Risk and criticality: Trajectories of regional environmental degradation

Roger E. Kasperson, Jeanne X. Kasperson, B. L. Turner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


In its 1987 report, the World Commission on Environment and Development called for a global risk-assessment program to buttress and extend the work of the United Nations Environment Programme. This article reports on an international project centered at Clark University in the United States that has explored the causes and consequences of growing environmental risk over a 50-70 year period in nine regions distributed throughout the world. The nine regions are: Amazonia, the Eastern Sundaland region of southeast Asia, the Ukambani region of southeastern Kenya, the Nepal Middle Mountains, the Ordos Plateau of China, the Aral Sea, the southern High Plains of the United States, the Mexico City region, and the North Sea. The authors begin by considering the notion of criticality and developing definitions and a classification of environmentally threatened regions. Research teams were assembled for all nine regions and studies conducted. In this article, the authors review the development of concepts and methods used in these studies and the major cross-cutting findings that emerged. They argue that a growing disjuncture exists in the studied regions between the rapid rates of environmental degradation and the slow pace of societal response, threatening environmental impoverishment and loss of options for future generations and escalating costs of substitution in resource use and risk mitigation efforts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)562-568
Number of pages7
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecology


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