Environmental impoverishment is both a symptom of lack of development and a consequence of unsustainable development. It is both cause and consequence of unsustainable rates of population growth, as well as being the main agent of land degradation in developing countries.
In many parts of the developing world, poverty combined with rapid population growth is leading to widespread degradation of renewable resources - primarily forests, soils and water. People living in subsistence economies are faced with few alternatives to depleting their natural resources. Renewable resources still sustain the livelihood of nearly one-third of the world's population; environmental deterioration therefore directly reduces living standards and prospects for economic improvement among rural peoples. At the same time, rapid urbanization and industrialization in many developing countries are creating high levels of air and water pollution, which often hit the poor hardest. Worldwide, the urban poor tend to live in neglected neighbourhoods, enduring pollution, waste dumping and ill health, but lacking the political influence to effect improvements.