Geography

Title

Turning the curve: A critical review of Kuznets approaches

Document Type

Article

Abstract

The Environmental Kuznets Curve (EKC) and related approaches to human-environment problems (e.g., Forest Transition Theory) generally posit an inverted U-shaped relationship between environmental degradation and economic development, frequently utilizing a cross-national approach. After numerous years of research, the overall empirical evidence remains equivocal: case studies that appear to support key EKC hypotheses are contradicted by others that fail to demonstrate environmental recovery following increasing indices of economic development. This paper undertakes a critical review of EKC approaches, identifying their collective contributions and remaining gaps, and integrating insights from two case study regions in Mexico and Brazil relevant to a forest transition. The larger aim is to identify the arenas that hold the greatest promise for a re-conceptualization of EKC-related approaches to move from proximate understandings of environmental degradation/recovery patterns, to deeper explanations of the processes and institutions structuring those patterns across spatio-temporal scales. We argue that such a reworking is critical to comparative scientific analyses of dynamic and coupled human-environment systems, and for policy prescriptions targeting applied geographical issues and a transition towards sustainability at a variety of scales. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.

Publication Title

Applied Geography

Publication Date

1-1-2012

Volume

32

Issue

1

First Page

3

Last Page

11

ISSN

0143-6228

DOI

10.1016/j.apgeog.2010.07.004

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