The main goal of free trade is to make trade between nations easier and less costly. The way it achieves this goal is by removing barriers such as tariffs, eliminating regulations and dismissing certain standards, which allows the market to balance itself through the pressures of market demands. The free trade system has existed now for just over two-hundred years, beginning just after the industrial revolution. It has been successful in promoting independent action, advancing technology and thus in turn creating wealth. While free trade economics is a major contributor to economic growth, economic growth is also a major contributor to the destruction of our planet. "Due to over consumption and the throw away model of most developed nations, free trade does not allow for very much sustainable development."(Chomsky,N:www.oneworld.org)
Many critics of free market capitalism feel that the root of our problem is too many environmental resources are considered common goods or common to all. Common resources are available free of charge to anyone who wishes to use them. The text defines common resources as "Goods that are rival, but not excludable."( Chomsky,N) Because common goods are rival, one person's use of the resource takes away from other people's enjoyment of it. For example back in 1998 when the Ontario Provincial Government granted a permit to remove freshwater supplies in bulk amounts from Lake Ontario. The water was to be removed in bulk amounts and exported to the United States by a private enterprise based out of Salt Ste. Marie. If it wasn't for a mass public outcry and disapproval, this permit to export Canadian fresh water would have opened the flood gates for serious environmental disaster. The free market's principle for supply and demand is inapplicable when dealing with common goods because there is no price attached to them. Therefore overuse and depletion is a common theme when so many of our natural resources are common goods. That is why strong government policies must be enacted to protect our non-sustainable natural resources. If not this wealth-creating industrial system that we live will continue to exploit our natural resources. Society today is much too dependent on the benefits gained from the consumption of our non-renewable resources. "We rely on it for raw materials, for "energy",(Chomsky,N) and for services such as the supply of freshwater as mentioned earlier and the absorption of waste. People are only now beginning to realize that the growth of industrial production may destroy our planet if it continues to grow at this alarming rate. The problem is that trade is causing our economy to grow at such an enormous rate, that we are depleting our natural resources faster than we can replace them. We are destroying ecosystems which provide essential services and life support systems. Key functions like the cycling of water, nitrogen and carbon dioxide are all being harmed. The earth cannot absorb our waste, supply us with fresh water nor provide the raw materials we consume too if we continue to trade and consume at the rate we are currently at.
As you will now see economic growth is not necessarily the way to solve our world's problems. The corporate world is blind to the fact that serious damage is being done to our natural environment and resources, all in the name of turning over a larger profit and increasing personal gain. We must stop thinking of ourselves and our own personal gain, think about the future and realize that free trade, economic growth and material possessions will only exist as long as we do, and if we continue to consume our resources at our present rate the world as we know it will be lost forever.
Chomsky, N., 1994. "Second Opinion: How Free is the Free Market". http://www.oneworld.org/second-opinion/chomsky.html