“When the last tree has been cut down, the last fish caught, the last river poisoned, only then will we realize that one cannot eat money.”
Why is capitalism bad for the environment?
Capitalism (and neoclassical economic theory) were developed in a world where the economy was small relative to the containing ecosystem. Therefore it made sense that the economy could grow without impacting the ecosystem. The limiting factor was man-made (i.e. labor).
Today, humans (and the things which we have produced) are not small relative to the containing ecosystem. The limiting factor is not labor, it is our natural resources. Before, increasing the number of ships would increase the amount of fish caught. But if there are no fish left, then no amount of extra ships will increase the catch size (figure from Daly, 2005).
The problem with capitalism is that it does not recognise this obvious physical conflict between the growth of the economy and the preservation of the environment.