Rees, W. E. (1992). Ecological footprints and appropriated carrying capacity: what urban economics leaves out. Environment and Urbanization, 4(2), 121–130.


This chapter describes the concepts of human carrying capacity and natural capital to argue that prevailing economic assumptions regarding urbanization and the sustainability of cities must be revised in light of global ecological change. It focuses on the premise that human bio-ecology may soon become more important to understanding the political and socio-economic implications of urban development than economics. Ecology is the scientific study of the flows of energy and material resources through ecosystems and of the competitive and cooperative mechanisms that have evolved for the allocation of resources among different species. The chapter illustrates the general idea by relating the novel concept of ‘natural capital’ to the more venerable concept of carrying capacity at the regional level. Exporting ecological degradation: the importing of sustainability by wealthy industrialized countries may equate to exporting ecological and social malaise to the developing world.