Covid19 and Climate Change: consequences of capitalism?

RMIT Researchers

  • Dr Leanne Morrison
  • Professor Alan Lowe

Project Description

This project maps out the conceptual links between Covid19, capitalism and climate change, and how accounting has played an inherently dark role in each. First we briefly explore the interrelated histories of capitalism and climate change, and how these histories are conceptually informed by an ontology of distance and separation (Latour, 1993). We explore how this metaphorical separation is operationalised in accounting processes such as the calculation of profit.

Within this calculation, we point towards the practice of externalisation in particular. Externalisation is understood as a cost generated through the activities of an organisation, but which is imposed on external stakeholders, without recompense (Unerman et al., 2018). We use the concept of externalisation to draw some parallels and linkages between capitalism, climate change and Covid19, noting that Covid19 may indeed be the natural outcome of two hundred years of this particular calculative relationship. With this in mind, we complete the circle with a discussion of degrowth and interconnectivity, suggesting some possible post-pandemic pathways out of the multiple current global crises.


Climate Change

Key Words

Profit; externalisation; externalised costs; degrowth; interconnectivity; separation

aboriginal flag
torres strait flag

Acknowledgement of country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business. - Artwork created by Louisa Bloomer