Trajectories of threat:
criticality in nine regions
Jeanne X. Kasperson, Roger E. Kasperson, and
B. L. Turner, II
The causes and consequences of human-induced environmental risk are not, as Norberg-Bohm and colleagues make clear in chapter 2, evenly distributed over the earth: they converge in certain regions and places where their impacts may threaten the long-term or even the short-term sustainability of human–environment relationships. Global environment risk, in short, is intrinsically geographical. International agencies, scholars, and the popular press have widely recognized this fact: the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO 1998) of the United Nations, for example, identifies “acute food shortages” on the basis of “required and/or emergency food assistance;” Russian geographers over time have referred to “red data maps” that show the locations of “critical environmental situations” (Mather and Sdasyuk 1991: 159–175, 224); and publications such as the National Geographic Society's map of “environmentally endangered areas” have heightened public awareness (NGS 1989). Lonergan (1998) uses a broad array of indicators, as reviewed in chapter 1, to create an index of vulnerability, allowing him to map countries vulnerable to environmental stress.
Despite the currency of the terminology, most assessments of “threatened,” “endangered,” or “critical” places and regions lack well-developed frameworks for determining such categorizations and have certainly drawn very little on the risk literature. Their products, therefore, attest more to the idiosyncratic wisdom of the researcher(s) than to any wellfounded conceptualization or definition of the problem. We suspect that