This paper introduces a series of African and Asian case studies on environment and development. It explores the tension between optimistic and pessimistic interpretations of environmental maintenance and transformation. It critically examines political ecology and eco-populism before analysing underlying models of governance, social justice and human rights. Key concepts in understanding the relationship between environment and development are discussed, including security, sustainable livelihoods, coping and entitlements. The paper ends with a discussion of marginality and vulnerability with particular attention to urban and informal sector environments.