State of the World 2015: Confronting Hidden Threats to Sustainability


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ISBN: 978-1-61091-610-3

We think we understand environmental damage: pollution, water scarcity, a warming world. But these problems are just the tip of the iceberg. Food insecurity, financial assets drained of value by environmental damage, and a rapid rise in diseases of animal origin are among the underreported consequences of an unsustainable global system.

In State of the World 2015, the flagship publication of The Worldwatch Institute, experts explore hidden threats to sustainability and how to address them. How will nations deal with migration as climate change refugees cross borders in order to escape flooding, drought, or other extreme weather events? What will happen to the price and availability of fossil energy—the foundation of industrial civilization--as these resources oscillate between surplus and scarcity? If perpetual economic growth on a finite planet is impossible, what are the alternatives? Can national governments manage the transition? Eight key issues are addressed in depth, along with the central question of how we can develop resilience to these and other shocks.

For decades, The Worldwatch Institute has been a leader in identifying and analyzing emerging environmental threats. With the latest edition of State of The World, the authorities at Worldwatch bring to light challenges we can no longer afford to ignore.

About State of the World

Worldwatch's flagship publication, State of the World, has educated a broad audience of students, journalists, policymakers, and concerned citizens about trends in sustainable development for a quarter century. The book has been published in 36 languages, and over the years it has authoritatively assessed issues ranging from population, energy, and agriculture to materials use, health, and trade policy. Topics are covered from a global perspective, with an emphasis on innovation and problem-solving. State of the World is recognized as a classic of environmental literature, having attracted luminaries from Kofi Annan to Mikhail Gorbachev to write forewords for the book. News media, policymakers, and NGOs worldwide cite the book for its cutting-edge analysis, reliability, and careful documentation of its arguments, all marshaled to speed the global transition to a sustainable world.

"As the world has evolved over the past three decades, so has the annual State of the World report. This edition offers an even more systemic analysis than past ones, integrating finance into its snapshot of ecological and societal trends on Planet Earth. Everyone who cares about the overarching issues shaping our future should pay attention, as the warning lights on our dashboard are glowing."

Richard Heinberg, Senior Fellow, Post Carbon Institute

"The State of the World report has always been at the forefront of bringing new issues and new perspectives to wide public attention in the U.S. and abroad. Devastating findings about our world have been matched with exciting opportunities for action. For 30 years, there has been nothing quite like it, and now comes another major contribution in the series. The 2015 volume once again explores new territory, including, I am happy to see, an examination of whether GDP growth, as we now experience it in places like the United States, brings more costs than benefits. Overall, an extremely important contribution."

James Gustave Speth, Author, America the Possible: Manifesto for a New Economy

"Each year, we can count on State of the World for up-to-date research revealing critical issues of sustainability for our planet and its people. Get it if you want to understand emerging threats and new possibilities. Probably the best investment you will make in 2015!"

Mathis Wackernagel, President, Global Footprint Network

"State of the World lays out the essential knowledge of what is happening to the planet and the solutions we need to sustain civilization. A cutting-edge compass for a sustainable future: no leader should be without it."

Thomas E. Lovejoy, Professor of Environmental Science and Policy, George Mason University


A Visual Introduction to State of the World 2015