York, Richard and Eugene A. Rosa. 2003. "Key Challenges to Ecological Modernization Theory: Institutional Efficacy, Case Study, Evidence, Units of Analysis, and Pace of Eco-Efficiency." Organization and Environment. 16:273-288.
We raise four challenges to the claim of Ecological Modernization Theory (EMT) that continued modernization is necessary for ecological sustainability. First, EMT needs to go beyond merely demonstrating that societies modify their institutions in reaction to environmental problems and show that such modifications lead to ecological improvements. Second, EMT must show that late stages of modernizing processes lead to the ecological transformation of production and consumption at high relative frequency. Third, EMT must demonstrate that industries or firms that are reducing their direct impact on the environment (e.g., through reduced pollution emissions) are not contributing to the expansion of negative impacts by other industries or firms. Fourth, EMT must show that economies are not only becoming more resource efficient, but also that the pace of increase in efficiency exceeds the pace of increase in overall production. Here we review the existing evidence and find that EMT has insufficiently addressed these four issues.