Worldwatch Paper #141: Losing Strands in the Web of Life: Vertebrate Declines and the Conservation of Biological Diversity

One of the clearest ways to judge how we are affecting the Earth's biological life-support systems is to examine the status of those organisms closest to ourselves-the 50,000 species of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish. Currently, about one in every four of these vertebrate animals is in serious trouble-either declining strongly, or restricted to small populations, or already threatened with extinction.

Most vertebrates are in trouble because the ecological communities to which they belong are being dismantled by habitat loss, overhunting, and invasions of non-native species-problems that stem from humankind's mistreatment of the natural world. In this Paper, John Tuxill examines the challenges to survival that vertebrate species face, and what their fate foretells for our planet's biological diversity.

Worldwatch Paper #140: Taking a Stand: Cultivating a New Relationship with the World's Forests

April 1998
Janet N. Abromovitz
ISBN: 1-878071-42-4
84 pages

The accelerating destruction of the world's forests threatens the planet's ecological and economic health. Already almost half of the forests that once covered the planet are gone. Between 1980 and 1995 alone, at least 2 million square kilometers of forests were destroyed-an area larger than Mexico.

In this paper, Janet...

Worldwatch Paper #139: Investing in the Future: Harnessing Private Capital Flows for Environmentally Sustainable Development

As investors search the world for the highest return, they are often drawn to countries endowed with bountiful natural resources but handicapped by weak environmental laws, causing natural resource destruction and industrial pollution. But private investment can also bring environmental benefits, such as access to cutting-edge technologies that minimize energy use and waste generation.

In this paper, Hilary French shows how private capital is shaping environmental trends in developing countries. She recommends strategies for shifting money out of ecologically damaging activities and into the technologies and enterprises of tomorrow. Asia's economic and environmental crises of 1997 offer timely warnings of the current system's fragility, as well as an opportunity to put in place the reforms needed to channel international investment capital into sustainable development.

Worldwatch Paper #138: Rising Sun, Gathering Winds: Policies to Stabilize the Climate and Strengthen Economies

November 1997
Christopher Flavin and Seth Dunn
ISBN: 1-878071-40-8
84 pages

The climate change debate is undergoing a seismic shift--beyond a paralyzing preoccupation with the cost of addressing the problem, and toward an active awareness that bold steps to stabilize the climate could create some of the largest economic opportunities of the twenty-first century.

Quantum leaps in technologies...

Worldwatch Paper #137: Small Arms, Big Impact: The Next Challenge of Disarmament

During the Cold War, arms control and disarmament efforts focused exclusively on major weapons systems such as tanks, jet fighters, and nuclear weapons. Although this has begun to change in recent years, there are still no international standards regarding small arms; their production, trade, and possession remain essentially unmonitored and unregulated.

In this paper, Michael Renner draws up a balance sheet that weighs the real costs of small arms proliferation and the violence it engenders: the loss of life and property, social instability, the disruption of economic development, and the threat to democratic governance. The author offers a broad range of policy recommendations, but observes that efforts that do not curtail new production are bound to fall short. The longer large-scale production continues, the greater the future supply of weapons whose whereabouts and use will be of great concern.

Worldwatch Paper #136: The Agricultural Link: How Environmental Deterioration Could Disrupt Economic Progress

As demand starts to outrun supply, grain prices are rising. Higher grain prices will not have much effect on the world's affluent, but for the 1.3 billion people who live on a dollar a day or less, rising grain prices quickly become life-threatening. People unable to buy enough food to feed their families are likely to take to the streets. The resulting political instability could effect the earnings of multinational corporations, the performance of stock markets, and the stability of the international monetary system. At that point, the problem of the poor would become everyone's problem.



Worldwatch Paper #135: Recycling Organic Waste: From Urban Pollutant to Farm Resource

August 1997
Gary Gardner
ISBN: 1-878071-37-8
59 pages

Metal, paper, and plastic are commonly recycled, but most of the world continues to throw away an abundant, reusable resource: organic matter. Today, we normally send organic garbage and sewage to landfills and incinerators, or dump them into rivers, bays, and oceans. And manure is increasingly dumped or overapplied to farmland because of large,...

Worldwatch Paper #134: Getting the Signals Right: Tax Reform to Protect the Environment and the Economy

May 1997
David Malin Roodman
ISBN: 1-878071-36-X
66 pages

Progress on major environmental issues, such as global warming, will be nearly impossible until the world's governments begin to tax activities that cause the problems. Today, environmental harm often seems free even though it imposes real costs on this and future generations. Environmental taxes pass these hidden costs back to the people...

Worldwatch Paper #133: Paying the Piper: Subsidies, Politics, and the Environment

December 1996
David Malin Roodman
ISBN: 1-878071-35-1
80 pages

Around the world, government policies shunt at least $500 billion a year toward activities like logging, mining, overfishing, and driving that hurt the environment and thus undermine the global economy. These subsidies contribute to environmental problems ranging from deforestation to air and water pollution. The money ultimately comes...

Worldwatch Paper #132: Dividing the Waters: Food Security, Ecosystem Health, and the New Politics of Scarcity

September 1996
Sandra Postel
ISBN: 1-878071-34-3
76 pages

A growing scarcity of fresh water is now a major impediment to food security, ecosystem health, social stability, and peace among nations. As supplies dwindle, competition for water is increasing-between cities and farms, between neighboring states and provinces, and between nations.

Although water is renewable, it is also finite. The...