How does affluence impact biodiversity?
The idea that affluence plays a role in environmental harm has been around since the 1970’s. During that time, Paul Ehrlich and John Holdren incorporated affluence into their IPAT equation which stated: environmental impact equals population times affluence times technology. While biodiversity is not explicitly mentioned in this theory, it is intimately linked to environmental health. Biodiversity is the measure of variation among life forms from microbes to trees, and as such, the state of the environment will directly effect the diversity of organisms it supports.
This issue of affluence and the environment is more prevalent today than ever, as the number of consumers is increasing dramatically in rapidly growing nations such as China and India. These consumers often follow in the footsteps of Western countries, with appliances and automobiles becoming the norm for many households. The need for more material wealth brings the need for more energy and the extraction of raw materials. A more urbanized landscape can be expected as well. As these cultures shift in their lifestyles and values, how will biodiversity be affected? In what ways do a society's affluence harm the genetic and species diversity of the surrounding environment? Is it possible that positive changes in values or technology could allow for affluence to rise without detriment to natural habitats and biodiversity?