Inequality and Sustainability

by Butler, Colin David; Butler, Colin

Abstract (Summary)
Global civilisation, and therefore population health, is threatened by excessive inequality, weapons of mass destruction, inadequate economic and political theory and adverse global environmental change. The unequal distribution of global foreign exchange adjusted income is both a cause and a reflection of global social characteristics responsible for many aspects of these inter-related crises. ¶ The global distribution of foreign exchange adjusted income for the period 1964-1999 is examined. Using data for more than 99% of the global population, a substantial divergence in its distribution is found. The global Gini co-efficient, adjusted for national income inequality, increased from an already high value of 71% in 1964 to peak at more than 80% in 1995, before falling, very slightly, to 79% in 1999. The global distribution of purchasing parity power income is also examined, for a similar period. Though also found to be extremely unequal, its trend has not been to increased inequality. Implications of the differences between these two trends are discussed. ¶ A weighted time series index of global environmental change (IGEC) for the period 1960-1997 was also calculated. This uses nine categories of global time series environmental data, each scaled so that 100% represents the level of each category in nature prior to anthropogenic change; zero represents decline to a critical point. This index fell from 82% in 1960 to 55% in 1997, and will further decline during this century. ¶ Using evidence from several disciplines, it is argued that the decline in the IGEC correlates with major macro-environmental changes, which, combined with flawed social responses to scarcity and its perception, place at risk the ability of civilisation to function. This could occur because of the interaction of conflict, economically disastrous extreme climatic events, deterioration of other ecosystem services, regional food and water insecurity, and currently unforeseen events. Uncertainty regarding both a safe rate of decline and the tolerable nadir of the IGEC is substantial. ¶ Substantial reduction in the inequality of foreign exchange adjusted income is vital to enhance the development of policies able to reverse the decline in the environmental goods which underpin civilisation, and to promote the co-operation needed to maximise the chance that civilisation will survive.
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Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:inequality sustainability civilisation causality demography carrying capacity global environmental change income distribution kravis coefficient purchasing power parity caste system demographic entrapment ecological brinkmanship scenarios futures fortress world boserup principle stratospheric ozone depletion index of igec


Date of Publication:01/01/2002

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