Treadmill of Production Theory
To begin to understand the basic assumptions of treadmill of productions theory (often abbreviated as ToP), it is necessary to begin by defining some of that approaches key terms. At the core of ToP is the idea that capitalism is an ecological destructive means of production, and that the processes of producing and consuming goods generates ecological disorganization (an idea Foster [2000, 2002, 2007] and Burkett  expand on in ecological Marxism when they describe the inherent contradiction between capitalism and the ecosystem consisting of ecological destruction, and the fact that capitalism must destroy the eco-system to expand and grow). Capitalism’s ecologically destructive tendencies are seen in the processes of ecological withdrawals and ecological additions. Ecological withdrawals are defined as the resource harms capitalism produces in the process of extracting raw materials. In the post-World War II era, these resource withdrawal processes have been driven by a chemically intensive segment of the treadmill of production along with intensive mechanization of ecological withdrawals. These chemical and technological innovations in the withdrawal portion of the treadmill of production process intensifies the withdrawal process or speeds it up while requiring reduced labor input, thus accelerating the potential for capital accumulation. Moreover, this intensification of the ecological withdrawal process accelerates ecological disorganization by increasing the destruction of nature. Thus, there is a contradiction between capital accumulation and ecological destruction under capitalism.
Ecological additions consist of the emission of pollutants into the ecosystem. Over time as the treadmill of production accelerates, it generates larger quantities of ecological additions, and emits increased quantities of pollution which may also be more concentrated with respect to toxicity. These ecological additions also produce ecological disorganization by changing nature and accelerating other ecologically destructive tendencies (e.g., the acceleration of climate change in response to ecological additions).
ToP theory also draws attention to the ways in which the state, the private sector and labor interact to facilitate ecological disorganization under post World War II capitalism. Schnaiberg argued that each of these sectors has an interest in increasing ecological disorganization for its own benefit.
In short, ToP explains how the political economic organization of capitalism and the chemical/technological innovations in the post-World War II capitalist treadmill of production accelerates ecological disorganization. Theoretically, as the treadmill of production expands and ecological withdrawals and ecological additions accelerate, so too does ecological disorganization.
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