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‘Natural Capital’ Is Unnatural For Capital

Updated: Feb 21

As a concept, ‘Natural Capital’ is contrary to what environmentalists have been trying to achieve for decades, and it is also contrary to the nature of capital. What is natural for capitalism is maximum profits, not minimum damage.

For decades, the commodification of nature and agriculture to the detriment of the planet and population — be it of humans, animals or plants — has been criticized by the scientific community and society at large. Rampant deforestation threatens all life on earth, and most damage done to ecosystems in Brazil, the most biodiverse region in the world, is due to industries that are not aimed at immediate human needs such as food and clean water. Instead, they are directed at fuel, cattle feed, oils and so on — all of which intensely rely on pesticides.

“[T]he land, this common good, meets the demand of capital, but it does not meet the human demand.” (Bombardi, 2017)

Arguably, agriculture can be a natural process, but the industrialization of it, particularly through the use of dangerous pesticides, are harder to perceive as such. Researcher Larissa Bombardi argues that the conversion of food production into ‘commodities’ is done through “the massive use of pesticides” (2017). Meanwhile, “Brazil has been the world’s largest consumer of pesticides since 2008”; its “consumption has increased by 190% in the last decade” (N. M. X. Faria et al., 2014).

The “30 million hectares” used — or deforested — for soybean cultivation in Brazil are the destination of more than half (52%) of the “pesticides sold in the country” (Bombardi, 2017). When considering that this soy is transgenic in its overwhelming majority (95.5%) (Bombardi, 2017, p.35) and “its main role in the food industry is as raw material in livestock” (D. Carreira, et al., 2015), we can undoubtedly categorize it as a ‘commodity’. Therefore, as more data about the dangers of pesticides and deforestation are accumulated, one of the largest and most biodiverse countries in the world not only fails to slow down the process of commodification of natural resources but accelerates it instead.

Data outlining the environmental damage and its repercussions are well known by academics and journalists, but they have not been enough to bring about significant change. Possible solutions to this unsustainable land use by the agribusiness have been tossed around among the most powerful world leaders in summits, treaties have been forged, signed and promoted. But time and time again, we see ourselves moving faster and faster towards the obliteration of natural ecosystems across the globe.

Written by Mirna Wabi-Sabi

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