energy use
I‘ve been a reader of the Worldwatch Institute’s annual State of the World report for many years. I just discovered that, in between, they publish a report called Vital Signs: Trends That Are Shaping Our Future. The latest edition has the following interesting data:

1. Ratio of average income of CEOs ($,000) to average income of manufacturing workers ($,000), selected countries:

CEOs Mfg Workers Ratio
US 10926 31 350
Mexico 867 4 233
Brasil 530 5 110
Italy 600 20 30
Canada 787 27 29
Spain 430 16 27
France 519 22 24
UK 669 28 24
Australia 547 23 23
Netherlands 605 29 21
New Zealand 287 15 19
South Korea 215 12 18
Sweden 414 29 14
Japan 508 37 14
Germany 455 35 13
Switzerland 405 35 12

2. Ratio of percentage of wealth owned by the richest 20% to the percentage of wealth owned by the poorest 20%, selected countries:

Richest 20% Poorest 20% Ratio
Brasil 64 2 29
Zambia 57 3 17
Mexico 57 4 16
Nigeria 56 4 13
Russia 54 4 12
US 46 5 9
China 47 6 8
UK 43 6 7
France 40 7 6
Yemen 41 7 6
India 46 8 6
Indonesia 41 9 5
Denmark 35 10 4
Egypt 39 10 4
Japan 36 11 3

These two tables suggest that income disparity does not correlate at all with democracy or capitalism. The first table shows just how obscenely out of whack US executive salaries have become in recent years, bearing no connection whatsoever to productivity or performance. The second table ratios are the inverse of the ‘Gini index’. These ratios correlate closely to crime and incarceration rates, validating recent studies that show that wealth inequality, rather than poverty, determines crime rate.

3. Global annual grain and meat production, millions of tons

Grain Meat Ratio
1962 858 66 13
1972 1156 108 11
1982 1552 140 11
1992 1797 187 10
2002 1833 242 7

This chart shows that not only is the world continuing to produce more food than it needs, resulting in more overweight people on the planet than underweight, and more deaths from obesity-related diseases than malnutrition, but that the mix of food production is getting much more inefficient — meat production consumes 10 times the resources per calorie produced that grain production does, and most of the grain production now comes from non-native grains on heavily irrigated, heavily fertilized land that costs more in energy to grow than it produces in food energy.

4. Global consumption of energy, millions of tons of oil equivalent, by source

Coal Oil Natural Gas Nuclear Wind
1962 1490 1100 500 10 0
1972 1540 2556 1032 158 0
1982 1863 2776 1322 840 1
1992 2204 3170 1810 1617 12
2002 2300 3529 2207 1765 158

Despite the massive pollution and land degradation caused by coal mining, our voracious Western appetite for energy is driving us to increase, rather than decrease, coal-burning. Likewise, although nuclear power’s environmental damage, accident risk and enormous cost has reduced the number of new reactors being built, use of existing reactors continues to rise. And although renewable energy is off to a promising start, it still accounts for only 1.5% of global consumption.

5. Global carbon emissions, millions of tons, versus millions of cars in use globally

Emissions Autos
1962 2700 110
1972 4200 215
1982 5000 340
1992 5900 470
2002 6500 560

There’s nearly a perfect correlation between global energy consumption, total carbon emissions, and average global temperature, but the world’s greatest polluters continue to fund massive PR campaigns and phony research to try to convince us there is no need for action. Fortunately, this is one corporatist lie very few people are buying. And not only is the number of cars on the road growing at twice the rate of population, the average miles per car per year is also rising rapidly as drivers live further and further from where they work and shop.

6. GDP versus Genuine Progress Indicator, per capita, US

GDP/cap GPI/cap
1962 14 7.6
1972 20 9.1
1982 23 9.5
1992 30 8.9
2000 40 9.5

Since the late 1990s, the momentum that was building to replace the discredited and worthless GDP as a measure of economic health has stalled. This is unfortunate, since it allows the Bush regime to claim the economy is rebounding while it continues to stagnate. The Genuine Progress Indicator, which subtracts from GDP the costs of traffic, pollution, non-renewable resource use and crime, and adds back the value of unpaid work, is a flawed but certainly superior measure. Unfortunately, producing this data on a more timely basis (it’s available for only eight countries, and the latest available data is for 2000) will require governments to invest in calculating this data, and to publicize and use GPI, rather than GDP, in making economic and political decisions. Huge lobbies are working to prevent this, since it threatens their massive subsidies, and governments would prefer, especially in an election year, to be the bearer of good tidings, even if they’re patently false, than bad news that suggests most of what our economy now does detracts, rather than contributes, to well-being.

This entry was posted in Collapse Watch. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to VITAL SIGNS

  1. You never cease to amaze with your ability to synthesize the shortsightedness of the business community. Talk about killing the goose that lays the golden egg! Your parables bring it to life in a very frightening way. Keep scaring us, Dave. Maybe someday we’ll get frightened enough to do something.

  2. Paul Morriss says:

    If you read WorldWatch you’ve got to read “The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World” by Bjorn Lomborg. He has a lot of reasons to disagree with them.

  3. Dave Pollard says:

    Paul: Lomborg’s ecological holocaust denial has been completely discredited and refuted by a horde of award winning scientists. He’s under investigation in his own country. He has zero credentials as an environmentalist, and is merely working as a corporate apologist.

Comments are closed.