JIM MACNEILL, PIETER WINSEMIUS & TAIZO YAKUSHIJI
The Shadow Ecologies
of Western Economies
Many nations, both industrial and developing, impose large burdens on the earth's environmental systems. Some do so through wealth, some through poverty; some through large and rapidly growing populations, others through high and rapidly growing levels of consumption of environmental resources per capita. The aggregate impact of any community on the environment can usefully be thought of as the product of three factors: its population, its consumption or economic activity per capita, and its material or energy flow per unit of economic activity. . . . A nation can therefore impose a heavy burden on the environment through any combination of high population growth, high consumption, and the inefficient use of materials and energy.
This simple formulation is complicated by one major factor: the environment and resource content of trade between nations. Economic activity today is concentrated in the world's urban/industrial regions. Few, if any, of these regions are ecologically self-contained. They breathe, drink, feed, and work on the ecological capital of their "hinterland," which also receives their accumulated wastes. At one time, the ecological hinterland of a community was confined to the areas immediately surrounding it, and that may still be true of some rural communities in____________________