Plus Diesels Versus Hybrids, a Worldwatcher in Sri Lanka, and More in World Watch Magazine’s July/August 2005 Issue

Washington, DC—What if President Reagan had it wrong when he said, “Government isn’t the solution to our problems; government is the problem”? James Gustave Speth looks at this question and argues that business needs government action on climate change issues: “If business and governments don’t get their act together soon on global warming, the extraordinary economic machine we have created is going to wreak such havoc on the Earth’s systems, both natural and social, that today’s disruptions by terrorists will look like child’s play.”

Speth notes that “private businesses, environmental groups, consumer groups, state and local governments, foundations, religious organizations, investors, and others are behind a remarkable outpouring of initiatives that are the most hopeful things happening,” citing voluntarily reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by several major international corporations as an example of changes motivated by consumer and shareholder pressures, anticipated regulations and litigation, and pressures from insurers and lenders.


Wi—the Lakota word for sun—may help restore a culture, according to Gary Wockner in “Solar Power, Lakota Empowerment,” featured in the July/August 2005 issue of World Watch magazine.

Wockner describes the project of the Fort Collins, Colorado-based Trees, Water and People (TWP) to provide solar power to the Lakota community at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, where many households typically spend up to 50 percent of their income on heat. The low-tech solar heating system costs about $1,000 with used panels, or $1,700 with new. Collected data suggest the systems can save between 20 and 40 percent on home heating costs. Using the panels will also decrease reliance on firewood, a dwindling and expensive resource on the reservation.

The project’s proponents say that solar power can help the Lakota people further extend their traditional connection to nature and the land. “If implemented properly, solar power offers the Lakota autonomous, sustainable energy that is virtually free. Solar power can lead to Lakota empowerment,” writes Wockner.


Modern diesels can be as desirable to consumers as gasoline automobiles, but how does their environmental performance measure up to hybrids? Corinna Kester takes a look at this question in “Diesels Versus Hybrids: Comparing the Environmental Costs.”

Nearly all vehicle energy consumption (more than 85 percent) and pollutant emissions occur during vehicle usage, which includes the vehicle emissions themselves as well as the impacts associated with the fuel cycle: the extraction, refining, transport, and use of diesel and gasoline. Kester looks at energy consumption as well as the entire lifecycle of the vehicle—including raw materials extraction, manufacture and assemble, fuel production, and maintenance and disposal of vehicles—and concludes that hybrids are currently a more environmentally sound choice, given current policy realities.

Kester points out that another fuel option for diesel vehicles, biodiesel, is the clear choice for climate protection, producing only one-quarter of the green-house gas emissions of regular diesel. She adds, however, that it seems unlikely that biodiesel can fully replace fossil fuels. Kester does not look at other biofuels, such as ethanol; global production of ethanol doubled from 2000 to 2004. The International Energy Association projects that if supportive policies continue to proliferate, world biofuels production could nearly quadruple to more than 120 billion liters per year by 2020.


Leanne Mitchell, Worldwatch’s Director of Communications, penned this issue’s first-person narrative from Sri Lanka. Currently on leave from Worldwatch to conduct field research on the social and environmental impacts of a new highway there, Mitchell came face to face with the damage to Sri Lanka’s coast wrought by the tsunami: “As I drove down the road on a sunny morning, the sea behind the bustling market towns was calm and a perfect aquamarine.…Then it hit me. Many of the spectacular views weren’t even there three months before.”

Many organizations had noted that the destruction of mangroves, coral reefs, and other natural barriers left areas of the coastline vulnerable to the waves. “Driving down the coast road made it blatantly obvious where this had happened,” said Mitchell, who noted that while some coastal towns were decimated, some appeared virtually unharmed.


More Evidence of Antarctic Melting Reported

Chinese Villagers Protest Local Environmental Damage

Wal-Mart Pledges to Conserve Habitat in United States

Washington State, Canada Set Greenhouse Gas Emission Standards for Vehicles

Cambodia Goes Organic


Intakes and Outcomes

China per-capita beef consumption, kilograms, 2002 4.6

U.S. per-capita beef consumption, kilograms, 2002 43.2

Percent of Chinese men who smoked in 2003 59

Percent of U.S. men who smoked in 2003 28

Number of cigarettes smoked in China, 2004 1.77 trillion

Number of cigarettes smoked in the United States, 2004 379 billion

Estimated annual per-capita consumption of sugar, kilograms, China 8.8

Estimated annual per-capita consumption of sugar, kilograms, United States 30.4


China deaths from heart disease per 100,000 population, 2002 543

U.S. deaths from heart disease per 100,000 population, 2002 1,768

China deaths from stroke per 100,000 population, 2002 1,276

U.S. deaths from stroke per 100,000 population, 2002 563

China age-adjusted deaths from lung cancer per 100,000 males, 2002 37

U.S. age-adjusted deaths from lung cancer per 100,000 males, 2002 49

Percent of Chinese adults (≥20 years) with diabetes 2.4

Percent of American adults with diabetes 8.8

Percent of Chinese adults who are obese <5

Percent of U.S. adults who are obese 31


China per-capital spending on health care (purchasing power parity basis), 1997 US$143

U.S. per-capital spending on health care (PPP basis), 1997 US$3,983

China life expectancy at birth, years 71.96

U.S. life expectancy at birth, years 77.43


Sources: Beef consumption: UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO); cigarettes: Worldwatch Institute, Vital Signs 2005; men smokers: World Health Organization (WHO); sugar consumption: calculated with data from U. of North Dakota Center for Agricultural Policy and Trade Studies, FAO, CIA World Factbook; heart disease, stroke, and diabetes data: WHO; lung cancer deaths: International Agency for Research on Cancer; obesity: WHO and U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey; health-care spending: U. of Santa Cruz Center for Global, International, and Regional Studies; life expectancies: CIA World Factbook.