Economy/Environment Interaction and Global Trade of Materials: An Empirical Examination for 95 Countries between 1980 and 2009

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Political economy, modernization, environment, material, global trade

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Political economy theory posits decreasing economic intensity—i.e. the use of fewer materials per unit of economic growth—does not lead to a decrease in material extraction. Modernization theory suggests decreasing economic intensity may lead to a decline in the use of materials. Unequal ecological exchange theory suggests that the dominate position of developed countries in the global trade of materials allows them to protect their own environments by extracting materials elsewhere. By examining data from 95 countries between 1980 and 2009, this paper provides an empirical evaluation to theoretical statements discussed above. Findings show that economic intensity has declined markedly for decades while the total material extraction continues to increase worldwide. More developed countries enjoy an import surplus, while most materials extracted from developing countries are exported abroad. Positive associations (mediated by global trade of materials) exist between material extraction from developing countries and material consumption in developed countries.

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Perspectives on Global Development and Technology, v. 13, issue 4, p. 423-443