Inequality and the biosphere

Maike Hamann, Kevin Berry, Tomas Chaigneau, Tracie Curry, Robert Heilmayr, Patrik J.G. Henriksson, Jonas Hentati-Sundberg, Amir Jina, Emilie Lindkvist, Yolanda Lopez-Maldonado, Emmi Nieminen, Matías Piaggio, Jiangxiao Qiu, Juan C. Rocha, Caroline Schill, Alon Shepon, Andrew R. Tilman, Inge Van Den Bijgaart, Tong Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

76 Scopus citations


Rising inequalities and accelerating global environmental change pose two of the most pressing challenges of the twenty-first century. To explore how these phenomena are linked, we apply a social-ecological systems perspective and review the literature to identify six different types of interactions (or "pathways") between inequality and the biosphere. We find that most of the research so far has only considered one-directional effects of inequality on the biosphere, or vice versa. However, given the potential for complex dynamics between socioeconomic and environmental factors within social-ecological systems, we highlight examples from the literature that illustrate the importance of cross-scale interactions and feedback loops between inequality and the biosphere. This review draws on diverse disciplines to advance a systemic understanding of the linkages between inequality and the biosphere, specifically recognizing cross-scale feedbacks and the multidimensional nature of inequality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)61-83
Number of pages23
JournalAnnual Review of Environment and Resources
StatePublished - Oct 17 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This has been a collaborative effort by the Beijer Young Scholars of 2016–2018, generously supported by the Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics, the Kjell and Märta Beijer Foundation, the Anna-Greta and Holger Crafoord Foundation, and the Ebba and Sven Schwartz Foundation. We thank Anne-Sophie Crépin, Carl Folke, J. Marty Anderies, James Wilen, and Stephen Polasky for their guidance and constructive feedback during the development of the manuscript, as well as Ralph Hamann for helpful input on an earlier draft. We also gratefully acknowledge comments received from two reviewers, and from participants of the Resilience 2017 conference in Stockholm, Sweden. Finally, we thank Agneta Sundin and Christina Leijonhufvud for their tireless support of the Beijer Young Scholars during this journey. E.L. was supported by the US National Science Foundation DEB-1632648. P.J.G.H. was partially funded by a VINNOVA-VINMER Marie Curie Incoming grant (2015–01556). Illustrations were provided by Azote/Jerker Lokrantz.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 by Annual Reviews. All rights reserved.


  • climate change
  • feedbacks
  • global environmental change
  • multidimensional inequality
  • scale
  • social-ecological systems


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