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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An invaluable guide, 5 Mar 2004
By 
DAVID-LEONARD WILLIS (Thessaloniki Greece) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: State of the World 2002 (Hardcover)
During the 1980s and 1990s, in an initiative led by World Neighbors in Guatemala, there were encouraging signs as farmers adopted low-cost improvements such as hedges to control erosion, crop rotation with legumes to add nitrogen to the soil, and covering the ground with vegetation year round to reduce soil and water loss, with the result that harvests jumped without the use of chemical fertilizer or pesticides as the capacity of farmers to innovate, experiment, and become the protagonists of their own development increased and they explored better ways to farm. Incomes improved, emigration to the cities declined, nutrition, health, literacy, soil quality, resistance to drought, water quality, and resistance to extreme weather conditions all improved; tree planting increased and more families were involved in local decision making. But this was in stark contrast to the type of farming that prevails in much of the world which delivers a great deal of food but wears down ecosystems while people go hungry and rural communities wither. Changing from destructive systems to regenerative or multifunctional or agroecological systems was part of the vision and goals of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit but implementation fell far short. Modern farming has increased production and lowered commodity prices but at the price of environmental and social dysfunction. When food production is the sole yardstick, it is difficult to comprehend the price paid by ignoring other criteria such chemicals in drinking water, soil erosion, food poisoning, subsidies, and mad cow disease. People pay three times for their food - at the checkout counter, for subsidies, and to clean up polluting farm practices. Often producing more food did not reduce hunger. Much of the growth in food production has been built on irrigation but at the price of pressure on water resources as described by Sandra Postel in "Pillar of Sand: Can the Irrigation Miracle Last?" The strongest evidence that our food system is dysfunctional is the fact that farmers, as a group, are the poorest people on the planet, hunger is concentrated in rural areas, worsened by poor access to safe water and sanitation. As most of the money in the food business flows to the cities and factories, a mass exodus from rural areas has resulted. In 1950 American farmers captured 50 cents on the food dollar but in 1997 it was 7 cents with most of the money going to processing, marketing, and agricultural input suppliers - a pattern mirrored around the world. How can so many remain hungry when food production soared and was ahead of population growth?
This edition of State of the World, issued prior to the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in September 2002was prepared to help define the agenda by focusing on seven key areas which should be the priorities for delegates - agriculture, energy, climate change, chemicals, international tourism, population growth, resource based conflicts and global governance. In addition, this volume evaluates what has been achieved since the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio when world leaders agreed to a plan to create a sustainable global economy - one that met human needs while protecting and restoring the natural environment. Unanimous recommendations of the report "Our Common Future" established sustainable development as the central organizing principle for societies around the world. Although these recommendations were confirmed at Rio and despite two landmark global treaties on climate change and biological diversity, the world continued with business as usual. Agenda 21, a 40-chapter plan for achieving sustainable development, lacked clear implementation plans and binding legal requirements. Two questions need to be addressed - why has so little progress been made? And what must be done to ensure that the next decade is one of sustainable development and environmental progress? "The answer to the first question is both simple and complex: governments and individuals around the world are still treating issues such as population growth, the loss of biological diversity, and the build up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere as if they were the equivalent to local air or water pollution - problems that could be solved simply by ordering the addition of control devices. Humanity has not yet shown the ability to deal with fundamental global and long-term changes in the biosphere, particularly when they require a systemic response - the creation of fundamentally different technologies, the development of new business models, and the embracing of new life styles and values."
The eight chapters in this book are:
- The Challenge for Johannesburg: Creating a More Secure World;
- Moving the Climate Change Agenda Forward;
- Farming in the Public Interest;
- Reducing our Toxic Burden;
- Redirecting International Tourism;
- Rethinking Population, Improving Lives;
- Breaking the Link Between Resources and Repression; and
- Reshaping Global Governance.
The 1980s was a decade of unprecedented economic growth during which over $10 trillion a year was added to the global economy but it left the number living in poverty nearly unchanged at more than 1 billion. The problem is not money but political will in dealing with problems that will come to haunt us in the years ahead. This book is invaluable in defining the problems, proposing solutions and helping each of us identify where we should try to make a difference.
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State of the World 2002
State of the World 2002 by Worldwatch Ins (Hardcover - 27 Mar 2002)
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