Theory, Evidence, and Policy
Chapter 7: Capital Accumulation, Environmental Decay and Rehabilitation
More than a quarter of the nation’s bridges are structurally deﬁcient or functionally obsolete. Leaky pipes lose an estimated seven billion gallons of clean drinking water every day. And aging sewage systems send billions of gallons of untreated wastewater cascading into the nation’s waterways each year. These are among the ﬁndings of a report to be released Wednesday by the American Society of Civil Engineers, which assigned an overall D grade to the nation’s infrastructure and estimated that it would take a $2.2 trillion investment from all levels of government over the next ﬁve years to bring it into a state of good repair. (Michael Cooper, January 27th 2009, The New York Times) The ‘crises’ we are going to consider in this chapter are environmental ones. There are early examples where ﬁrms started mining, e.g. gold seeking activities which simply destroyed the aﬀected environment, used natural products in new contexts, e.g. water reservoir ﬁlling for electricity production, deforesting of the rainforest in order to plant food and so on. Often, the search for natural products in new areas leads to situations where the danger for the environment is still unknown or is underrated (like, e.g. oil production in the sea). There is a gradual systemic eﬀect here at work, driven by ruthless cost competition which seeks to produce the output as cheaply as possible without concern about environmental eﬀects (which are quite often also aﬀecting human beings – at work as well as at home). It...
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