23 July 2013 – Washington DC based research group Worldwatch Institute says that in 2012 global oil consumption reached an all-time high, the number of workers in vulnerable employment exceeded 1.5 billion people, and physical water scarcity affected some 1.2 billion people.
Michael Renner, Worldwatch senior researcher and director of the institute’s Vital Signs project, says, "A mixture of population growth, consumerism, greed, and short-term thinking by policymakers and business people seems to be inexorably driving human civilization toward a showdown with the planet’s limits."
However, some of the trends highlighted in the group’s recent Vital Signs: volume 20 publication are positive. Globally, sanitation and water access for 227 million people was improved between 2000 and 2010 to the point where these individuals are no longer considered slum dwellers. Within the agriculture sector, efficient irrigation methods have increased more than six-fold over the last two decades, and organically certified agricultural land has more than tripled since 1999.
Meanwhile, socially sustainable ways of doing business continue to emerge. About one billion people in 96 countries belong to a co-operative, whether as a worker, consumer, producer, or purchaser. "There is no shortage of alternatives to change the destructive trajectory that humanity finds itself on," Renner says. "Renewables and efficient irrigation are two practical options among many others. But we need to get serious about these tasks instead of consigning them largely to the margins."
According to Worldwatch’s latest Vision 20 report, global coal production increased by 6,941 million tonnes in 2011, making coal the fastest growing fossil fuel. Spurred mainly by rising demand in China and India, coal’s share in the global primary energy mix reached 28% in 2011, its highest point since record-keeping began in 1971.
Global wind power capacity grew by 21% in 2011, lower than the 2010 rate of 24% and markedly lower than the 2009 rate of 31%.
Passenger car production rose from 60.1 million vehicles in 2010 to 62.6 million vehicles in 2011, and 2012 brought a new all-time record of 66.1 million vehicles.
Among the global workforce, wage growth has slowed from an average of 3% in 2007 to 2.1% in 2010 and 1.2% in 2011.