is an easy-to-use desktop reference to the trends that are shaping our future. Covering everything from wind energy to sea level rise to military expenditures, and more, Vital Signs
uses succinct analysis, graphs, and tables to take the world's pulse on critical environmental and social issues. Some of the most compelling facts and trends from Vital Signs
2005 and Vital Signs
2003 are compiled here within this online portal.
In the Mesopotamian marshlands of Iraq and western Iran, the drawdown of fresh water has increased the salinity of marshes—changing plant composition, ruining nearby cropland, and compromising the wetlands' ability to regenerate. Blowing sediment and salt now contribute to growing health problems, while pollution caused by bombs, oil spills, and the destruction of local industries and sanitation facilities further threaten communities and remaining wetlands in the region.
The International Monetary Fund expected the value of world exports to reach $10.6 trillion in 2004, an increase of 15.3 percent over 2003. This would be the highest growth rate since 1995, when the value rose 16.7 percent. Much of this increase can be attributed to China's growing influence in rising world trade.
Global production of crude steel increased 8.8 percent in 2004, the first year in which steel output passed the billion-ton threshold. Steel consumption closely shadows economic growth in general, and China's hot economy is expected to make it the driver in global use in the near term. Steel consumption in China is expected to increase by more than 10 percent in 2005, and this one nation is projected to account for 61 percent of total growth this year.
In 1992, only one in 237 people worldwide used a mobile phone. A decade later, by 2002, this had soared to one in five.
Foreign debt of developing and former Eastern Bloc nations dropped to $2.44 trillion in 2001, down from 2.59 trillion in 2000. Some 78 percent of the debt in 2001 was owed by middle-income nations.
Global advertising expenditures hit $444 billion in 2002. The United States accounted for more than half of the total advertising market, or $235 billion.
December 1 is World AIDS Day. In 2002, average life expectancy in 16 African nations was at least ten years lower than it would have been without the advent of AIDS. In sub-Saharan Africa, home to 70 percent of the world’s HIV-positive people, AIDS is now the leading cause of death.
About 80 percent of the world depends on traditional and complementary/alternative medicine for treating and curing illness. According to the World Health Organization, traditional medicine (TM) refers to ways of protecting and restoring health that existed before the arrival of modern medicine.
The global economy has grown sevenfold since 1950. Meanwhile, the disparity in per capita gross domestic product between the 20 richest and 20 poorest nations more than doubled between 1960 and 1995.
Corruption—the misuse of public power for private benefit—is difficult to measure because officials who take bribes try to hide such activity. Yet those nations perceived by business people and risk analysts as most corrupt in 2002 are geographically widespread, and include Bangladesh, Nigeria, Angola, Madagascar, Paraguay, Indonesia, and Kenya.