18, 2019
Journal Environmental Research Letters
Electronic ISSN 1748-9326
Publisher IOP Publishing
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 10
Issue 12
Keywords environmental justice, political economy, environmental values, capitalism, climate change, political economy, environmental values, capitalism, climate change, global politics
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