In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Environment and Development

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Journals
  • Sustainable Development and Sustainability
  • Livelihoods and Natural Resource-based Livelihoods
  • Forests
  • Energy and Mining
  • Political Ecology
  • Conservation
  • Gender, Environment, and Development
  • Eco-Marxism and Eco-Socialism, Green Marxism, Nature
  • Cities and Urban Livelihoods
  • Africa
  • Asia
  • South and Central America
  • Global Government Documents
  • USAID (USA) Government Documents
  • UK Government Documents

Geography Environment and Development
Brent McCusker
  • LAST REVIEWED: 13 January 2014
  • LAST MODIFIED: 13 January 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199874002-0086


The topic “environment and development” is so broad that it could easily cover any number of sub-topics that have already been given their own bibliographies in this series, such as cultural ecology and human ecology, political ecology, or developing world. Separately, environment is defined here as the entirety of the physical world consisting of the world’s land masses, oceans, and atmosphere. Development is defined as the process of growth and change in human social, political, and economic systems. The two terms have traditionally intersected in developing areas where one or more natural resources have been utilized to promote economic growth. This intersection has been extended in the recent literature to include not only the impact of development on environment but also human perceptions of environment in the development process and the role of non-human actors in development. “Developing areas” are defined as those places where economic and/or social development has been slower, hindered, or in some way less than average. This need not refer to country or continental units of space, nor need it be restricted to the “global south” or “Third World.” Those terms often connote a homogeneity that research has shown to be problematic.

General Overviews

There are many ways to approach environment and development; however the texts below are representative of truly integrative approaches to the field. Each one remains at a level of abstraction that allows its lessons to be applied broadly. Bartlemus 1986 is a good starting point as the text is general and accessible. Students would be especially encouraged to start with that text. Moseley and Logan 2004 is a good starting point for anyone interested in environment-development in Africa. Adams 2008, Chambers 1987, and Lopez and Toman 2006 engage the concept of “sustainability” but in a general manner and thus are good overviews. Kirkby, et al. 2001 takes a regional approach to its overview while Sinha and Siddhartha 2007 discusses climate change and its potential impacts on development and environment.

  • Adams, William. Green Development: Environment and Sustainability in a Developing World. New York: Routledge, 2008.

    This is a key introductory text that guides readers through a range of issues from sustainability to development. It is a critical inquiry into the environment-development nexus.

  • Bartlemus, Peter. Environment and Development. Boston: Allen and Unwin, 1986.

    A classic text exploring environmental policy and development in developing countries.

  • Chambers, Richard. Sustainable Livelihoods, Environment and Development: Putting Poor Rural People First. IDS Discussion Paper 240. Brighton, UK: IDS, 1987.

    A groundbreaking paper arguing that poor people themselves need to be prioritized in development to ensure more resilient livelihoods and a sustainable environment.

  • Gray, L. C., and W. G. Moseley. “A Geographical Perspective on Poverty-Environment Interactions.” Geographical Journal 171.1 (2005): 9–23.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4959.2005.00146.x

    A foundational article that outlines environment-development issues from a geographical perspective.

  • Kirkby, J., P. O’Keefe, and C. Howorth. “Introduction: Rethinking Environment and Development in Africa and Asia.” Land Degradation & Development 12 (2001): 195–203.

    DOI: 10.1002/ldr.431

    In this introduction to a special edition, the authors explore recent advances in thinking on environment and development. Included here is a good (and rare) example of consideration of environment-development at a broad, holistic scale.

  • Lopez, Ramon, and Michael Toman. Economic Development and Environmental Sustainability: New Policy Options. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

    DOI: 10.1093/0199298009.001.0001

    Topics covered in this text range from trade, energy development, and conservation in developing countries. Pays special attention to how policy can be formulated to address pressing issues.

  • Moseley, W. G., and B. I. Logan, eds. African Environment and Development: Rhetoric, Programs, Realities. King’s SOAS Studies in Development Geography. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2004.

    A good example of environment and development thinking that utilizes case studies to reinforce key points. A good introduction for environment-development issues in Africa.

  • Sinha, Ajit, and Mitra Siddhartha. Economic Development, Climate Change and the Environment. New York: Routledge, 2007.

    Edited volume covers specialized topics related to the environment and development such as degradation, thermal power generation, trade, forest logging, and bio-diesel production.

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