Peak Production from a Planet in Distress: Can We Keep it Up?
Worldwatch Institute’s Vital Signs: Volume 20showcases the planet’s growing demand for food and energy, its shrinking resources, and the implications of these trends
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|JULY 15, 2013|
In 2012, global oil consumption reached an all-time high, the number of workers in vulnerable employment exceeded 1.5 billion people, and physical water scarcity affected some 1.2 billion people.The Worldwatch Institute captures the impacts of these alarming trends and the increasingly risky state of humanity in Vital Signs: Volume 20, the latest compilation from the Institute’s respected Vital Signs project.
Vital Signs: Volume 20 provides up-to-date figures on many of the most critical global concerns. Drawing on a wide range of sources, the report provides authoritative data and analysis on significant global trends such as fossil fuel subsidies, agricultural commodities, and rapid urbanization in the developing world.
“Our economic systems and theories are programmed to squeeze ever more resources from a planet in distress,” said Michael Renner, Worldwatch senior researcher and director of the Vital Signs project. “A mixture of population growth, consumerism, greed, and short-term thinking by policymakers and business people seems to be inexorably driving human civilization toward a showdown with the planet’s limits.”
Some of the trends highlighted in Vital Signs: Volume 20 are positive. Globally, sanitation and water access for 227 million people was improved between 2000 and 2010 to the point where these individuals are no longer considered slum dwellers. Within the agriculture sector, efficient irrigation methods have increased more than sixfold over the last two decades, and organically certified agricultural land has more than tripled since 1999.
Meanwhile, socially sustainable ways of doing business continue to emerge: about 1 billion people in 96 countries belong to a co-operative, whether as a worker, consumer, producer, or purchaser. Similarly, the emergence of so-called “benefit” corporations offers a more socially and environmentally responsible model for private firms.
“There is no shortage of alternatives to change the destructive trajectory that humanity finds itself on,” said Renner. “Renewables and efficient irrigation are two practical options among many others. But we need to get serious about these tasks instead of consigning them largely to the margins.”
Vital Signs: Volume 20 analyzes the above-mentioned trends and many more, using straightforward language and easy-to-read charts and graphs to explain global trends to governments, businesses, and consumers, helping them to make more informed decisions for our future.
Further highlights from the report:
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