Concerns For The New Millenia
AIDS: 42 Million HIV-Positive
Rich World Economy = Starving
Compiled by Badpuppy’s GayToday
From World Watch Institute Reports
The world today is economically
richer and environmentally poorer than ever before, reports a new study
of global trends from the Worldwatch Institute. In1997, the global economy
expanded at a near record 4 percent, pushing incomes toa new high with
the biggest gains coming in developing countries. "It was also a year of
disturbing new signs of environmental stress," said Worldwatch president
Lester Brown, lead author of Vital Signs 1998. "Indonesia's rainforests
burned out of control for several months, irreversibly damaging one of
the earth's richest ecosystems. China's
Yellow River failed to reach the sea for 226 days, depriving farmers
in its lower reaches of irrigation water. And the Earth's temperature reached
yet another record high, providing further evidence that the world is warming."
there were many surprises in 1997, Brown noted. New electrical generation
capacity from wind exceeded that from nuclear power. India produced more
wheat than the United States and two oil companies announced major investments
in wind and solar energy. Vital Signs 1998: The Environmental Trends That
Are Shaping Our Future, funded by the United Nations Population Fund, the
W. Alton Jones Foundation, and the Surdna Foundation, reports on more than
50 environmentally related indicators, many of which are not covered regularly
by the media. At the end of 1997, we shared the Earth with 80 million more
people than a year earlier, adding nearly another Sweden each month. Of
this total, nearly 50million were added in Asia, the region that is home
to more than half of humanity. And cities are growing faster than ever.
In 1800, London was the only city with a million people. Today there are
326 cities with at least a million people, 14 of which have populations
greater than 10 million.
"The combination of population
growth and rising incomes are increasing stresses on the natural world,"
said Brown, "starting with the Earth's climate." Carbon emissions, CO2
concentrations in the atmosphere, and the Earth's average temperature climbed
to record highs in 1997. Carbon emissions in 1997 totaled6.3 billion tons,
up from the 6.2 billion tons of 1996. Atmospheric concentrations of CO2
climbed to 364 parts per million-the highest in 160,000years.
With the record temperature
set in 1997, the 14 warmest years since record keeping began in 1866 have
all occurred since 1979. Evidence of the warming can be seen in melting
icecaps in the Andes, shrinking glaciers in the Alps, and the breakup of
the sea ice around Antarctica.
"There are clear signs that
global corporations and governments are beginning to respond to these climate
and energy problems," said Senior Vice President Christopher Flavin. With
the commitment of $1 billion and $500 million, respectively, by British
Petroleum and Royal Dutch Shell to the development of wind, solar, and
other renewable energy resources, these leading oil companies are, in effect,
becoming energy companies.
"From a commercial point
of view, it is not too surprising that oil companies are turning to renewable
energy resources," said Flavin. "During the 1990s, sales of coal and oil
have grown just over 1 percent a year, while wind power has grown 26 percent
a year. And sales of solar cells, averaging 15 per centannually from 1990
through 1996, jumped by a phenomenal 43 percent in 1997."
In the energy-intensive transportation
sector, worldwide annual production of passenger cars set a new record.
Auto manufacturers also unveiled several fuel-efficient, low-pollution
models, including Toyota's Prius. In many parts of the world, bicycles
are gaining in popularity. As a result, more than 100 million bicycles
now come off the assembly lines each year, compared with fewer than 40
Several countries in Europe
are systematically increasing bicycle use. In Danish and Dutch cities,
an estimated 20 percent and 30 percent respectively of all trips are taken
by bicycle. Bikes are also strongly encouraged in Germany, where use has
increased by 50 percent over the last two decades.
On the food front, the world's
farmers harvested a record 1,881 million tons of grain in 1997, narrowly
eclipsing 1996's record harvest of 1,869 million tons. However, even this
record harvest did not keep up with population growth, leading to a drop
in per capita grain output from 324 kilograms to 322kilograms.
Along with land scarcity,
water scarcity is now emerging as a serious constraint on efforts to expand
world food production. Growth in irrigated area is falling behind population
growth, leading to a steady shrinkage in irrigated area per person. In
China, the Yellow River, the northernmost of China's two major rivers,
was drained dry by withdrawals from upstream provinces, failing to make
it to the sea for 226 days out of 365.
Population growth is not
the only source of increasing demand for food. Perhaps the dominant distinguishing
feature of dietary changes over the last half-century has been the growing
appetite for animal protein as incomes climbed. This hunger for protein
has spurred an increase in the world fish catch of nearly fivefold, boosting
it from 19 million tons in 1950 to 93 million tons today. The production
of meat (beef, pork and poultry) has climbed from 44million tons in 1950
to 211 million tons in 1997, raising consumption per person from 17 to
enormous growth in human numbers and economic activity has had its most
visible effect on the earth's forests. Between 1980 and 1995, the world
lost at least 200 million hectares of forest-an area larger than the cropland
area of the United States. Among the more disturbing developments in 1997
was the uncontrolled burning of Indonesia's rainforests, filling the region's
air with smoke so intense that it left millions physically sick. The fires
also led to the cancellation of 1,100 airline flights, and a precipitous
drop in tourism earnings.
One of the consequences of
the destruction of forests and other habitats is the accelerating loss
of species. A recent study estimates that 11 percent of all bird species
are threatened with extinction.
For fish, the figure reaches
34percent. In the U.S. Colorado River 7basin, 29 of 50 native fish species
are either endangered or already extinct. Among the 233 species of primates,
half are now threatened with extinction. The surviving populations of some
primate species are measured in the hundreds.
One of the more dramatic
areas of growth in 1997 was in telecommunications. The Internet has more
than doubled in size in each year in the 1990s. Of the 100 million or so
people online, more than half are in the United States, with most of the
rest in Canada, Europe, and Japan.
The rest of the world lags
behind, with only 8 percent of Internet users, but other countries are
catching up. The number of people online in China and India, for example,
is projected to multiply 15-fold by the year 2000. The Internet can bring
many benefits to developing countries, such as telemedicine and health
care education, improving rural access to global markets, and linking local
activists with supporters overseas.
Telephone access is also
expanding rapidly. New telephone hookups are increasing 7 percent a year,
reaching 740 million in 1996. The number of telephones per 100 people varies
widely among countries. The United States, for example, has 60 phones per
100 people, while China has 4. But this gap is now narrowing as the number
of telephones in developing countries is increasing by 19 percent a year.
Educational levels are rising
worldwide, especially for females. Between 1990 and 1995, female enrollment
in some 47 developing countries increased from 226 million to 254 million.
As a result, nearly 70 percent of girls of primary-school age worldwide
were in school in 1995. In industrial countries, the biggest gains for
women have come in professional graduate schools. Law and business school
enrollments are approaching gender parity. In medical schools in the United
States and Canada, more than 40 percent of students are female. In veterinary
schools, women now dominate with nearly 70 percent of total enrollment.
In engineering and architecture schools, however, men still greatly outnumber
While female education is
rising, military expenditures are falling. After peaking in 1984 at $1,140
billion (1995 dollars), global military expenditures dropped to $701 billion
in 1996, a decline of 39 percent. U.S. outlays, down to $243 billion in
1997 from some $370 billion in the late 1980s, still account for a third
of the world total.
Signs 1998 also tracks human health trends, including the global HIV/AIDS
pandemic and cigarette smoking. In 1997, nearly 6 million people were newly
infected with the virus that causes AIDS, bringing the total infected to
date to 42 million.
While the number of cigarettes
smoked per person has fallen 4 percent from the all-time high reached in
1990, the world still smoked some 5.8 trillion cigarettes in 1997, roughly
1,000 for each of its 5.8 billion people. Raising taxes on cigarettes in
many countries has helped reduce smoking and the soaring health care costs
associated with this deadly habit. In some countries, including Norway,
the United Kingdom, and Denmark, the tax per pack of cigarettes exceeds
$4, compared with an average of 66¢ per pack in the United States.
Another trend gaining momentum
is a shift from taxing income to taxing environmentally destructive activities.
Six European countries have begun this tax shifting process. Sweden, Denmark,
Spain, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and Finland have all begun
reducing taxes on personal income and wages while raising taxes on such
things as carbon emissions, vehicle ownership, and garbage.
Although the world is still
in the early stages of restructuring taxes to achieve environmental goals,
this approach does promise to accelerate the shift to an environmentally
sustainable economy. One attractive advantage of tax policy over regulation
is that it enables policymakers to steer the economy in the right direction
while exploiting the inherent efficiency of the market.
World Watch Institute: