By respecting nature’s limits and investing in nature’s wealth, we can protect and enhance the environment’s ability to sustain human well-being. But how humans interact with nature is intimately tied to how we interact with each other. Those who are relatively powerful and wealthy typically gain disproportionate benefits from the economic activities that degrade the environment, while those who are relatively powerless and poor typically bear disproportionate costs. All else equal, wider political and economic inequalities tend to result in higher levels of environmental harm. For this reason, efforts to safeguard the natural environment must go hand-in-hand with efforts to achieve more equitable distributions of power and wealth in human societies. Globalization – the growing integration of markets and governance worldwide – today poses new challenges and new opportunities for both of these goals.
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