GEOG* 2030 Poverty, Population and Environment 2013-10-03
Population, Poverty/Wealth, and
Poverty and Environment
o Example: Cotton in Mali (see Moseley reading)
Wealth and Environment
o Example: global water use/scarcity
What do you think about the relationship between
poverty/wealth and environmental degradation?
a) The poor degrade the environment because they have no
b) The wealthy degrade the environment because they
consume too much.
c) Both of the above.
d) None of the above.
Poverty and Environment
Cause(s) of Environmental Degradation
o Population Poverty?
Emerging mainstream view as alternative to Neo-
Malthusianism in 1970s/1980s:
o “Those who are poor and hungry will often destroy their
immediate environment in order to survive…” (WCED,
o lack of capital: don‟t have resources to invest in more
o short time horizon:
Neo-classical economics: production „at the margin‟ =
+ Ecology: vulnerable landscape – poor have least productive
land to work on
+ Political economy: groups on the fringe, with little power
o 3 marginalizations above lead to a cycle of social &
environmental degradation – poor get poorer
Discourse = increased population in developing world
increased poverty peasants/poor will overuse land
desertification/soil erosion move to more marginal lands
overuse move again etc.
Many geographers have challenged this
Example: Cotton in Mali (Moseley) 2
What is the relationship between poverty and environment?
o Examines the hypothesis that poor households engage
in less sustainable soil management practices than rich
How does Moseley answer this question?
o Need to know who is wealthy and who isn‟t, and
whether or not the land is degraded and then relate
them to each other
o How do these households manage their land, what
activities are they engaged in? Also examined these
o Then the soil quality is actually measured (pH, bulk
What relationship does he find?
o Some practices for both the wealthy and poor were
degrading, but others were more sustainable
o There was no clear association between poverty
(household wealth) and environment (soil quality)
o In some instances the poor were doing better and
worse, but so were the wealthy
Indirect effects of cotton farming?
o Pressure to produce (for government and international
institutions) leads to more pressure on land
o Marginalization – poor have less access to land
o Breakdown in common property system – land that
used to be used by everybody sustainably falls down
because of those external pressures
International capitalism as the ultimate cause of
o Expansion of cotton production for export (“cash crop”)
o Cotton cultivation itself is what is environmentally
unsustainable - top down emphasis
o If the idea that poverty is the problem, then more
cotton production is the answer; if you think the
opposite then the solution is less cotton production
Influence on policies that are emphasized
depending on what we think is the issue
Using the Chain of Explanation – good midterm
o Think about what is happening at each of the points:
o A: physica