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“The Political Economy of the Environment” by J. Boyce Essay

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Updated: Feb 23rd, 2022

In the book “The Political Economy of the Environment” by James Boyce, the author is concerned with how economic activities lead to environmental degradation. It focuses on the interaction between economics and the environment. According to Boyce (2002), economic endeavors not only affect the surroundings but the people around them. One of the factors explored in the text is the distribution of resources and how the scramble for scarce utility lead has a profound impact on the environment. Boyce’s literary work points out how those in power often oppress the low and middle-income earners in their quest to become richer and protect their interests (UMassEconomics, 2017). In response, the poor have been forced to exploit the little scarce natural resources to sustain their livelihoods and meet their basic needs. It highlights how the gap between the wealthy and the poor is widening, which poses a threat to the environment. When people fight over resources, they are not only fighting over themselves but fighting the environment.

One of the highlights of the book is the cost-benefit analysis presented by James Boyce. The text explores the cost and benefits of economic activities. One of the costs featured in the source is environmental degradation. Boyce states that economic activities pose a threat to the surroundings (UMassEconomics, 2017). Due to the balance of power between the winners and the losers, the environment suffers the consequences of this fight. Boyce’s literary work gives evidence that inequalities of power and wealth affect not only the distribution of environmental degradation. It also focuses on the measures that have been put in place to reduce inequality in the distribution of resources and power (Boyce, 2002). Boyce argues that one of the ways of ensuring economic stability and sustainable development is protecting the environment from exploitation by humans.

In America, the political class controls much of the economy and occupies the top of the hierarchy. Despite the rapid economic growth, American society today experiences inequalities in income distribution and the distribution of resources (Boyce, 2002). Today’s American society has a wide gap between the rich and the poor. Although there is a sizeable proportion of the rich, American society also has middle and low-income earners on the extreme end of the social class hierarchy (Boyce, 2002). As a result of the widening gap between the social classes, America experienced high rates of poverty during the Gilded Age. Contemporary America is no different, while there are Americans who are rich and wealthy there are also those who are extremely poor (UMassEconomics, 2017). In modern American society, the youth are optimistic about a prosperous future of success and equality. However, due to inequality, such future of most Americans today is not guaranteed.

Boyce’s book is built on the premise that there is an unequal distribution of water resources in most cities with the rich suburbs of the city often favored at the expense of the low and middle-income settlements (UMassEconomics, 2017). In this case, the policy suggests an equalization of the distribution of water resources such that all the residents of a city can access the available water resources. However, this approach is subject to receive a backlash from the rich which often comprise the political class. Without support from the political class, it would be difficult to implement the approach.

Boyce suggests that one of the causes of environmental degradation and inequality in society is a meritocracy. When it was first introduced, the concept was aimed at creating equality in opportunity (UMassEconomics, 2017). However, the ideology is yet to achieve this goal. It has only managed to favor a few elites at the expense of the majority of low and middle-income earners. Meritocracy is based on the idea that resources and opportunities should be distributed on merit. Those who meet the categories of merit set would benefit. On the contrary, those who are not privileged enough to be in the elite class are locked out of opportunity and resources. According to Boyce’s book, meritocracy has created more inequality than equality. If the idea had been meant to enhance equity in opportunity and resources, the wide gap between the rich and the poor should not be existing. Unfortunately, it has only made the wealthy to be wealthier while the poor continue to become poorer (UMassEconomics, 2017). It has created more harm than good, if only it was used and applied in our societies in the right manner, perhaps the idea could have worked in creating equality.

A cost-benefit analysis of the book reveals that while economic activities are fundamental for development, they come with a cost. One of the greatest costs is environmental degradation. Boyce argues that economic endeavors degrade the environment which not only affects the surroundings but also the people around it. Boyce’s text highlights how the fight for the distribution of resources has pitted individuals against each other. While others especially those in power benefit from these activities; other persons bear the net costs in terms of effects such as pollution and depletion of resources.

References

Boyce, J. K. (2002). The political economy of the environment. Edward Elgar Publishing.

UMassEconomics. (2017). The Economy & the Environment. YouTube. Web.

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