Rates of environmental degradation and transformation continue to escalate globally. But not everyone is affected by environmental change and degradation equally. Poorer countries experience the highest rates of degradation and land transformation, despite that consumption levels in poor countries are relatively low. In contrast, the majority of resources globally are consumed in rich countries, but these countries tend to have low rates of domestic environmental degradation as demand is increasingly met by drawing on resources from abroad. These important patterns can be explained using the theory of ecologically unequal exchange. Ecologically unequal exchange theory elucidates current patterns in degradation and resource use, therefore illuminating how unequal structures trade continually reinforce global inequalities.
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