Turning Imagination into Innovation: Mapping Consumption
When we can track human consumption and related impact on the environment, how might we change our decisions and behaviors?
Research from the University of Maryland’s Department of Geographical Sciences (GEOG) is prominently featured in a new special issue of Yale’s Journal of Industrial Ecology titled “Linking Local Consumption and Global Impacts.” The publication examines the virtual shrinking of distances between places — arising because of trade, telecommunication and travel — and the widening gap between where products are made, where they’re used, and where the impacts occur.
The articles link consumption and/or production activities to a wide range of environmental impacts, including water, energy and land use; various pollutants; and economic and social indicators, such as child labor, social costs of carbon, and loss of human life.
“The focus is on ‘tele-connected systems,’” said GEOG Professor Klaus Hubacek, who served as lead guest editor for the special issue. “This is a concept from atmospheric sciences referring to climate phenomena being related to one another at large distances. Recently, this idea has been used to represent the strengthening of connectivity between distant locations and, at the same time, the growing physical separation between places of consumption and production.”
Highlights of the issue include:
- An assessment of the impacts of the 21st century Great Recession on income inequality and households’ carbon footprint.
- An examination of the global implications of China’s future food demand
- Tracking of water footprints at the micro- and meso-scale through combining MRIO (multiregional input output analysis) and geographical information system (GIS)
- An assessment of child labor’s role in Indian production and global consumption
- A look at the unequal carbon exchanges of iconic U.S. consumption items
- Discussion on the role of trade openness in the context of climate-change mitigation
- An analysis of households’ direct and indirect material, water, and land use requirements and GHG emissions
- Research that links a consumer expenditure survey to a global MRIO database to assess the carbon footprint for different household categories
- A global framework for reconciling top-down with bottom-up approaches for identifying and evaluating the effectiveness of different scenarios about the future