Environmental poverty, a decomposed environmental Kuznets curve, and alternatives: Sustainability lessons from China
Amid increasing recognition of the importance of the environmental factor in understanding poverty and development, this article coins the term “environmental poverty” to refer to the lack of the healthy environment needed for society's survival and development as a direct result of human-induced environmental degradation. A decomposed environmental Kuznets curve (EKC) demonstrates that places (such as countries, counties, or cities) following the “grow first, clean up later” approach (or the first half of the EKC) may obtain economic gains accompanied by extreme environmental sacrifice, excessive social injustice, and income and environmental inequalities. The same place may include communities whose curves differ in shape. Some communities may prosper at the expense of other communities, which may fall into environmental poverty and eventually irreversible environmental degradation and economic failure. Places following alternatives or “flat EKCs” may be slow in getting out of economic poverty, but enjoy a healthier environment, equality in income and environmental quality, and social justice. Countries, especially developing countries, should aspire to sustainable alternatives.
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