Historically, academia has paid much attention to environmental Kuznets curve (EKC) associated hypotheses, and the EKC per se has triggered conflicting reactions since first posited. Yet, all controversies seem not to have any base framework to address further pollution-related strategies. Built upon an extensive critical review of the extant EKC literature, this paper attempts to address the gap by introducing the theory of wicked problems that can be used to reframe the extant EKC research. Integrating and synthesizing the theories and empirical findings of the extant EKC literature, this paper develops a conceptual framework (a research agenda), and suggests that, given humans' bound rationality and societal uncertainties, the EKC pattern may not be valid for the situations of more wicked pollution. Mainly focusing on this type of pollution, the paper contributes to the EKC study in proposing a set of causal relationships built upon the attitudes of societal sectors. The paper points to the necessity of distinguishing the less wicked pollution situations from the more wicked ones that require different practical and academic strategies to deal with. The former can be addressed along with economic growth, and the latter requires proactive attitudes, proactive leadership, and strong organization of societal sectors. In doing so, we hope to advance the conversation surrounding EKC studies and the abatement practice adaption. Contributions of this study and future research avenues for empirical verifications of the theory are then discussed.

Additional Metadata
Keywords Collaboration, Environmental Kuznets curve, Societal sector, Triggering event, Wicked problems
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.3390/su11174747, hdl.handle.net/1765/119588
Journal Sustainability (Switzerland)
Chen, J. (Jingling), Hu, T.E. (Tao Eric), & van Tulder, R. (2019). Is the environmental Kuznets curve still valid: A perspective of wicked problems. Sustainability (Switzerland), 11(17). doi:10.3390/su11174747