Vital Signs 2012

Vital Signs 2012
ISBN: 978-1-61091-371-3
Buy Vital Signs 2012 as an e-book | PDF (protected)

Tracking key trends in the environment, agriculture, energy, society, and the economy to inform and inspire the changes needed to build a sustainable world.

Trend Collections

  • Energy and Transportation 
  • Environment and Climate 
  • Food and Agriculture 
  • Global Economy and Resources 
  • Population and Society 

From organic farming to high-speed rail to wind power, Vital Signs 2012 documents 24 trends that are shaping our future in concise analysis and clear tables and graphs. This nineteenth volume of the Worldwatch Institute series demonstrates that despite a number of positive developments, much remains to be done to get the planet on a more sustainable track. Findings from this collection include:

  • Global energy intensity rose 1.35 percent in 2010—a rare exception to a long-term positive trend that saw energy intensity drop by just over 20 percent from 1981 to 2010.
  • In 2010, global oil consumption reached an all-time high of 87.4 million barrels. At 37 percent of primary energy use, it remains the largest single source of energy, though its share has declined for 11 consecutive years.
  • Fossil fuel consumption subsidies fell 44 percent in 2009, to $312 billion—reflecting changes in international energy prices rather than a change in policies.
  • Continuing its rapid ascent, installed global wind power capacity increased 24 percent to 197,000 megawattsin 2010—nine times as much as a decade ago.
  • Solar photovoltaic generating capacity grew even faster.  The 16,700 megawatts that were newly installed in 2010 surpasses the total PV capacity that was in place in 2008.
  • The production of passenger cars and light trucks reached a new peak in 2010, surging from 60 million to 74.7 million.
  • High-speed rail lines expanded from 10,700 kilometers in 2009 to almost 17,000 kilometers in 2011. High-speed trips accounted for 7 percent of all rail passenger travel in 2010.
  • Global biofuel production increased by 17 percent in 2010 to reach an all-time high of 105 billion liters. Rising portions of the U.S. corn harvest and Brazil’s sugarcane production are turned into ethanol—giving rise to fears of increasing food and fuel trade-offs.
  • Organic farming methods were used on 37.2 million hectares worldwide in 2009. This represents a 150 percent increase since 2000, yet the organic area amounts to just 0.85 percent of global agricultural land.
  • Per capita meat consumption in the developing world doubled to 32 kilograms over the past quarter-century, but this is still far below consumption levels in the industrial world.
  • Fish farming has increased some 50-fold since the 1950s and now accounts for 40 percent of total fish catch.
  • The number of overweight people age 15 or older worldwide jumped 25 percent since 2002, to 1.93 billion.

Sample figures from Vital Signs 2012:

BiofuelsLabor Force
Vital Signs Online

Be sure to check out Vital Signs Online (VSO), our interactive, subscription-based tool that provides hard data and research-based insights on the sustainability trends that are shaping our future. Created for business leaders, policymakers, academics, and engaged citizens, VSO can be used for strategic planning, understanding world events, or as a reference source for presentations and reports.

Updated twice a month, Vital Signs Online includes more than 40 sustainability trends—and the list is growing.

A subscription includes:

  • More than 24 new or updated trends every year, released twice a month
  • Concise, unbiased, data-driven analysis by authoritative researchers
  • Presentation-ready charts and graphs
  • Excel worksheets for data manipulation and comparative analysis
  • Full endnote referencing
  • Global trends in five categories: Food & Agriculture, Energy & Transportation, Environment & Climate, Global Economy & Resources, Population & Society

For more information, visit

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