Population and Environment

, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 107-131

First online:

Completing the Picture: The Challenges of Bringing “Consumption” into the Population–Environment Equation

  • Sara R. CurranAffiliated withPrinceton University
  • , Alex de SherbininAffiliated withCIESIN, Columbia University

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The issue of environmentally significant consumption is closely linked to population–environment relationships, but with some exceptions the two literatures have proceeded along separate tracks. We explore three consumption–environment research agendas: household–level consumption; ecological footprints and material flow accounting; and values, attitudes, behaviors and lifestyles. In each of these we note areas of overlap with the population–environment literature, and ways in which the population–environment literature might benefit or borrow from conceptual or methodological approaches in the consumption–environment literature. We also propose ways in which consumption research might be integrated into the largest (in terms of funding) of the population–environment research agendas, land-use and land-cover change research. In the concluding section we present a conceptual framework for understanding the population–environment literature that incorporates production and consumption into the model, and we propose some population–consumption–environment (PCE) research areas to which the population-environment research community could make significant contributions.


environmentally significant consumption demography and the environment