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A geographical perspective on poverty–environment interactions

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This paper examines prevailing wisdoms on the topic of poverty–environmental interactions, problematizes some standard assumptions and interrogates the geographical literature on the subject. Dominant development discourse has tended to blame the poor for environmental degradation, ignoring the role of other processes and actors at various scales in causing environmental degradation. We examine how definitions of poverty, institutional arrangements, conventional economic models and assumed feedback loops may influence our understanding of poverty–environment interactions. The article gives particular attention to the political ecology approach as a lens through which this dynamic may be understood. Recent work in political ecology has broadened views of poverty–environment interactions by focusing on issues of power, scale and discourse in influencing outcomes and policies.

Keywords: environmental degradation; environmental discourse; political ecology; poverty

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Environmental Studies Institute, Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, CA 95053, USA, Email: 2: Department of Geography, Macalester College, 1600 Grand Avenue, St Paul, MN 55105-1899, USA, Email:

Publication date: March 1, 2005


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