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State of the World 2004 Hardcover – 25 Feb 2004

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The most comprehensive, up-to-date, and accessible summaries...on the global environment. -- Pulitzer Prize winner E. O. Wilson

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars 6 reviews
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The State of Consumption (Minus Real Alternatives) 21 Jan. 2004
By J.W.K - Published on
Format: Paperback
Although reading them can be a bit depressing, annual Worldwatch reports are always worth while, because unlike any other institute out there, the WWI seeks a comprehensive understanding of humanity's impact on the environment. This year, the format has changed a little. Instead of providing the usual litany of statistics outlining the global eco-crisis (fisheries collapsing, forests shrinking, rangelands deteriorating, soils eroding, species obliterated, temperatures rising, rivers running dry, water tables falling, ozone depletion expanding, more destructive storms brewing, polar ice caps melting, sea level rising, etc.), the focus is consumption - which makes sense, because if are reading this, you are more than likely a consumer, and if you are a consumer, you are a fundamental part of the problem. As usual, the scholarship is excellent. Unfortunately, it lacks serious discussion of alternatives for individuals seeking to do more than reduce, reuse, recycle and support green energy initiatives. In other words, as with all State of the World reports, it is only useful as a scholarly reference - or, to put it another way, not very useful. If you have already come to believe there is in fact a fundamental problem with the way industrial civilization works, I would recommend one of four books, depending on your outlook: (1) WHAT GOES UP, by Derrick Jensen (due for release sometime in 2005) (2) PERMACUTLURE: Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability, by David Holmgren (3) RADICAL SIMPLICITY: Small Footprints on a Finite Planet or (4) ECOVILLAGE LIVING: Restoring the Earth and Her People, by Hildur Jackson Karen Svensson. The first book, which will no doubt be as insightful and transformative as Jensen's earlier works, addresses the issue of bringing down civilization. The second book utilizes system's theory and design science in an effort empower ordinary people to create their own permanent and sustainable communities. The third book, rather consumer-oriented and reformist in nature, offers radical advice on reducing your ecological footprint. The fourth book profiles various ecovillages all over the world and provides lots of practical advice for people seeking to join or start their own. If you are like me, you will no doubt read them all - and then some - but if you are just looking for a global eco-almanac on consumer trends, the State of the World 2004 will do. Of particular import were the sections on computers and cell phones, which detail the human health (cancers, miscarriages and birth defects) and environmental impacts (ground, air and water pollution) of the two industries. I've got blood on my hands for just posting this review.

Essential annual reading.

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Food for thoughts. 28 Feb. 2004
By Y. LIN - Published on
Format: Paperback
Although I like the extended reading list provided by angry-bear and agree that SOTW 2004 provides mostly facts than solutions, I wouldn't say that it is disappointing. On the contrary, this is what the series is all about. Facts are the food for thoughts, and I dare to say that every reader of SOTW has her/his own ways of facing the challenge.
The reasons are simple. The dire facts prompt us to think, to act, rather than simply to sit back in distress.
In case you haven't heard about other publications by Worldwatch Institute, please visit [...]
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reason and responsibility 5 Dec. 2004
By Rebecca A. Chaney - Published on
Format: Paperback
By focusing on consumerism, this book addresses the practices of our current society and the impacts those practices will have on future societies. I found it provides easily comprehended summaries of factual data that allows its readers to consider the issues of global consumption from their own individual perspective and from their particular societal perspective as well.

Throughout the book examples are given of individual and community practices that affect consumerism and global health for better or worse. Examples of consumer trends which illustrate how individual members of societies of abundance are willing to make choices based on their perceptions of global health (such as sharing cars or buying organic food) are included, as are examples of communities, companies, and governments that are attempting to move toward more sustainable production policies. The scope of the book is broad, well-indexed, and documented enabling opportunities for follow up research on material of interest. Additionally, the writers reach for an inclusive approach to personal and global well-being by emphasizing the inherent sociability of the human species and the need for solutions that are not just environmentally responsible but are globally equitable as well.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful and Thought-Provoking... A Must Read 17 Dec. 2004
By Bruce Rhodes - Published on
Format: Paperback
Timely and Thought-Provoking

Once again the Worldwatch Institute has published an important summary of the state of the world, using a sense of both urgency and hope.

The special focus of the eight chapters in the 2004 edition is "The Consumer Society". The authors document how we in the "developed world" continue to waste vast quantities of water and energy, despite having access to technology that, were we to embrace it, could dramatically reduce our "environmental footprint". We continue to eat more food than we need, and our diet includes more resource-intensive choices, such as beef, than are sustainable long-term. We continue to "inventory" in our homes more clothing than we realistically need, in effect storing in our closets the land, water and pesticides that it took to grow the cotton to make our shirts and sweaters, and the diesel fuel to run the ship that brought the clothing from south Asia.

Consumption for many is a mantra reinforced by the economic systems of "free enterprise", advertising, government policy that puts great emphasis on GDP as a measure of aggregate well-being, and the right of individuals to make choices. The challenge is that unbridled consumption cannot be sustained, especially if the growing middle class in the developing world aspires to acquire possessions and to consume to the degree that people in North America, Europe and Japan have already been doing for at least twenty years. Indeed, there are moral and social justice issues about the developed world warning the likes of India and China to resist embracing a full consumer society, when one considers that a) the developed world continues to consume and pollute at disproportionately high levels per capita; b) so much of the raw resources the developed world uses are extracted from the developing world, and c) a great deal of waste generated by the developed world, such as decommissioned ships dismantled on the shores of India, ends up in the developed world.

I highly recommend this book. In addition to the well-researched eight chapters, which can be read in any order, there are several sidebar articles, usually each two pages long, discussing the environmental impact of our producing and using such everyday items as plastic bags, computers, cell phones, bottled water, shrimp, cotton t-shirts, and paper. There is even an article that describes the ecological damage done by our using antibacterial soap. In short, what seem at first glance to be innocuous choices of what to consume, turn out to have profound implications on the viability of our ecosystems, if enough of us make unsustainable consumption choices.

On the one hand, there is great disparity in consumption patterns from one corner of the planet to another. Some don't get enough to eat, while others literally kill themselves by excessive and ill-advised eating decisions. On the other hand, the authors offer guidance, in chapters such as "Watching What We Eat", "Better Energy Choices", and "Boosting Water Productivity". The good news is that most of us can reduce our ecological footprint, attain better health and greater happiness, and often save money, by adopting practices that relate to consuming less, and to consuming more wisely. As Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once said, "To know when you have enough is to be rich."
0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Never Recieved It 19 Sept. 2005
By R. Medina - Published on
Format: Paperback
I never recieved this book. I have no clue what has happened.
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