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Footprints on the Earth: The Environmental Consequences of Modernity

Author(s): Richard York, Eugene A. Rosa, Thomas Dietz

Source: American Sociological Review, Vol. 68, No. 2 (Apr., 2003), pp. 279-300
Published by: American Sociological Association
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Growing evidence demonstrating clear threats to the sustainability of the ecosystems

supporting human societies has given rise to a variety of sociological theories of
human-environment interactions. These environmental impact theories fall into three
general perspectives: human ecology, modernization, and political economy. These
theories, however, have not been empirically tested in a common analytic frame-
work. Here, a framework that relies on ecological principles is adopted and modi-
fied. Using a revised stochastic formulation of that framework and the most compre-
hensive measure of environmental impact to date-the ecological footprint-the
factors driving the environmental impacts of societies are assessed. The overall
findings support the claims of human ecologists, partially support the claims of
political economists, and contradict the claims of modernization theorists. Basic
material conditions, such as population, economic production, urbanization, and
geographicalfactors all affect the environment and explain the vast majority of
cross-national variation in environmental impact. Factors derived from neo-liberal
modernization theory, such as politicalfreedom, civil liberties, and state environ-
mentalism have no effect on impacts. Taken together, these findings suggest societies
cannot be sanguine about achieving sustainability via a continuation of current
trends in economic growth and institutional change.

HE HISTORY of sociology is punctu- stantial human impacts to ecosystems pre-

ated with the presupposition that the en- date the modem era by thousands of years
vironmental sustainability of societies is un- (Turner et al. 1991). However, the scale of
problematic (Buttel 1987; Dunlap 1997; those impacts has increased extraordinarily
Goldman and Schurman 2000). Ecological in the modern era, dramatically altering the
limits and threats to sustainability, principal global environment,including the land cover
lessons of the twentieth century, have seri- over vast areas of the earth (e.g., desertifica-
ously challenged that presupposition.' Sub- tion and deforestation), the number and dis-
tribution of species (e.g., extinction of flora
Direct all correspondenceto RichardYork, and fauna), the chemical composition of the
Departmentof Sociology,Universityof Oregon, atmosphere (e.g., ozone depletion and accu-
Eugene, OR 97403-1291 (rfyork@darkwing. mulation of greenhouse gases), and the thankKennethBollen, Brett availability of resources (Harrison and
Clark, Michael Dreiling, Riley Dunlap, John Pearce 2000; Turneret al. 1991; Vitousek et
Bellamy Foster, David John Frank, Theresa al. 1997).
Koford, Timmons Roberts, Thomas Rotolo,
Alexis Vasquez,and the ASREditors,a deputy The recognition that the ecological sustain-
editor, and the anonymousreviewers for their ability of human societies is now in serious
importantcontributions. question has given rise to sociological theo-
1 Nisbet
(1982), reflectingon the rise of the
twentiethcentury'sawarenessof environmental tieth centuryis finally written,the single most
limits and anticipatingthe judgmentsof future importantsocial movementof the periodwill be
historians,wrote:"Whenthe historyof the twen- judgedto be environmentalism" (p. 101).

rizing addressingthe role of the environment have taken place in ecological science within
in societies (Dunlap et al. 2002). One version the framework of the IPAT formulation
of this theorizing is the "greening"of classi- (Harrison and Pearce 2000; Ster, Young,
cal theory, a revisit to the mine of classic and Druckman 1992).2 IPAT specifies that
thoughtto excavate its previously overlooked environmentalImpacts are the multiplicative
environmental insights (e.g., see Dickens product of Population, Affluence (per capita
1992; Foster 1999). Another version-from consumptionor production),and Technology
the perspectives of human ecology, modern- (impact per unit of consumption or produc-
ization, and political economy, which is our tion), hence:
focus here-is devoted to understandinghow
I =PAT. (1)
humansocieties impact the physical environ-
ment. Taken together, we refer to these as IPAT analyses typically take the following
environmental impact theories. form (using carbon dioxide emissions as an
These environmental impact theories, example):
however, have not yet been empirically
tested in a common framework. Although CO2emissions = (Population)
x (GDP per capita)
these theories share important common x (C02 emissions per unit of GDP).
ground, on several key points they make
strikingly different predictions of how hu- This type of specification allows for assess-
mans affect the environment. Adopting a ing the potential effect on an impact of
framework from ecological science that re- changes in any of the independentvariables.
lies upon ecological principles, the IPAT However, the validity of the specification is
model-a well-known model in the natural assumed a priori.
sciences and in the emerging field of indus- Owing to its accounting formulation and
trial ecology (Graedel and Allenby 1995)- to its simple conceptualization (e.g., it omits
we assess the predictive capability of the en- many factors of interest to social scientists
vironmental impact theories. We use as our or subsumes them in the T term), IPAThas
indicator of environmental impact the "eco- not received widespread attention in sociol-
logical footprint," the most comprehensive ogy. But, because the IPATframework cap-
measure of environmentalimpacts available. tures fundamental features of ecological
This measure allows comparison across principles, our approach is to reformulate
types of impacts by estimating the quantity IPAT in stochastic form and to refine it so
of land that would be requiredto supportthe that it is amenable to the testing of sociologi-
material consumption of a nation. cal theory. The modified IPAT-called
We assess the relative explanatory power STIRPAT-can serve as a common analytic
of the leading environmentalimpact theories frameworkfor assessing the empiricalexpec-
in five steps. First, we outline the IPAT tations of a variety of sociological theories.
framework, demonstrate its amenability to
sociological analyses, and develop a model THE REFORMULATIONOF IPAT
appropriatefor empirical testing. Second, we
describe our measure of environmental im- In its original form IPATis inappropriatefor
pact, the ecological footprint. Third, we pro- hypothesis testing because it is an account-
vide a synopsis of each impact theory to be ing equation or identity (i.e., it specifies the
tested. Fourth, we enter the key theoretical relationship between I and P, A, and T as
variables into our analytic framework.Fifth, proportional a priori and assumes no error
we use the analytic frameworkto assess each term). To overcome the limitations of the
of the theory's predictions. IPATmodel, Dietz and Rosa (1994) reformu-
lated the basic model in stochastic terms.
2 EhrlichandHoldren
FRAMEWORK (1970, 1972) were first
with the idea of IPAT,while Commoner(1971)
What are the driving forces that produce the and Commoner, Corr, and Stamler (1971) were
environmental impacts threatening sustain- first with its algebraic formulation and its appli-
ability? Decades of debate over this question cation to data analysis.

The resulting model, named STIRPAT (for 1.0 (but greater than 0) indicate that impact
STochastic Impacts by Regression on Popu- increases less rapidly than the driving force.
lation, Affluence, and Technology [Rosa and Negative coefficients are mathematically
Dietz 1998]), has been used successfully to possible, and some theories imply them.
estimate national CO2 emissions (Dietz and The inclusion of quadratic or other poly-
Rosa 1997) and the emission of other pollut- nomial versions of the logarithms of the
ants (Rosa, York, and Dietz 2001). Unlike driving forces in the model, when it is theo-
IPAT,the STIRPATmodel is not an account- retically appropriate, can complicate the
ing equation, but can be used to test hypoth- straightforwardinterpretation of the STIR-
eses and develop a more sophisticated and PAT coefficients (Dietz and Rosa 1997).
subtle analysis than can be done with the Nevertheless, a quadratic version of some
original I = PATformulation. The specifica- variables is appropriate for testing the ex-
tion of the STIRPATmodel is: pectations of certain environmental impact
theories, specifically those that predict a
Ii = a PibAiCTidei. (2) nonmonotonic relationship between impact
The constant a scales the model; b, c, and d and indicators of modernization.
are the exponents of P, A, and T; and e is the
error term (the IPATmodel in equation 1 as-
sumes a = b = c = d = e = 1). The subscripti
indicates that these quantities (I, P, A, and T) Pivotal to assessing the sustainability of so-
vary across observational units. For hypoth- cieties (nations in our analysis), whether by
esis testing in an additive regression model, STIRPATor any other means, is a measure
all factors are converted to natural loga- that provides a comprehensive indication of
rithms. T is typically included in the error environmental impacts. There are two key
term, ratherthan being estimated separately, considerations in the selection of a proper
as there is no clear consensus on valid tech- measure. First, because nations may import
nology indicators (below, we disaggregate T resources and export wastes (i.e., resources
by including additional factors in the model and wastes, and therefore ecological im-
that can be conceptualized as influencing pacts, flow between borders) we must look
impact per unit of consumption). These beyond national borders for impacts. There-
modifications yield the following model: fore, focusing only on impacts within a na-
tion (e.g., deforestation, air pollution) con-
ln(l) = a + b[ln(P)] + c[ln(A)] + e. (3) founds two processes: the location of envi-
In this model, a and e are the natural loga- ronmentalimpacts, and the decisions and ac-
rithms of a and e in equation 2 above. In log tions that generate environmental impacts.
form, the driving force coefficients (b and c) Second, we must look at the total environ-
indicate the percentage change in I in re- mental impact of a society or nation, not
sponse to a 1-percent change in the driving simply one type of impact (e.g., forest ex-
force, with other factors held constant. This ploitation), as one type of impact may de-
is similar to elasticity models commonly crease because another increases (e.g., a
used in economics (York, Rosa, and Dietz shift from wood to fossil fuel as a primary
2001). Also, this model allows the addition energy source may decrease impacts to for-
of sociological or other control factors by ests but can increase emissions of pollutants)
entering them into the basic formula (equa- (York, Rosa, and Dietz 2002).
tion 3), although care should be taken to en- One measure that addresses these consid-
sure that additional factors are conceptually erations is the "ecological footprint"3
consistent with the multiplicative specifica- (Wackernageland Rees 1996). The ecologi-
tion of the model. Similar to the interpreta- cal footprint is an aggregate measure that re-
tion of elasticity coefficients in economics, flects the fact that land is a basis for the
if STIRPATcoefficients (b and c) equal 1.0,
impact has a proportionalrelationship to the 3 For a complete descriptionof the method
driving force (P or A). Values greater than used to calculate ecological footprints, see
1.0 indicate that impact increases more rap- Wackernagel,Onistoet al. (1999) andChambers,
idly than the driving force; values less than Simmons,andWackernagel(2000).

three functional benefits provided to humans graphically. Another strength is that it pro-
by the environment: living space, source of vides a common unit of measurement (pro-
resources, and sink for wastes. Productive ductive land area) for comparing diverse
land is, therefore, a reasonable proxy for the types of impacts. There are six types of pro-
natural capital and services provided by the ductive areas that are aggregated to arrive at
environment. Calculation of the ecological the total ecological footprint: (1) cropland,
footprint is based on the fact that it is pos- (2) grazing land, (3) forest, (4) fishing
sible to track most resource flows, resources ground,5 (5) built-up land, and (6) the land
consumed, and waste flows. These flow and area requiredto absorb carbon dioxide emis-
consumption patterns can be converted into sions from the use of fossil fuel.6 By com-
the biologically productive land areas nec- bining diverse impacts into a single indica-
essary to provide these survival benefits. tor, the ecological footprint does not ignore
The ecological footprint is calculated by trades-offs between different types of im-
"adding up the areas (adjusted for their bio- pacts.7
logical productivity) that are necessary to Although it includes many types of im-
provide us with all the ecological services we pacts, the ecological footprint does not in-
consume" (Wackernagel, Onisto et al. clude all impacts. For example, pollution
1999:377). It represents the amount of bio- from hazardous substances and waste from
logically productive space at world average 5 It may strikesome readersas odd to include
productivity,typically measured in hectares, waterareain theecologicalfootprintbecausewa-
to support the average individual in a given
ter volume may seem to be a more appropriate
society. For example, a recent estimate of indicatorof biological productivity.However,
global productive land per capita is 2.1 hect- solarenergyis thebasicsourceof biologicalpro-
ares, while the global footprintper capita (the ductivity,and the amountof solar energyinput
amountof land necessary to sustainably sup- dependson surfacearea,not volume(Chambers
port an average global citizen) is approxi- et al. 2000; Wackernagel and Rees 1996;
mately 2.8 hectares (Wackernagel,Onisto et Wackernagel,Onistoet al. 1999).
al. 1999).4 These calculations can be used as 6 The componentsof the ecological footprint
a benchmarkfor assessing the sustainability includea weightingsystemto take into account
of all nation-states; nations with ecological the fact thatdifferenttypes of land varyin pro-
ductivity. The ecological footprint for each type
footprints at or below 2.1 hectares per capita of land is scaled to its productivity relative to the
have a global impact that could be replicated worldwide average productivity of all land (in-
by all other nations without threateninglong- cluding water). For example, arable land is more
term sustainabilityif populationgrowth were productive than other types of land, therefore, an
halted. Examples of recent per capita eco- amount of consumption requiring one hectare of
logical footprints are 12.2 for the United arable land would have an ecological footprint
States, 6.3 for Germany, 1.8 for China, and larger than one hectare, reflecting the productiv-
.6 (the lowest) for Bangladesh (Wackernagel, ity of arable land relative to the average produc-
Linares et al. 2000). tivity of all land on earth. Built-up land is treated
as arable land because cities have historically de-
One strength of using the ecological foot-
veloped in agriculturallyrich areas.
print as a measure of impact is that it ac- 7 The ecological footprint is well-regarded in
counts for impacts wherever they occur geo- scientific and environmental circles, but it is not
without criticism. Van den Bergh and
4 It is possiblefor the total global footprintto Verbruggen (1999) have questioned whether dif-
temporarilyexceed the availableproductiveland ferent types of resource consumption, and par-
areabecausesome resourcesarebeing extracted ticularly land needed to absorb CO2, can be ap-
fasterthantheyarebeingreplenished(e.g., forest propriately combined into a single indicator
products).Furthermore, the footprintincludesthe based on estimates of the productive land area
amountof landnecessaryto absorbcarbondiox- (weighted by biological productivity) requiredto
ide emissions. Currently,carbondioxide emis- produce the resources consumed. Nevertheless,
sions are in excess of biological sequestration, many researchers from a variety of fields defend
thereforecarbondioxide is accumulatingin the the methodology and usefulness of the ecologi-
atmosphere,andourtotalfootprint(includingour cal footprint, and it remains widely regarded as
fossil fuel footprint)exceeds the availablepro- the best available comprehensive indicator of en-
ductivecapacityof the earth. vironmental impact (Ferguson 2002).

nuclear energy generation are not included mans from other species, this unique capac-
in the ecological footprint. Furthermore,the ity is always bounded by the limits imposed
ecological footprintis an indicatorof anthro- by ecological conditions. Hence, human
pogenic pressure on the environment,not the ecologists emphasize an ecological founda-
actual consequences of that pressure (i.e., it tion for understandingthe driving forces of
does not directly measure deforestation, spe- anthropogenic environmental impacts, with
cies extinction, climate change, etc., but the expectation that key social and political
rather the factors that generate these prob- variables may mediate, and perhaps partially
lems, such as the consumption of wood and counteract, those impacts but will not fun-
crops and the combustion of fossil fuel). The damentally overcome them.
validity of the ecological footprint is sup- Consistent with a neo-Malthusianperspec-
portable on empirical grounds. The national tive, human ecologists stress the importance
ecological footprint is highly correlatedwith of population size, growth, density, and
other key environmental impacts, such as structure for explaining environmental im-
national emissions of ozone depleting sub- pacts (Catton 1980; Dietz and Rosa 1994;
stances (r = .78) and nuclear power genera- Duncan 1959, 1961, 1964; Harrison 1993).
tion (r = .74).8 Human ecology also incorporates biophysi-
cal factors, such as climate and biogeogra-
ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT phy, as contexts in which social factors drive
environmental impacts (Diamond 1997;
Dietz and Rosa 1994; Duncan 1959, 1961,
We now have a robust analytic framework 1964; Freese 1997a, 1997b; Harris 1971,
(STIRPAT) and a comprehensive impact 1979; Harrison 1993; Hawley 1950, 1986;
measure (the ecological footprint) for assess- Richerson and Boyd 2000; Rosa and Dietz
ing the variety of environmental impact 1998). Human ecology suggests that climate
theories. We begin that assessment with a may play an important role in influencing
synopsis of three major theoretical perspec- patterns of geographic and economic devel-
tives: human ecology, modernization, and opment in ways that are consequential for
political economy. understandingenvironmental impacts.


Human ecology applies ecological principles
to the understanding of human societies ECONOMICMODERNIZATION. Environmen-
(Freese 1997a, 1997b). Human ecologists tal economists from the neoclassical tradi-
argue that although the capacity for technol- tion, while acknowledging that economic de-
ogy, organization, and culture distances hu- velopment has generated environmental
8 Data on nuclear problems, arguethat furthereconomic devel-
power generationare from opment can solve these problems ratherthan
ozone-depletingsubstancesare from Prescott- adding to them (Grossman and Krueger
Allen (2001). These correlationsare significant 1995). Environmental quality is assumed to
at an alphalevel of p < .001. Also note thatthe be a luxury good, affordable and of interest
ecologicalfootprintcorrelatesvery strongly(r = only to affluent societies. Government and
.99) withnationalCO2emissions(datafromWRI business are expected to become concerned
2000). This very high correlationbetween the with, and have the means for protecting, the
ecologicalfootprintandCO2emissionsis notsur- environmentonce a certain level of affluence
prising,as a large componentof the ecological is obtained. When the requisite affluence is
footprintis derivedfromfossil energyconsump- reached,public concern, pressureby nongov-
tion. Indeed,49 percentof the total global eco-
ernmental organizations (NGOs), and gov-
logical footprintis accountedfor by land neces- ernmentpolicies will make the mitigation of
sary to absorbCO2emissions. However,if the
fossil energycomponentof the ecological foot- environmental problems cost-effective and
printis removed,the ecologicalfootprintis still will lead business to invest in environmental
very highly correlated(r = .94) with CO2emis- protection (e.g., the development of "green"
sions. technologies). The expected consequence of

E \

'U / \

Economic Development
Figure1. The TheoreticalEffectof EconomicDevelopmenton Environmental

this process is a decline in environmental Neoclassical economic reasoning also

impacts. The primaryfactors that hinder this suggests other structural factors that may
process are restrictions on free markets. lead to the reduction of environmental im-
Therefore, from this perspective, economic pacts in developed nations. The shift occur-
modernization (i.e., the development of free ring away from manufacturing economies
marketsand economic growth) is key to solv- and toward service economies is commonly
ing environmental problems. identified as a potential solution to environ-
This perspective suggests that the relation- mental problems, because service economies
ship between economic development and en- are presumed to be less dependent on natu-
vironmental impacts may produce an in- ral resources than are industrial economies
verted-U shaped curve (the solid line in Fig- (Organization for Economic Co-operation
ure 1)-in other words, impacts increase in and Development [OECD] 1998).10 Some
early stages of development,but level off and have even suggested that capitalism itself
then decline as economies mature(Grossman may lead to environmental improvement on
and Krueger 1995). This proposed relation- the assumption that, in capitalist economies,
ship between economic development and en- business has a strong incentive to invest in
vironmental impacts is known as the envi- research and development that can lead to
ronmental Kuznets curve, named for econo- technological innovations (Samuelson and
mist Simon Kuznets (1955) who demon- Nordhaus 1992; Simon 1981, 1996). In con-
stratedthis type of relationshipbetween eco- trolled economies, no such incentive exists
nomic growth and income inequality.9 as inventors do not necessarily profit from
their inventions. Capitalist nations, then,
should be at the forefront of developing en-
9 Nordstromand Vaughan(1999) and Stern
vironmentally benign or even ameliorating
(1998) provide summaries of environmental
Kuznetscurve theory and research.Ecological technologies because such technologies are
Economics(vol. 25, no. 2, 1998)publisheda spe- potentially highly profitable.
cial issue on the environmentalKuznetscurve,
whichprovidesa diversityof perspectiveson the 10Salzman(2000) presentsempiricalevidence
issue. this expectation.

ECOLOGICAL MODERNIZATION THEORY. man relationship to the environment, which

Ecological modernization theory11was de- are necessary to avert an ecological crisis,
veloped by sociologists and makes predic- can occur without restructuringall aspects of
tions similar to those of neoclassical econo- society, as proposed by neo-Marxists.
mists. It is not, however, as economically Through the "refinement of production,"
deterministic as the economic modernization superindustrialization can come about, in
perspective, focusing rather on the restruc- which productionsystems become extremely
turing of institutions that accompanies mod- efficient, minimizing environmentalimpacts
ernization. The theory seeks to explain the (Mol 1995).
dynamics and effects of modernization on DEMOCRACY AND THE STATE. Govern-
the environment. Its theorists argue that, ments are often important actors that influ-
contrary to what many environmentalists ence the emergence of ecological reforms
and neo-Marxists claim, advanced capital- (Goldman 2001; Mol and Spaargaren2000).
ism and the institutions of modernity are not Ecological modernization theory, like some
in fundamental conflict with the environ- versions of the environmentalKuznets curve
ment (Christoff 1996; Cohen 1999; Hajer theory, assumes that state environmentalism
1995; Mol 1995, 2001; Mol and Sonnenfeld and subsequent policy efforts can lead to a
2000; Mol and Spaargaren2000; Sonnenfeld "greening"of production.12Furthermore,the
1998; Spaargaren 1997; Spaargaren, Mol, efforts of NSMs, NGOs, and concerned in-
and Buttel 2000). Although agreeing that dividuals are often identified as key forces
moder societies have caused substantialen- driving industry and government to address
vironmental problems in the past, ecological ecological problems (Mol 1995, 2001; Mol
modernization theory argues that further and Sonnenfeld 2000; Sonnenfeld 1998;
modernization can solve those problems as Spaargaren et al. 2000).13 Hence, political
nation-states and industrial firms come to freedom and civil liberties are expected to
recognize the importance of environmental lead to environmental reforms because they
sustainability to their long-term survival. provide a context in which NSMs, NGOs,
A central tenet of the theory is that mod- and individuals can influence policy and in-
ernization will lead industryto become more stitutional behavior.
ecologically rational, that is, to weigh the SUMMARY OF THE MODERNIZATION PER-
costs and benefits of ecological disruption SPECTIVE.While there are some differences
and take steps to minimize environmental across theorists, the key assumption of the
externalities, just as modernization also modernization perspective is that global en-
drives industry to be more economically ra- vironmentalproblems can be solved through
tional (Mol 1995). Thus, ecological modern- existing and/or slightly modified social, po-
ization theory proposes that as industrial litical, and economic institutions, without re-
processes mature, ecological impacts may nouncing economic growth, capitalism, and
decrease dramaticallyas production systems globalization. In fact, the modernizationper-
are restructuredalong ecologically rational spective suggests that further development
lines. Institutionalrestructuring,technologi- and modernization may alleviate environ-
cal innovation, market forces, the efforts of mental problems ratherthan adding to them.
new social movements (NSMs), and govern-
ment regulation are the factors that drive this 12The "worldcivil
process. Hence, according to ecological similarassumptionsregardingthe potentialfor
modernization theory, in moder industrial stateenvironmentalism to mitigateenvironmen-
societies further modernization is necessary tal impacts(Frank,Hironaka,andSchofer2000).
to reduce environmentalimpacts. The theory 13 Beyond our considerationhere is a social

suggests that substantial changes in the hu- structural version of environmental impact
theory, the "reflexivemodernization"of Euro-
peantheoristsUlrichBeck ([1986] 1992, [1991]
ll Germantheorist 1995, 1997) and AnthonyGiddens(1990, 1991,
JosephHuberis generally
considered the founder of ecological moderniza- [1999] 2000) that makes argumentssimilar to
tion theory (Mol and Spaargaren 2000). How- ecological modernizationtheory regardingthe
ever, the theory has grown and changed substan- potential for political freedom and individual
tially because of the input of other theorists. rights to spur ecological reforms.

In addition to economic development (usu- crease in worker productivity.Governments,

ally measured as GDP per capita), one im- too, support increased production because it
portant indicator of modernization used by increases tax revenues, thereby providing
ecological modernization theorists is urban- them with the means to fund social and envi-
ization because it is associated with many of ronmental policies. Through the continual
the institutions of modernity (Ehrhardt- expansion of production, the treadmill in-
Martinez 1998, 1999; Ehrhardt-Martinez, creases environmental impacts by placing
Crenshaw, and Jenkins 2002; Kasarda and greaterdemandson resources and by produc-
Crenshaw 1991). Furthermore,the rise of the ing greater volumes of waste.
service economy, the expansion of political Schnaiberg (1975, 1980), then, identifies
rights and civil liberties, and state environ- a fundamentalconflict: the dialectic between
mentalism are all expected to help curb en- society and the environment-between eco-
vironmental impacts. nomic production and ecosystems. Contrary
to ecological modernization theory,
THE POLITICALECONOMYPtir"s#"CTIVE Schnaiberg argues that producers will not
willingly internalize the environmentalcosts
The political economy perspective, as ap- of production because doing so would re-
plied to the environment, argues that envi- duce profits, the primaryconcern of produc-
ronmental exploitation is driven by the ers. Furthermore, because of the political
structure of market economies, the institu- power of the economic elite, reform-oriented
tions of modernity, and the relentless com- social and political action is unlikely to sub-
mitment to growth inherent in modern, par- stantially alter the power of producers or to
ticularly capitalist, production systems reduce environmentalexternalities. From the
(O'Connor 1988; Roberts and Grimes 2002; treadmill perspective, the only solution to
Schnaiberg 1980). Schnaiberg and Gould the "enduring conflict" (Schnaiberg and
(Schnaiberg 1980; Schnaiberg and Gould Gould 1994) between society and the envi-
1994), and O'Connor (1988, 1994, 1998) are ronment is to radically restructuresociety so
the most widely recognized advocates of this as to limit the hegemony of producers.
position in sociology, although it was first O'Connor (1988, 1994, 1998), after Marx
clearly articulatedby Anderson (1976). The ([1867] 1967) and echoing the work of
political economy perspective, in the form of Schnaiberg and colleagues, argues that mod-
world-system theory, has also been applied ern productioneconomies, particularlycapi-
to the global economy, rather than simply talist ones, are growth dependent. Producers
national economies, providing further in- continually seek to reduce the costs of pro-
sights into the factors that generate environ- duction, especially by reducing labor costs
mental impacts (Roberts and Grimes 2002). with improved technology. This leads to un-
THE TREADMILL OF PRODUCTION AND employment and, concomitantly,to a decline
THE SECOND CONTRADICTION OF CAPITAL. in the numberof consumers with incomes to
ISM.For Schnaiberg and Gould (Schnaiberg purchase the goods produced. The result is
1980; Schnaiberg and Gould 1994) the the first contradiction of capitalism: a de-
"treadmillof production"is the driving force mand crisis in which production and con-
behind modern economies-and ultimately sumption are unbalanced.
environmental impacts as well. To maintain One potential route out of this crisis is to
profits, producers must constantly seek to expand markets. However, expansion is lim-
expand production. Seeking to expand pro- ited because the number of markets is
duction while lowering costs, producers in- bounded and naturalresources are ultimately
vest in economically efficient technologies finite. This leads to O'Connor's (1988,
that have higher yields per unit of labor.This 1994) second contradiction of capitalism:
results in the displacement of "costly" work- Escalating production depletes the natural
ers, and the only way to absorb the displaced resources required to sustain production,
workers is to further expand production. which escalates costs and results in shrink-
Workers, seeking to avoid unemployment, ing profits. The continued depletion of re-
are trappedinto supportingthe increasedpro- sources can lead to an environmental crisis,
duction necessary to compensate for the in- as nature's capital and services are lost.

The fundamental assumption of the politi- economically, politically, and militarily by

cal economy perspective is that economic wealthy nations (Wallerstein 1974). The
production is in fundamental conflict with theory sees nations as divided roughly into
ecological limits. The only way to prevent three basic structurallocations: core, semi-
further ecological deterioration is to curb periphery,and periphery.Wealthy influential
economic growth in its traditional form. nations, such as the United States, Japan,
Technology that improves the efficiency of and most western European nations, are the
resource use, superficially appearing to re- core nations that largely control trade rela-
duce environmental impacts, only serves to tionships with other nations and dominate
ultimately increase impacts because the re- politics. Peripheralnations, such as most na-
sulting increased profits are inevitably rein- tions in sub-Saharan Africa, have small,
vested to increase production (often in a dif- typically minimally industrialized, econo-
ferent industry or firm) and thereby acceler- mies and lack global political power. Semi-
ate growth and expand impacts.14This is a peripheralnations, such as emerging econo-
point often missed by ecological moderniza- mies like Brazil and Mexico, occupy a posi-
tion theorists: The political economy per- tion of intermediate power relative to the
spective focuses on economy-wide impacts, core and the periphery.
not necessarily on the impacts of any one in- Consistent with the political economy
dustry or firm. From a political economy perspective, world-system theory identifies
perspective, ecological modernization theo- economic production as the primary driving
rists (e.g., Mol 1995; Sonnenfeld 1998) are force behind environmental impacts. How-
typically using the wrong unit of analysis ever, the theory adds a key point: Core na-
when they focus on transformations in a tions are the predominant global producers
single industry. and consumers, but they extract the basic
WORLDSYSTEM THEORY. World-system resources they need for production (e.g.,
theory applies the logic of the neo-Marxist timber, minerals) from, and export (often
political economy perspective at a global hazardous) waste to, peripheral nations
scale and has recently extended its reach to (Bunker 1984, 1985; Frey 1994, 1995,
examine environmental impacts (Bunker 1998a, b). Thus, for world-system theory,
1984, 1985; Burs et al. 1994; Kick et al. evidence demonstrating an environmental
1996; Roberts and Grimes 2002). The cen- Kuznets curve of reduced environmental
tral point of world-system theory is that all impacts in core nations via ecological mod-
nations of the world are organized into a ernization is spurious. Indeed, Roberts and
single global economy that is dominated Grimes (1997) have shown that, for carbon
dioxide emissions, the overall pattern of an
14That improvementsin efficiency increase environmental Kuznets curve can be ex-
resourceuse is knownas the "JevonsParadox" plained by nations at different positions in
(Clarkand Foster 2001). Jevons ([1865] 2001) the world-system being locked into differ-
observedthatincreasesin the efficiency of coal ent trajectories of fossil fuel use. Evidence
use did not lead to decreasesin coal consump-
of an environmental Kuznets curve typi-
tion, but rather,increasedthe total amountof
coal consumedbecausegreaterefficiency made cally has been found only for local impacts,
coal use morecost effective and thereforemore which calls into question whether develop-
desirableto industrialconsumersas a fuel source. ment ultimately reduces impacts or simply
This argumentis supportedby Bunker's(1996) shifts them elsewhere (Nordstrom and
findingthat,historically,resourceefficiencyhas Vaughan 1999; Rothman 1998; Stern 1998).
steadilyimproved(i.e., resourceuse per unit of The assumption that impacts are geographi-
productionhas decreased),while total resource cally coterminous with the populations
use has continuallyincreasedbecauseeconomic
causing them is fundamentally flawed-an
expansionhas outstrippedimprovementsin effi- example of the "Netherlands fallacy"15
nology offers no real solution-while it may re-
duce the impactper unitof production,it cannot 15The termrefersto the fact thatthe Nether-
keep pace with increasesin the volume of pro- landsimportsmostof its resources,andtherefore
ductionthateventuallyoutstripany savingsfrom its nationalenvironmentalimpactsextend well
improvementsin efficiency. beyondits borders.

(Ehrlich and Holdren 1971). Similar to ables are in a form conceptually appropriate
Rothman's (1998) argument, world-system for the multiplicative specification of the
theory argues that core nations have the STIRPAT model. All continuous variables
power to distance themselves from the im- are in natural logarithmic form. Variables
pacts they generate, and it is, therefore, that are difficult to interpret in logarithmic
misleading to focus only on the impacts a form or otherwise do not fit the multiplica-
society generates within its national bor- tive model in their original units are coded
ders. to a series of dummy variables. Dummy
The general logic of world-system theory variables are easy to interpret in the STIR-
argues that a focus on total impacts, those PAT model-the antilog (ex) of the coeffi-
generated within and beyond national bor- cient for the dummy variable is the multi-
ders, is essential to a theoretical understand- plier when the variable is coded 1, relative
ing of threats to sustainability. The political to when the variable is coded 0.
economy perspective anticipates that envi- HUMAN ECOLOGY VARIABLES. We use
ronmental impacts will continually increase population size and the percentage of the
with economic growth, but will not occur population aged 15 to 65 (i.e., the non-
entirely within the borders of the nations dependentpopulation) to assess neo-Malthu-
generating the economic growth. The dotted sian and human ecological predictions. We
curve in Figure 1 illustrates this expecta- use the predominantlatitude of a nation and
tion-a clear contrast with the environmen- land area per capita (the inverse of density)
tal Kuznets curve hypothesis. to control for basic climate and biogeogra-
PERSPECTIVE. The political economy per- MODERNIZATION VARIABLES. We use
spective identifies economic growth as the GDP per capita as the indicator of eco-
key driving force behind environmental im- nomic development, and the quadratic of
pacts. Although this traditionemphasizes the GDP per capita (centered before squaring)
inherent anti-ecological nature of capitalis- to allow for a nonmonotonic relationship
tic growth, the argumentscan be generalized between development and impacts. As an
to include all moder growth-dependentpro- indicator of economic structure,we include
duction economies. The fundamentalpoint is the percentage of GDP not in the service
that technological development and reform- sector to test for predictions regarding the
oriented policy will not solve the problem of purportedameliorating effect on impacts of
environmental degradation. The fundamen- a shift to a service economy. We use the
tal solution rests on a restructuringof soci- percentage of the population living in urban
eties away from economic expansion and to- areas as a general indicator of moderniza-
ward ecological sustainability. tion, and the quadratic of the percentage of
the population living in urban areas (cen-
tered before squaring) to allow for a non-
monotonic relationship as predicted by
We are now in a position to assess our se- some modernization theorists (Ehrhardt-
lected environmental impact theories by Martinez 1998; Ehrhardt-Martinez et al.
mapping their variables into the STIRPAT 2002).
framework. To assess predictions from ecological
modernization theory regarding the effects
of neoliberal political freedoms, we use in-
dicators for both political rights and civil
For our independentand dependentvariables liberties, each of which we code into three
we use 1996 data (see Table 1 for data dummy variables, because it is not necessar-
sources and variable descriptions) where ily reasonable to assume that impacts are a
available-as it is for most variables, includ- straightforwardmultiplicative function of a
ing the ecological footprint, for most na- variable measured on an ordinal scale. To
tions-and substitute earlier data or interpo- assess expectations about the effects of state
late values by averaging values for other commitment to environmental protection,
years where necessary. Note that all vari- we use an indicator of state environmental-

Table 1. Description of the Variables Used in the Analysis

Variable Description Transformation Data Source

Ecological Landarea in hectares Logged. For five cases, one or two Wackernagel,
footprint requiredto support of the six componentsof the total Linares,et al.
consumptionof nation- ecological footprintwere imputed (2000)
state (1996). (becausethey were missing).

Population 1996 population(1000s). Logged. United Nations
Division (1998)
Nondependent Percentageof popula- Logged. WRI (1996)
population tion aged 15-65 (1995).
Landareaper Landareain hectares Logged. WRI (1998)
capita per capita.
Latitude Distance from equator Dummyvariablescoded into three Espenshade
as indicatorof climate. categories based on the predominant (1993)
latitudeof nation:arctic (> 55 de-
grees), temperate(30-55 degrees),
and tropical(<30 degrees). Tropical
is the referencecategory.
GDP per capita Per capita gross domes- Logged. Interpolatedfrom 1995 WRI (1998,
tic productin purchas- and 1997 values. 2000)
ing power parity(1996).
Quadraticof GDP [log (GDP per capita) The log of GDP per capitacentered WRI (1998,
per capita - Mean]2 by subtractingthe mean of the log 2000)
of GDP per capitaand then squared
to reducecollinearitywith GDP
per capita.
Percentagenon- Percentageof GDP not Logged. Interpolatedfrom 1995 and WRI (1998,
service GDP in service sector (1996). 1997 values. The values for three 2000)
cases were imputedbased on values
of other independentvariables.

Capitalistnation Dummy variable. If nationis reportedas "capitalist," FreedomHouse

"mixed-capitalist,"or "capitalist- (1997)
statist,"then the variableequals
1; otherwiseit equals 0.
Percentageurban Percentof population Logged. WRI (1996)
living in urbanareas
Quadraticof [log (Percentage urban) The log of percentageurbancentered WRI (1996)
percentage - Mean]2 by subtractingthe mean of the log of
urban percentageurbanand then squaredto
reduce collinearitywith percentageurban.
World-system Estimatebased on the Dummyvariablescoded into three WRI (2000)
position amountof "official de- categories:core = nationsthat are
velopmentassistance" not net recipientsof assistance;semi-
and "official assistance" periphery= nationsthat are net recip-
a nationgives or ients but the assistanceis less than
receives (1995-1997). .5 percentof their GDP; and perip-
hery = all other nations.Periphery
is the referencecategory.

(Continuedon nextpage)

(Table1 continuedfrompreviouspage)
Variable Description Transformation Data Source

Political rights Reflects whethera Dummyvariablescoded into three FreedomHouse
nationis governedby categoriesbased on original7-point (1997)
democraticallyelected scale: free (1-2), partiallyfree (3-5),
representativesand or not free (6-7). Not free is the
has fair, open, and referencecategory.
inclusive elections
Civil liberties Reflects whether Dummyvariablescoded into three FreedomHouse
within a nationthere categoriesbased on original7-point (1997)
is freedomof the press, scale: free (1-2), partiallyfree (3-5),
freedomof assembly or not free (6-7). Not free is the
and demonstration, referencecategory.
doms, freedomof
and propertyrights
State environ- Index based on state's Dummyvariablescoded on dividing Robertsand
mentalism participationin 16 the index into equal thirdsreflecting Vasquez (2002)
environmentaltreaties. degree of environmentalism:high,
medium,and low (referencecategory).

ism (coded into dummy variables) based on ANALYSIS

participationin environmental treaties.16
POLITICAL ECONOMY VARIABLES. The We apply the STIRPAT model using ordi-
most important variable for assessing the nary-least-squares (OLS) regression to ex-
predictions of the "treadmillof production" amine the effect of theoretically relevant
is GDP per capita. As an indicator of politi- variables on the ecological footprint. We in-
cal economy, we include a dummy variable clude in our sample all nations for which
indicating whether a nation is predominantly requisite data could be obtained-a total of
capitalist (political economic and modern- 142 nations (see Table 2)-which contain
ization theories predict opposite signs for more than 97 percent of the world's popula-
this variable). As an indicator of position in tion and economic output. We look at six
the world-system (i.e., dependency status), models: Model 1, the saturatedmodel, which
we use official development assistance and includes all independent variables; Model 2,
official assistance to generate three dummy
variables: core nations, semiperipheral na-
moderately strong correlation with total external
tions, and peripheralnations.17 debt as a percentage of GDP (r = .53, N = 110, p
< .001), and breaks nations into world-system
16The indicator we use,
developed by Roberts categories that are consistent with other analyses.
and Vasquez (2002), is an updated version of the For example, a three-point ordinal variable (core,
index developed by Dietz and Kalof (1992). semiperiphery, periphery) generated from the of-
17For indicators of world-system position, we ficial development assistance and official assis-
considered using, in addition to official develop- tance as percentage of GDP (which we used to
ment assistance and official assistance, total ex- generate our dummy variables) is highly corre-
ternal debt. We do not use total external debt be- lated (r = .74, N = 96, p < .001) with Snyder and
cause data are missing for an unacceptably high Kick's (1979) codings as modified by Bollen
number of nations (32), most of which are devel- (1983) on the same three-point scale. Also, we
oped nations. Official development assistance note that using total external debt as the world-
and official assistance as a percentage of GDP is system position indicator does not substantively
available for all nations in our sample, has a alter our results.

Table 2. Nations in the Sample (N = 142), Including the Antilog of Residuals for Model 4 (Table 3)

Country Antilog | Country Antilog I Country Antilog I Country Antilog

Albania .92 Egypt 1.05 Lebanon .79 Senegal .90
Algeria .62 El Salvador 1.12 Lesotho 1.22 Sierra Leone .88
Angola .82 Eritea .82 Lithuania 1.28 Singapore 1.89
Argentina .76 Estonia 1.72 Macedonia 1.09 Slovakia 1.15
Armenia .69 Ethiopia 1.24 Madagascar 1.11 Slovenia .98
Australia .95 Finland 1.08 Malawi 1.17 Somalia 1.11
Austria .80 France 1.05 Malaysia 1.37 South Africa 1.35
Azerbaijan 1.12 Gabon .88 Mali 1.05 Spain .86
Bangladesh .69 Gambia .97 Mauritania .81 Sri Lanka .65
Belarus 1.52 Georgia .73 Mauritius .71 Sudan 1.17
Belgium .68 Germany .83 Mexico .93 Sweden .93
Benin 1.00 Ghana 1.05 Moldova Rep. 1.07 Switzerland .87
Bhutan .75 Greece 1.05 Mongolia 1.87 Syria 1.28
Bolivia .71 Guatemala .97 Morocco .68 Tajikistan .73
Botswana .77 Guinea .95 Mozambique .85 Tanzania 1.32
Brazil .91 Guinea Bissau .87 Myanmar 1.16 Thailand 1.17
Bulgaria 1.11 Haiti .81 Nepal 1.14 Togo .86
Burkina Faso 1.04 Honduras 1.12 Netherlands .79 Trinidad/Tobago .78
Burundi 1.00 Hungary 1.25 New Zealand 1.26 Tunisia .75
Cambodia .89 Iceland .52 Nicaragua .90 Turkey .84
Cameroon .70 India 1.02 Niger 1.18 Turkmenistan 1.59
Canada .80 Indonesia .88 Nigeria 1.44 Uganda 1.09
Cent. Afr. Rep. .95 Iran .98 Norway .69 Ukraine 1.89
Chad .79 Ireland 1.50 Oman 1.61 UnitedArab 2.76
Chile .61 Israel .87 Pakistan 1.09 Emirates

China .89 Italy .81 Panama .88 United Kingdom .90

Colombia .60 Jamaica 1.29 PapuaNew Guinea .96 United States 1.46
Congo Dem. Rep. .92 Japan .78 Paraguay 1.48 Uruguay .99
Congo Rep. .80 Jordan .74 Peru .56 Uzbekistan 1.50
Costa Rica 1.17 Kazakhstan 1.52 Philippines .90 Venezuela .82
C6te d'Ivoire .91 Kenya 1.31 Poland 1.53 Vietnam .92
Croatia .65 Korea Republicc .98 Portugal 1.08 Yemen .80
Czech Rep. 1.30 Kuwait 1.95 Romania 1.13 Yugoslavia 1.14
Denmark 1.16 Kyrgyzstan 1.02 Russia 1.32 Zambia 1.20
Dominican Rep. .64 Laos .88 Rwanda 1.07 Zimbabwe 1.18
Ecuador 1.03 Latvia 1.03 Saudi Arabia 1.86

the modernization model, which excludes centage of the economy not in the service
world-system position indicators, latitude, sector; Model 4, the human ecology model,
and land area per capita; Model 3, the politi- which includes only the basic material con-
cal economy model, which excludes latitude, ditions variables; Model 5, the quadratic
land area per capita, political rights, civil lib- STIRPATmodel; and Model 6, the two-fac-
erties, state environmentalism, and the per- tor basic STIRPATmodel.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION opposite direction predicted by moderniza-

tion theorists).
The OLS regression results for all six mod- Model 3, the political economy model,
els are presented in Table 3.18 Model 1, the suggests a conclusion similar to the satu-
saturatedmodel, clearly provides a good fit, ratedmodel. However, the coefficient for the
explaining over 97 percent of the cross-na- capitalist variable is significant and in the
tional variance in the ecological footprint.19 direction expected by modernization theo-
Although there are many variables in the rists. The antilog of the coefficient for the
model, problems with multicollinearity are capitalist variable (b = -.165) equals .85,
not dramatic-the highest VIF for any vari- which indicates that environmental impacts
able is 8.55, which is clearly within gener- in capitalist nations are 85 percent of (or 15
ally accepted guidelines (Chatterjee, Hadi, percent lower than) those of noncapitalist
and Price 2000). The coefficients for basic nations, other factors held constant.
material factors (population size and age The human ecology model (Model 4),
structure,GDP per capita, urbanization,lati- more parsimonious than Models 1 and 2, ex-
tude, and land area per capita) stand out as plains a greater proportion of the variance
clearly significant, while all other factors than all other models except Model 1, and
have nonsignificant effects. The coefficient fits the data as well as Model 1 (F[10,123] =
for quadratic of per capita GDP is signifi- 1.31, which is not significant even at the .10
cant, but the value is positive-opposite of alpha level).
that necessary to generate an environmental Models 5 and 6 are the most parsimonious
Kuznets curve. and fit the data remarkablywell considering
Model 2, the modernization model, yields their minimal specification. But, because all
similar conclusions. The only changes of the additional factors in Model 4 are signifi-
note are that the coefficient for the quadratic cant, Models 5 and 6 provide a less than
of GDP per capita becomes nonsignificant, complete explanation of national ecological
and the coefficient for the quadratic of ur- footprints.
banization becomes significant (but in the We focus our interpretationon Model 4: It
is more parsimonious than the saturated
18 We also ran the models using a robust model (Model 1) but also explains virtually
the same amount of variance. Model 4 in-
(Huber/biweight) regressionprocedureto assess cludes all factors that have significant coef-
whethertherewere cases thathad an inordinate
effect on the results. We found no substantive ficients in the other models with the excep-
differencesbetween the robustresults and the tion of the capitalist variable, which is sig-
OLS results.We also used case-basedbootstrap nificant only in Model 3. If the ecological
resamplingto estimatethe standarderrorto de- factors (latitude and land area per capita) are
termineif this procedureproducedsubstantially added to Model 3, the coefficient for capi-
differentresultsthannormaltheorystandarder- talism is no longer significant. Likewise, if
ror (as suggested by Dietz, Frey, and Kalof
capitalism is added to Model 4, it has a non-
[1987] andDietz, Kalof,andFrey[1991]).It did
not, so here we presentonly the normaltheory significant effect. The indication is, there-
standarderrorestimates.We also calculateda se- fore, that it is the ecological factors, not
ries of diagnosticstatistics(DFBETAS,Cooks' capitalism directly, that principally influence
D) to test for influentialcases and violationsof impacts.
OLSassumptionsandfoundno indicationof sub- Population size has a roughly proportional
stantialproblems. effect on the ecological footprint-the coef-
19In models not presentedhere, we included ficient indicates that a 1-percent increase in
the followingadditionalvariables:directforeign population size leads to an increase in the
investmentas a percentageof GDP, total exter-
nal debt as a percentageof GDP, percentageof ecological footprint of .98 percent, with
other factors held constant (note that all fol-
GDPfromindustry,anda measureof incomein-
equality(theratioof theincomeshareof therich- lowing interpretationsalso refer to all-else-
est fifth of the populationto thatof the poorest equal conditions). This population coeffi-
fifth). These variablesdid not have significant cient is remarkablystable across all six mod-
effects in any models,nordid they substantively els and is in fact not significantly different
alterthe coefficientsof othervariables. from 1.0 in any model. The age structure
Table 3. OLS Coefficients Predicting National Ecological Footprint: 142 Nations circa 1996

Model 1 Model 2 Model 3 Model 4

Saturated Model Modernization Political Economy Human Ecology
Independent Variables b (S.E.) b (S.E.) b (S.E.) b (S.E.)
Population (log) .992*** (.023) .987*** (.023) .964*** (.022) .980*** (.018)
Nondependent population (log) 1.302** (.467) 1.594*** (.425) 1.431*** (.390) 1.387*** (.426)
Land area per capita (log) .045* (.022) - .045* (.022)
Arctic .435** (.136) .339** (.124)
Temperate .283*** (.081) .260*** (.070)
GDP per capita (log) .455*** (.064) .443*** (.056) .430*** (.065) .396*** (.042)
Quadratic of GDP per capita .088** (.032) .050 (.027) .066* (.031) .049* (.023)
Percentage nonservice GDP (log) .005 (.150) .061 (.158)
Capitalist nation -.022 (.072) -.124 (.072) -.165* (.065)
Percentage urban (log) .247* (.095) .405*** (.095) .353*** (.093) .280** (.089)
Quadratic of percentage urban .104 (.064) .139* (.067) .125 (.066) .139* (.062)
Core -.110 (.166) .062 (.163)
Semiperiphery .117 (.084) .120 (.084)
Political Rights c
Free -.002 (.106) -.023 (.113)
Partially free -.018 (.089) -.074 (.094)
Civil Liberties c
Free -.013 (.147) .022 (.157)
Partially free -.020 (.101) -.045 (.107)
State Environmentalism d
High -.177 (.096) -.130 (.101) - -
Medium -.069 (.070) -.073 (.074) - -

Constant 8.958*** (1.863) -10.786*** (1.631) -9.362*** (1.448) -8.780*** (1.510)

R2 .972 .966 .965 .969
Mean VIF/highest VIF 3.63/8.55 3.33/6.76 3.32/7.74 2.36/4.54
Tropicalis the referencecategory. b
Peripheryis the referencecategory. c Not free is the referencecategory. d Low st

*p< .05 **p < .01 ***p< .001 (two-tailed tests)

p p~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

variable (percentage nondependent popula- Also counter to the claims of the modern-
tion) is also positive and significant, indicat- ization perspective, urbanization increases
ing that the larger the proportion of a impacts. The coefficients for urbanization
nation's population between the ages of 15 and the quadratic of urbanization are both
and 65 (the most productive ages), the larger positive, indicating that, to the degree urban-
a nation's ecological footprint. These find- ization is an indicator of modernization,
ings support neo-Malthusian and human modernization increases, rather than de-
ecological claims regarding the importance creases, impacts.21This finding is fully con-
of population for explaining environmental sistent with the work of Foster (1999, 2000),
impacts. who, drawingon Marx ([1867] 1967), argues
The other ecological variables (latitude that modernization, because of the separa-
and land area per capita) also have signifi- tion it generates between country and city,
cant effects. Impacts are higher in nations creates a metabolic rift between ecological
with more land area per capita, suggesting processes and economic processes.
that resource availability and/or density in- The political economy perspective re-
fluence resource demand. Impacts increase ceives supportfor one of its key premises-
the further a nation is from the tropics. Na- the conflict between the economy and the
tions in temperate regions have 30 percent environment-but other important political
greater ecological footprints (the antilog of economy variables do not have significant
.260 is 1.30), and nations in arctic regions effects on impacts. The results suggest that
have 40 percent greaterecological footprints impacts are not directly the result of capital-
(the antilog of .339 is 1.40) than do nations ism or world-system position per se, but
in the tropics. This finding reinforces the rather are generated by more basic material
obvious: More resources are requiredto sus- conditions, which in turn may be mediated
tain societies in colder climates. by capitalism and world-system position.
The coefficients for both GDP per capita The expectations of the modernization
and the quadraticof GDP per capita are posi- perspective are clearly contradicted-no en-
tive and significant. The positive coefficient vironmental Kuznets curve exists for either
for the quadratic of GDP per capita is the GDP per capita or urbanization,and the size
opposite of what is necessary to generate an of the service sector, the presence of a capi-
environmental Kuznets curve. The effect of talist system, political rights, civil liberties,
GDP per capita, then, on the ecological foot- and state environmentalism have no signifi-
print is monotonically positive within the cant effects on the ecological footprint.
range of observations-an increase in per Table 2 presents the antilog of the residu-
capita GDP consistently leads to an increase als from Model 4 for each nation in the
in the ecological footprint, contradicting the
expectation of the modernization perspec- cedurementionedabovefor the modelincluding
tive.20 the quadraticterm.This meansthat a 1-percent
increasein per capitaGDP roughlycorresponds
20Due to the inclusionof the
quadratictermin to a .412 percentincreasein the ecologicalfoot-
the model, the coefficient for per capita GDP print.
cannot be interpreteddirectly as an elasticity co- 21 Note that, becausethe quadraticterm was
efficient (i.e., the percentage change in the de- centeredbeforesquaring,the coefficientfor the
pendent variable for a 1-percent change in the in- quadraticterm is large enough (just barely)to
dependent variable). However, as York et al. generatea U-shapedrelationship(theoppositeof
(2001) show, the instantaneous elasticity coeffi- an environmentalKuznetscurve) with the eco-
cient can be calculated by taking the first partial logical footprint,within the range of observa-
derivative of the regression equation with respect tions.Theminimumof the curveis reachedwhen
to ln(A). Because the coefficient for the quadratic urbanization 16.5percent.As
is at approximately
term is close to zero, the elasticity coefficient urbanization increasesabovethis value,the eco-
does not vary dramatically over the range of ob- logicalfootprintincreasesmonotonicallywithur-
servations. Running Model 4 excluding the qua- banization.In oursample,only ninenationshave
dratic term yields a coefficient for GDP per valuesbelow this minimum,therefore,in almost
capita of .412, which is roughly the coefficient all cases we wouldexpect an increasein urban-
that would be obtained for any value of ln(A) izationto correspondwithan increasein the eco-
within the range of observations, using the pro- logical footprint.

study. These can be interpreted as nation- curve, increases in GDP per capita consis-
specific multipliers of the ecological foot- tently lead to increases in impacts, but the
print. These coefficients, in a sense, repre- increases are not proportional.Furthermore,
sent the eco-efficiency of a nation-the en- urbanizationalso increases impacts, contrary
vironmental impact of a nation when con- to the expectation of the modernization per-
trolling for basic material conditions. The spective. Factors identified by ecological
mean residual is 0 and its antilog is 1; there- modernization theorists as potentially miti-
fore, nations with values below 1 are more gating human impacts on the environment,
efficient than expected based on the factors such as state environmentalism, political
in Model 4, and those with values greater rights, civil liberties, service sector develop-
than 1 are less efficient than expected based ment, and the presence of a capitalist system
on the model. The residuals occupy a fairly have no significant effects on impacts. Taken
narrow range, from a low value of .52 for together, these results suggest that basic eco-
Iceland to a high value of 2.76 for the United nomic and ecological factors largely deter-
Arab Emirates. This suggests that the most mine human impact on the environment.
efficient nation is only slightly more than Our results do not argue that institutional
five times (2.76/.52 = 5.3) more efficient and technological changes are irrelevant to
than the least efficient nation, and only twice environmental impacts. Given the slow pace
as efficient as the typical nation. Therefore, of population change over the span of a gen-
given currentcross-national variability in ef- eration and the political pressure for eco-
ficiency, there is some room for reducing nomic growth, strategies for making a tran-
impacts holding basic material conditions sition to sustainability should emphasize
constant. However, there appears to be no- technologies with more benign environmen-
where near the dramatic potential that some tal impacts. However, the sobering note from
scholars suggest (e.g., Hawken, Lovins, and this analysis is our failure to detect the ame-
Lovins 1999) for reducing impacts without liorating processes postulated by neoclassi-
altering the primary driving forces (particu- cal economics and ecological modernization
larly population and affluence). theorists. This suggests we cannot be san-
guine about ecological sustainability via
CONCLUSION emergent institutional change.
It is importantto bear in mind that our es-
We have extracted from a variety of leading timated coefficients are exponents in a mul-
social theories-human ecology, moderniza- tiplicative function. Hence, whenever these
tion, and political economy-key factors coefficients are positive, any increase in an
identified as driving anthropogenic (human- independent variable increases impacts in
induced) environmental impact. From ecol- combination with the other factors. A key
ogy we adopted and modified an analytic consequence is that because of high levels
framework and methodological technique, of consumption in affluent nations, even a
the STIRPATmodel, for assessing the effects slow rate of population growth in these na-
of driving forces on environmental impact. tions is at least as great a threat to the envi-
We used a comprehensive measure, the eco- ronment as is a rapid rate of population
logical footprint, as an indicator of environ- growth in less developed nations. After all,
mental impact. the footprint of the typical American is
We have found that impact changes pro- nearly 25 times greater than that of the typi-
portionately with population, consistent with cal Bangladeshi.
neo-Malthusian and human ecological argu- So to bring complementarity to Chase-
ments, and that the age structureof popula- Dunn's (1998) vivid description of threatsto
tion influences impacts. Also consistent with sustainability-"[I]f the Chinese try to eat as
the arguments of human ecologists, latitude much meat and eggs and drive as many cars
(an indicator of climate) and per capita land (per capita) as the Americans the biosphere
area affect impacts. Consistent with argu- will fry" (p. xxi)-we can point out that a
ments from political economy, and contrary slow, but steady, growth in the American
to the expectations of neo-classical econo- population, at current consumption levels,
mists regarding an environmental Kuznets may equally challenge the biosphere. Recog-

nizing the primacy of population, modern- the U.S. Climate Change Science Program and
ization, and eco-geographic factors as driv- with the latter focus connected to his service on
ers of environmental impacts is essential if a National Academy of Sciences/National Re-
search Council Committeeon high-level nuclear
appropriateaction is to be taken to address waste. Recent publications include Risk, Uncer-
the problems of global sustainability. Cur-
tainty, and Rational Action (2001, Earthscan
rent trends, rather than ameliorating prob-
lems, exacerbate them and make more ur-
gent the search for new institutional and Thomas Dietz is Professor of Sociology and
technological forms that can countervail or Crop and Soil Science and Director of the Envi-
even reduce the impacts associated with ronmental Science and Policy Program at Michi-
growth. gan State University. He chairs the U.S. National
Research Council Committee on Human Dimen-
At the outset, we identified two orienta-
sions of Global Environmental Change. His re-
tions in sociological theorizing about the en- search interests include the human dimensions of
vironment: a revival of classical thinking, global change and the interplay between science
and a variety of environmental impact theo- and democracy. Recent publications include The
ries. Our results showing sizable and persis- Drama of the Commons (2002, National Acad-
tent effects from population and economic emy Press) and New Tools for Environmental
production, although derived from contem- Protection: Education, Information, and Volun-
porary environmental impact theories, pro- tary Measures (2002, National Academy Press).
vide a link to classical theories. Marx
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