Vital Signs, Volume 21 (2014)

Vital Signs Volume 21 (2014)
ISBN: 978-1-61091-539-7
Release date: August 2014
Tracking key trends in energy, environment, transportation, food and agriculture, economy, and society to inform and inspire the changes needed to build a sustainable world.

Trend Collections

  • Energy
  • Environment and Climate
  • Transportation 
  • Food and Agriculture
  • Global Economy and Resources
  • Peace and Conflict 
  • Population and Society 



Vital Signs Volume 21 is all about growth. From natural disasters to cars to organic farming, the two dozen trends examined here indicate both increasing pressure on natural resources and scaled up efforts to live more sustainably. 

In 2012, world auto production set yet another record with passenger-car production rising to 66.7 million. That same year, the number of natural disasters climbed to 905, roughly one hundred more than the 10-year annual average, and 90 percent were weather related. Alongside these mounting pressures come investments in renewable energy and sustainable agriculture. The number of acres of land farmed organically has tripled since 1999, though it still makes up less than 1% of total farmland. Not all the statistics are going up. Key measures of development aid have fallen, as have global commodity prices. Yet the overall trend is expansion, both for the good and ill of the planet. 

Vital Signs provides the latest data available, but its value goes beyond simple numbers. Through insightful analysis of global trends, it offers a starting point for those seeking solutions to the future’s intensifying challenges.

This book will be especially useful for policymakers, environmental nonprofits, and students of environmental studies, sustainability, or economics.

Further highlights:

  • Automobile production: World auto production set yet another record in 2012, with passenger-car production rising to 66.7 million.
  • Natural disasters: Natural disasters in 2012 climbed to 905, roughly one hundred more than the 10-year annual average, with 90 percent weather-related.
  • Organic farming: Land farmed organically has tripled since 1999, although it still makes up less than 1 percent of total farmland.
  • Solar and wind power: Solar power consumption increased by 58 percent, and wind power consumption increased by 18 percent in 2012.
  • Military budgets: World military expenditures in 2012 totaled $1,740 billion, the second highest yearly amount since World War II.
  • Fossil fuels: Coal, natural gas, and oil accounted for 87 percent of global primary energy consumption in 2012.
  • Greenhouse gas emissions: Carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion and cement production reached 9.7 gigatons of carbon in 2012 (with a ±5 percent uncertainty range). This is the highest annual total to date.
  • Food prices: Continuing a decade-long increase, global food prices rose 2.7 percent in 2012, reaching levels not seen since the 1960s and 1970s.
Vital Signs Online

Be sure to check out Vital Signs Online (VSO), our interactive, subscription-based tool that provides hard data and research-based insights on the sustainability trends that are shaping our future. Created for business leaders, policymakers, academics, and engaged citizens, VSO can be used for strategic planning, understanding world events, or as a reference source for presentations and reports.

Updated twice a month, Vital Signs Online includes a growing list of sustainability trends.

A subscription includes:

  • More than 24 new or updated trends every year, released twice a month
  • Concise, unbiased, data-driven analysis by authoritative researchers
  • Presentation-ready charts and graphs
  • Excel worksheets for data manipulation and comparative analysis
  • Full endnote referencing
  • Global trends in five categories: Food & Agriculture, Energy & Transportation, Environment & Climate, Global Economy & Resources, Population & Society

For more information, visit

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