I = Environmental Impact
P = Population
A = Affluence, and
T = Technology
The IPAT algorithm was proposed by ecologist Paul Ehrlich and the physicist John P. Holdren in the 1970s as a means of projecting our environmental impact on the planet.
In yesterday's New York Times John Tierney called attention to the counter note that is the Environmental Kuznets Curve (EKC) and the quantitative study it describes that suggests affluence acts as a positive force on environmental impact once it clears a collective threshold within society. More on that here »
As someone who lives along the tidy streets of affluence among my Prius driving neighbors I buy into the Kuznets Curve; but as someone who has traveled in countries where poverty spills into the streets and overflows into murky effluence in the air and water, I'd add this last little bit: When any of us live in poverty on this planet, we are all impacted by the ungainly industrial striving of those who are just entering this game and firing up the engines. The industrialization that powers our planet often (always?) means that *somebody* is living in cramped quarters and taking home low pay. These are conditions which frequently translate into the godawful mess of poor sanitation, miserable water supplies, and inadequate nutrition.
Under these conditions human potential is crippled and the earth also pays the price.
Poverty is a pollutant that cannot be contained. Environmental discrimination against impoverished communities is a well-documented phenomenon; we are foolish if we believe that it's only the folks downriver who will be impacted by the dioxins pumped into the water or by the mercury that despoils the lake.
Every effort made to alleviate poverty puts money in the save the planet piggy bank.
We are all connected.
Happy Earth Day.