Profits can be pocketed or invested by firm shareholders. The perpetual investment of profits leads to an accumulation of capital, which leads to more profits, creating exponential growth. According to economic theory, this positive feedback should stop when the cost of owning existing capital equals the profits from acquiring new capital. However, this boundary is continuously pushed out by advances in technology. Marx points out that investments in capital and growth necessarily come at the cost of worker wages and welfare.
According to an economic model called the Kuznets curve, both inequality and environmental quality are improved by economic growth. Consumer preferences for environmental quality are correlated with higher incomes, and economic wealth enables the luxury of funding environmental restoration. Sachs pointed out that this is an illusion, however, premised on an exercise of neocolonial ecological power. Pollutive and extractive industries have been outsourced from the world’s wealthy nations and centralized in the global South. The resource footprint per capita in the wealthy nations rises with the GDP, and the attending environmental damage is invisible in these countries because although it occurs, it occurs elsewhere.