Theoretically speaking, capitalism and ecological sustainability are in contradiction, Professor Ruuska argues.

In his essay, Professor Ruuska investigates capitalism in the Anthropocene, from eco- and neo-Marxist perspective. By illustrating the inherent contradiction between capitalism and ecological sustainability, he critically discusses the so-called green (or sustainable) capitalist doctrine. Finally, he concludes by considering the ongoing Anthropocene (or Capitalocene) debate. Environmental degradation as a phenomenon is not a new one but has occurred throughout recorded history with profoundly negative consequences for numerous past civilizations. However, what makes our time distinctive from the times of antiquity is the shift to global-scale problems concerning natural environments. In this context, the dominating economic structure, i.e. capitalism, plays a crucial role. What is highlighted here is that capitalism is compelled to expand its scope in order to circulate and accumulate capital, in other words, to reproduce itself. Because of this notion, there are, indeed, compelling reasons to believe that there exists an absolute contradiction between capitalism and our precious planet, because the planet Earth is, by definition, finite. The absolute contradiction arises from the fact that capitalism is a “grow or die” structure. In principle the growth imperative of capitalism is simple. To be able to convert yesterday’s profit into capital, the structure depends on an increasing availability and quantity of the means of production, that is, labor-force, energy, food, raw materials. The ever-increasing throughput of raw materials and continuing imperialism and industrialization, on the other hand, suggests that the environmental degradation becomes deeper and more extensive over time because of natural resource depletion and cumulating waste and pollution. It seems evident that capitalism, with its compulsion for endless growth and expansion, constitutes the hard core of the current human-caused ecological crisis. The tragedy of capitalism-in-nature, in this respect, in the past, and in the present is and has seemingly been the fact that the capitalist economic structure cannot change the way it treats its environment. Therefore, to challenge the logic of capital means in principle that one has to challenge the whole capitalist structure, which is precise ‘why the environmental movement, when it goes beyond a merely cosmetic or ameliorative politics, must become anti-capital’. The conclusion is that, while scholarly debates are certainly important, ultimately these actions change nothing without organized and planned collective ‘anti-capitalist’ actions and movements. Accordingly, the issue is to find alternative ways beyond (industrial) capitalism and to replace it with fundamentally different ways of being that consider fundamental questions to peaceful coexistence on planet Earth.