Thursday, January 20, 2011

Impending problem anyone?

Hey friends, I wanted to share this idea with you guys from the book "Green Cities" by Matthew Kahn. The author discusses environmental issues from various perspectives, including an economic perspective.

The idea: The Environmental-Kutnetz Curve (EKC)

This is derived from the Kutnetz curve, where economic inequality increases for a short while during the development of a nation (estimated by average GDP), but eventually decreases as the nation becomes more wealthy- or something like that! Imagine inequality on the vertical, and GDP on the horizontal of a graph. Now imagine that the line is the top half of a circle, for a while the line goes up, but at about halfway it goes down.

This can be applied to the environment only on very small scales- not that of an entire nation, but rather individual cities (hence Green Cities). On the horizontal in average municipal GDP, and on the vertical is impact on the environment (with the same top-half of a circle graph). Simply stated, as people get richer their impact on the environment increases until, at some specific point in development, their increased income allows them to invest in more eco-friendly living-options and their effect on the environment diminishes (for more info, Wiki it!) There are obvious limitations to this- but that would require another blog post!

Example: Ottawa, Canada is a relatively wealthy city, when compared internationally, which is said to be a reason why there is a developing culture of eco-friendliness. On the other hand, Mexico City is a relatively poor city, thus their impact on the environment in much more profound. Simply: Ottawa is on the right half of the circle, and Mexico City is on the left.


You should. Guess where the vast majority of people in the world live? That's right- on the left side of the curve. This means that as countries develop higher average incomes they will purchase their way into wasteful practices and have a significant negative impact on the environment. In fact, the majority of the cities in the US do not actually qualify to be placed on the right side of the curve.

Something to think about while contemplating why humanity is reluctant to actually change our wasteful, consumerist habits in lieu of Planet Earth crying for help...most people can't afford to be eco-friendly.



  1. Doesn't matter - overpopulation will kill us first (somebody's got to say it)...

  2. I remember when you first shared this thought with me during the summer. Still as interesting now as it was then. Seeing as I have some free time I may try to read up on this... Thanks for sharing again Mike.