Why Geography Matters

Geography influences and even defines economic and ecological phenomena, and hence industrial ecologists cannot ignore it. Most obviously, resources are unevenly distributed in space, so that the bundle of environmental characteristics varies by location. Materials as diverse as air pollutants, water and mineral deposits all differ in concentration by orders of magnitude from place to place. The spatial incidence of humans and other species both reflects and influences this variation (Redman 1999).

Distance-related frictions affect the diffusion of species as well as the details of producer and consumer behavior, industrial location, market areas, innovation rates and settlement patterns (Thunen 1826; Weber 1929; Losch 1954; Isard 1956; for a review, see Isard et al. 1998). Technological innovations such as motorized transport and the Internet have altered but not erased space as an economic variable (Blair 1995, pp. 60-65). The same is true of space as a biological variable, as invasive species problems attest (Sala et al. 2000).

By introducing geography we force questions about scale and level of analytical resolution into IE research and practice. But there is not a simple hierarchy from local to global; instead, there are multiple ways to delineate space - political jurisdictions, economic regions and ecological regions among others.

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