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Is Inequality Bad for the Environment?

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  • James Boyce

Abstract

By respecting nature’s limits and investing in nature’s wealth, we can protect and enhance the environment’s ability to sustain human well-being. But how humans interact with nature is intimately tied to how we interact with each other. Those who are relatively powerful and wealthy typically gain disproportionate benefits from the economic activities that degrade the environment, while those who are relatively powerless and poor typically bear disproportionate costs. All else equal, wider political and economic inequalities tend to result in higher levels of environmental harm. For this reason, efforts to safeguard the natural environment must go hand-in-hand with efforts to achieve more equitable distributions of power and wealth in human societies. Globalization – the growing integration of markets and governance worldwide – today poses new challenges and new opportunities for both of these goals.

Suggested Citation

  • James Boyce, 2007. "Is Inequality Bad for the Environment?," Working Papers wp135, Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
  • Handle: RePEc:uma:periwp:wp135
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    File URL: https://www.peri.umass.edu/fileadmin/pdf/working_papers/working_papers_101-150/WP135.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. James K. Boyce, 2002. "The Political Economy of the Environment," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 2080.
    2. James K. Boyce, 2004. "Green and Brown? Globalization and the Environment," UMASS Amherst Economics Working Papers 2004-01, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Department of Economics.
    3. Michael Ash & T. Robert Fetter, 2004. "Who Lives on the Wrong Side of the Environmental Tracks? Evidence from the EPA's Risk-Screening Environmental Indicators Model," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 85(2), pages 441-462.
    4. Barrett, Scott & Graddy, Kathryn, 2000. "Freedom, growth, and the environment," Environment and Development Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 5(04), pages 433-456, October.
    5. Princen, Thomas, 1997. "The shading and distancing of commerce: When internalization is not enough," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(3), pages 235-253, March.
    6. Rammel, Christian & van den Bergh, Jeroen C. J. M., 2003. "Evolutionary policies for sustainable development: adaptive flexibility and risk minimising," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 47(2-3), pages 121-133, December.
    7. Frank Ackerman & Timothy A. Wise & Kevin P. Gallagher & Luke Ney & Regina Flores, "undated". "03-06 "Free Trade, Corn, and the Environment: Environmental Impacts of US – Mexico Corn Trade Under NAFTA"," GDAE Working Papers 03-06, GDAE, Tufts University.
    8. James K. Boyce, 2004. "Green and Brown? Globalization and the Environment," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 20(1), pages 105-128, Spring.
    9. Haas, Peter M., 1992. "Banning chlorofluorocarbons: epistemic community efforts to protect stratospheric ozone," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 46(01), pages 187-224, December.
    10. James Boyce, 1996. "Ecological Distribution, Agricultural Trade Liberalization, and In Situ Genetic Diversity," Published Studies ps14, Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
    11. Dorman, Peter, 2005. "Evolving knowledge and the precautionary principle," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(2), pages 169-176, April.
    12. James K. Boyce, 2006. "A Future for Small Farms? Biodiversity and Sustainable Agriculture," Chapters,in: Human Development in the Era of Globalization, chapter 4 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    13. Torras, Mariano & Boyce, James K., 1998. "Income, inequality, and pollution: a reassessment of the environmental Kuznets Curve," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(2), pages 147-160, May.
    14. James Boyce, 2004. "Green and Brown? Globalization and the Environment," Working Papers wp78, Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
    15. Boyce, James K. & Klemer, Andrew R. & Templet, Paul H. & Willis, Cleve E., 1999. "Power distribution, the environment, and public health: A state-level analysis," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 127-140, April.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Can Askan Mavi, 2016. "Uncertain Catastrophic Events : Another Source of Environmental Traps ?," Université Paris1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (Post-Print and Working Papers) halshs-01275174, HAL.
    2. Can Askan Mavi, 2016. "Uncertain Catastrophic Events : Another Source of Environmental Traps ?," Working Papers halshs-01275174, HAL.
    3. Nilufar Matin & Mohammad Shahidul Islam & Musingo T. E. Mbuvi & Bernard Owuor Odit & Paul Othim Ongugo & Mohammad Abu Syed, 2014. "Group Inequality and Environmental Sustainability: Insights from Bangladesh and Kenyan Forest Commons," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 6(3), pages 1-27, March.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    environmental ethics; pollution; willingness to pay; inequality; ecological restoration;

    JEL classification:

    • Q01 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - General - - - Sustainable Development
    • Q56 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environment and Development; Environment and Trade; Sustainability; Environmental Accounts and Accounting; Environmental Equity; Population Growth

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