chapter  2
27 Pages

Urban Transitions and the Spatial Displacement of Environmental Burdens

ByGordon McGranahan

The environmental implications of economic growth, and the economic implications of taking action to reduce environmental burdens, have been hotly contested for centuries. Even now, many claim that economic growth will inevitably destroy the environment, while others claim that it is the environment’s best hope. On this overtly political question, the empirical evidence is mixed, with some environmental burdens increasing with affluence, others declining, and still others sometimes increasing and sometimes decreasing. At least from an urban perspective, however, certain patterns are evident. Specifically, whether looking at the history of currently affluent cities, or comparing different urban settlements today, increasing affluence is associated with more extensive environmental burdens. There are good reasons to think that this relationship was forged politically, and that its interpretation is also highly politicized. Perhaps more importantly, there is no reason to assume that it is immutable, and indeed, several good reasons to hope it can be changed.