What Is Environmental Scarcity?

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  • Written By: Jim B.
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 19 October 2019
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Environmental scarcity refers to a situation in a specific area where natural resources are not available to a significant portion of the population. This can occur when population growth depletes the pool of available natural resources or when environmental damage wipes out a large chunk of the resources. The existence of environmental scarcity in an area often leads to a wide divide between the rich members of a society who are available to control the diminishing amount of resources and the poor who are severely lacking. In such cases, the entire nation or state can begin to break down through economic decline and civil unrest.

One of the growing concerns that environmental activists bemoan is the depletion of the world's natural resources. Necessities such as land on which to live or fresh water to drink are becoming increasingly rare in some of the world's most impoverished nations. The problem is even finding its way into nations that are considered world leaders, as the separation between rich and poor grows wider. Environmental scarcity is at the heart of many of these troubling developments.

There are many ways in which environmental scarcity might occur. When the population of a certain area becomes too dense, it obviously diminishes the share of available natural resources that each person can receive. In conjunction with that, growing population often leads to excess environmental degradation, usually caused by business concerns trying to cater to the demand of citizens.


All of this can develop into a situation where certain members of society, who have the financial wherewithal to do so, acquire a large portion of the natural resources. As such, environmental scarcity can be seen as a cause of increasing poverty for those less-fortunate members of society. The problem becomes worse when the richer people who control the small supply of resources keep prices at a rate that the poor cannot pay.

These events can eventually lead to an entire breakdown of society. The poor have no money to buy goods and no land on which to live. Although the rich might have an advantage, they too are affected by the economic decline caused by the depleted resources. At its most extreme, environmental scarcity can lead to such dissatisfaction that people become angry and even violent. In some cases, the civil unrest might lead to changes in society, but it often breeds such volatility that the state in question cannot possibly recover.


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