All-you-can-eat Economy is Making the World Sick
((new research from the Worldwatch Institute, the report is called Vital Signs 2001: The trends that are shaping our future. The findings: “We’re eating more meat, drinking more coffee, popping more pills, driving further and getting fatter. Around the world we are consuming more than ever before: but more than one billion people still don’t have access to safe water; natural disasters are taking a worsening toll; and we have yet to vanquish some of the world’s biggest killers-diarrhea, malaria and AIDS.))
In a year when oil prices hit a 15-year high, car production also peaked. The world’s fleet of passenger vehicles reached 532 million in 2000. At the same time, average fuel economy remained stagnant at mid-1980’s levels. Just before the Bush Administration effectively pulled out of the Kyoto protocol, Americans were driving their cars further than ever before. Total U.S. carbon emissions were 13 percent higher than they were in 1990.
While technological innovation soars, 90 percent of commercial energy use worldwide continues to come from fossil fuels. Alternative energy sources such as wind still only account for one percent of the world total, reports Vital Signs 2001.
“Living in the 21st century, we like to think of ourselves as sophisticated, post-modern, technology-savvy world citizens,” Renner said, “but the truth is that our cyber economy is still fueled by the same old energy sources. And as long as consumers do not demand change, manufacturers will continue to churn out environmentally destructive products.”
Gasoline, aluminum and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastics-which are manufactured through highly polluting processes-represent the resource binge we’re on. Consumer demand for common items such as automobiles, aluminum cans and children’s toys spurs these industries. But while alternatives are available for almost every PVC use and aluminum recycling requires only five percent as much energy as primary production, little pressure is being placed on manufacturers to change p