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Research Report

Rural–urban change, boundary problems and environmental burdens

Gordon McGranahan
David Satterthwaite
Cecilia Tacoli
Copyright Date: Dec. 1, 2004
Pages: 27
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 5-11)

    It is widely recognized that urbanization and economic growth tend to go hand-inhand. Related spatial shifts in environmental burdens are often neglected, however. This section provides a simplified account of how urban development, as it has been pursued in recent centuries, affects both urban and rural environments. While economic and rural–urban distinctions only provide a crude framework for comparing human settlements over time and across space, a simple framework centring on these distinctions provides some often neglected insights into several of the world’s major environmental trends.

    As cities get wealthier, their environmental burdens have tended to become more delayed...

  2. (pp. 11-22)

    While rural―urban environmental burdens can often be ascribed to institutional failures (e.g. political externalities, political inequities, economic externalities), and can usually be addressed with institutional remedies (e.g. regulations, political organization, re-governed markets), the challenges they pose are also rooted in the character of the physical processes they involve ― if not, they should not strictly be described as environmental problems. The following sub-sections examine rural― urban environmental issues involving water, air and land. While the characteristic problems vary, boundary problems arise in every case. The primary purpose of the section is to review the different forms these problems take, rather...

  3. (pp. 22-23)

    Empirical relations between economic growth, urbanization and environmental burdens are sometimes taken to reflect policy choices. The curves in Figure 1, for example, could be taken to reflect the environmental benefits and costs of urban economic development. It is important to recognize, however, that even when such curves are empirically grounded, they reflect ‘average’ outcomes, and are not laws of development. At any given level of per capita income, environmental conditions vary between urban centres and over time, partly in response to policy and governance changes, and partly to whether the potential environmental advantages of urbanization have been realized.