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Thursday, January 08, 2004

State of the World 2004: Worldwatch Institute annual report
In its annual report, State of the World 2004, the Worldwatch Institute says that the world is consuming goods + services at an unsustainable pace, with serious consequences for the well-being of people and the planet.

Around 1.7 billion people worldwide-more than a quarter of humanity-have entered the "consumer class," adopting the diets, transportation systems, and lifestyles that were limited to the rich nations of Europe, North America, and Japan during most of the last century. In China alone, 240 million people have joined the ranks of consumers-a number that will soon surpass that in the United States.

On the bright side, State of the World 2004 points to a range of opportunities that are already available to governments, businesses, and consumers to curb + redirect consumption. These include:

ECOLOGICAL TAX REFORM. By shifting taxes so that manufacturers have to pay for the harm they do to the environment, and by introducing production standards and other regulatory tools, governments can help minimize negative impacts on natural resources.

TAKE-BACK LAWS. Now being adopted by a growing number of governments around the world, these laws require companies to "take back" products at the end of their useful lives, and typically ban the landfilling + incineration of products.

DURABILITY. Industries can take shared responsibility for their ecological impacts by finding ways to reduce the amount of raw material needed to create products and by making goods more durable and easy to repair + upgrade.

PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY. Changes in consumption practices will also require millions of individual decisions that start at the grassroots-about everything from our use of energy + water to our consumption of food.

View the full report: State of the World 2004 here.