Reports

Worldwatch Paper #156: City Limits: Putting the Brakes on Sprawl

In this Worldwatch Paper, author Molly Sheehan reports that citizens and local leaders around the world are using the political process to demand attractive public spaces and better transportation choices. “We realize that … traffic is a major problem,” says Patricio Lanfranco, who is involved in an effort to take back the streets of Santiago de Chile from private cars. “But it has a bigger context: What kind of city do we want? What kind of quality of life do we want?”

Worldwatch Paper #155: Still Waiting for the Jubilee: Pragmatic Solutions for the Third World Debt Crisis

Since the end of World War II, the richest countries have lent the poorest ones hundreds of billions of dollars, much of it in the name of democracy, freedom, and development. Yet scores of the borrowing countries are now mired in debt and poverty—some 47, according to World Bank benchmarks, all but 10 of them African. Together, they owe $422 billion, or $380 per person—a substantial sum for them, but just 11 months of military spending for western governments.

Responding to pressure from nongovernmental organizations such as the international Jubilee 2000 Campaign, creditor governments have recently offered to cancel up to 55 percent of the debt they are owed by 41 poor debtors. But these offers, though seemingly impressive, have major flaws.

Worldwatch Paper #154: Deep Trouble: The Hidden Threat of Groundwater Pollution

Around the world, groundwater pollution is endangering environments and posing a threat to public health. 

Worldwatch Paper #153: Why Poison Ourselves? A Precautionary Approach to Synthetic Chemicals

There are today between 50,000 and 100,000 synthetic chemicals in commercial production, and new synthetics are entering the market at an average rate of three per day. Most synthetics probably pose little risk for the environment or human health, but some are poisonous even in minute quantities. Recent research on certain highly toxic synthetics has linked them to serious human health effects in the parts per trillion range. Ecological research is uncovering extensive wildlife damage as well.

Worldwatch Paper #152: Working for the Environment: A Growing Source of Jobs

As societies confront environmental challenges, they will need to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels, metals, and lumber; restructure the utility and transportation sectors; and boost the efficient use of energy and materials. Many fear that moving toward sustainability will disrupt the economy and trigger massive job loss.

But jobs do not necessarily depend on maintaining a huge flow of raw materials. In fact, environmental regulations have spurred creation of at least 11 million jobs worldwide. The industries causing most environmental degradation (extracting and processing raw materials) employ relatively few people, their numbers already decimated by automation. Environmental policies can stimulate the creation of jobs in areas like energy and materials efficiency, renewable energy, remanufacturing, and recycling, and in extending the life-span of products.

Worldwatch Paper #151: Micropower: The Next Electrical Era

Electricity is returning to its origins: generating power on a relatively small scale, close to where it is actually used. Technological, economic, and environmental trends are turning a family of "micropower" devices into increasingly viable choices for meeting electrical needs. Use of these generators can avoid expensive investments in large central power stations and transmission and distribution systems, provide greater reliability, and leave a lighter ecological footprint.

Micropower is emerging in two niches. In industrial nations, where aging grid equipment causes costly flickers and outages, growing dependence on digital, computerized processes is creating demand for highly dependable power. In developing nations, where centralized supply is even more brittle and has yet to reach 1.8 billion people living in power poverty, small-scale electrical services are often already the most economical option.

Worldwatch Paper #150: Underfed and Overfed: The Global Epidemic of Malnutrition

For the first time in human history, the number of overweight people rivals the number of underweight people, according to a forthcoming report from the Worldwatch Institute, a Washington, DC-based research organization. While the world's underfed population has declined slightly since 1980 to 1.1 billion, the number of overweight people has surged to 1.1 billion.

Worldwatch Paper #149: Paper Cuts: Recovering the Paper Landscape

Global consumption of wood fiber for papermaking can be cut by more than 50 percent, reports a new study by the Worldwatch Institute. This reduction can be achieved through a combination of trimming paper consumption in industrial countries, improving papermaking efficiency, and expanding the use of recycled and nonwood materials, according to Janet Abramovitz and Ashley Mattoon, co-authors of Paper Cuts: Recovering the Paper Landscape.

Worldwatch Paper #148: Nature's Cornucopia: Our Stake in Plant Diversity

Earth's natural systems increasingly display signs of the ecological costs imposed by our globalizing society, from large-scale declines in thousands of species, to growing infestations of non-native organisms, and to the widespread simplification of natural communities. By examining the benefits we obtain from one group of organisms--green plants--author John Tuxill shows just how much we stand to lose if the erosion of nature's diversity continues unabated.

Worldwatch Paper #147: Reinventing Cities for People and the Planet

In this paper, author Molly O'Meara shows that changes in six areas -- water, waste, food, energy, transportation, and land use -- are needed to make cities and the vast areas they affect better for both people and the planet. Cities can align their consumption with realistic needs, produce more of their own food and energy, and put much more of their waste to use. Citizens and local leaders from Curitiba, Brazil, to Chattanooga, Tennessee, are already showing the way as they overcome financial and political obstacles to put these ideas into action.