Worldwatch Paper #151: Micropower: The Next Electrical Era

Electricity is returning to its origins: generating power on a relatively small scale, close to where it is actually used. Technological, economic, and environmental trends are turning a family of "micropower" devices into increasingly viable choices for meeting electrical needs. Use of these generators can avoid expensive investments in large central power stations and transmission and distribution systems, provide greater reliability, and leave a lighter ecological footprint.

Micropower is emerging in two niches. In industrial nations, where aging grid equipment causes costly flickers and outages, growing dependence on digital, computerized processes is creating demand for highly dependable power. In developing nations, where centralized supply is even more brittle and has yet to reach 1.8 billion people living in power poverty, small-scale electrical services are often already the most economical option.

Worldwatch Paper #150: Underfed and Overfed: The Global Epidemic of Malnutrition

For the first time in human history, the number of overweight people rivals the number of underweight people, according to a forthcoming report from the Worldwatch Institute, a Washington, DC-based research organization. While the world's underfed population has declined slightly since 1980 to 1.1 billion, the number of overweight people has surged to 1.1 billion.

Worldwatch Paper #149: Paper Cuts: Recovering the Paper Landscape

Global consumption of wood fiber for papermaking can be cut by more than 50 percent, reports a new study by the Worldwatch Institute. This reduction can be achieved through a combination of trimming paper consumption in industrial countries, improving papermaking efficiency, and expanding the use of recycled and nonwood materials, according to Janet Abramovitz and Ashley Mattoon, co-authors of Paper Cuts: Recovering the Paper Landscape.

Worldwatch Paper #148: Nature's Cornucopia: Our Stake in Plant Diversity

Earth's natural systems increasingly display signs of the ecological costs imposed by our globalizing society, from large-scale declines in thousands of species, to growing infestations of non-native organisms, and to the widespread simplification of natural communities. By examining the benefits we obtain from one group of organisms--green plants--author John Tuxill shows just how much we stand to lose if the erosion of nature's diversity continues unabated.

Worldwatch Paper #147: Reinventing Cities for People and the Planet

In this paper, author Molly O'Meara shows that changes in six areas -- water, waste, food, energy, transportation, and land use -- are needed to make cities and the vast areas they affect better for both people and the planet. Cities can align their consumption with realistic needs, produce more of their own food and energy, and put much more of their waste to use. Citizens and local leaders from Curitiba, Brazil, to Chattanooga, Tennessee, are already showing the way as they overcome financial and political obstacles to put these ideas into action.

Worldwatch Paper #146: Ending Violent Conflict

The Cold War is over, little has changed fundamentally as far as reliance on the military is concerned. Thus, at the threshold of the twenty-first century, the international community faces a fundamental challenge: either build the foundations for a lasting peace or be overwhelmed by an endless string of internal wars capable of devastating entire countries, even of re-igniting big-power confrontations. And as events in the Balkans have demonstrated, current peace and security policies are woefully inadequate.

In this paper, author Michael Renner argues that the international community is more likely to avoid crises like Kosovo's by devoting as much energy and enthusiasm to fortifying the nascent infrastructure of peace as it has to building military muscle. He lays out a program for transforming the process of international policy-making by infusing it with human rights, humanitarian, and human development concerns to a far greater extent than has been the case to date-by moving toward human security.

Worldwatch Paper #145: Safeguarding the Health of Oceans

For much of human history, humanity has treated oceans as inexhaustible both in terms of what they could produce and in terms of what they could absorb. But humanity has pushed the world's oceans close to--and in some cases past--their natural limits. In this thorough review of the challenges facing us in managing oceans, author Anne Platt McGinn examines the threats to our oceans and prescribes the steps we must take quickly to protect ocean health.

The problems afflicting oceans are growing, from relentless overfishing by government-subsidized fleets to the insidious accumulation of thousands of chemicals in marine food chains. And too many international institutions working on oceanic issues were created to promote economic growth and development.

In the light of these threats, McGinn argues that we are poised at the edge of an explosion of information about oceans because of recent scientific and technological advances. The key question at this critical juncture is whether this new knowledge will be bent to the service of the old, increasingly destructive view of oceans as limitless, or to the new awareness of their fragility and importance to all life on the planet.

Worldwatch Paper #144: Mind Over Matter: Recasting the Role of Materials in Our Lives

Nations and businesses are discovering ways to use materials more intelligently--to provide the goods and services people want using much less wood, metal, stone, plastic, and other materials. By reducing wasteful use, and by steering production toward du rable goods that are easy to reuse, remanufacture, or recycle, a few pioneering firms are recasting the role of materials in our lives. Some businesses have even shifted out of manufacturing and become purveyors of services--dramatically lowering levels of materials use.

Worldwatch Paper #143: Beyond Malthus: Sixteen Dimensions of the Population Problem

In our demographically divided world, fertility has dropped and population has stabilized or is declining in some countries; but in others where fertility is still high, population is projected to double or even triple before stabilizing. As recent experi ence with AIDS in Africa shows, some of these high-fertility countries are simply overwhelmed when a new threat appears. While industrial countries have held HIV infection rates among their adult populations to 1 percent or less, infection rates are as hi gh as 26 percent of the adult population in some African countries. With their rising mortality trends, more reminiscent of the Dark Ages than the bright millennium so many had hoped for, these countries are falling back to an earlier demographic stage wi th high death rates and high birth rates, and no growth in population.

In examining the stakes involved in potentially adding another 3.3 billion people over the next 50 years, the study calls for immediate expansion of international family planning assistance to the millions of couples who still lack access, and new investm ent in educating young people, especially women, in the Third World, to promote a shift to smaller families.

Worldwatch Paper #142: Rocking the Boat: Conserving Fisheries and Protecting Jobs

Fisheries and the economic and social benefits they offer society are under siege around the globe. Most of the world's marine fish stocks and primary fishing grounds are in decline. Nearly one third of all fish are thrown back to sea dead or dying each y ear because of wasteful fishing practices. The food security of more than 1 billion people who rely on fish for much of their animal protein is also at risk because one of every three fish captured goes to feed animals and other uses.

The roots of the crisis run deep. They include the open access nature of fishing-which draws people into the industry well after profits and catches begin falling; widespread technological change and fleet growth; and national development policies that pr omote expansion at the expense of the resource. The industry barely stays afloat, even as billions of dollars in subsidies are poured into it.