Eight positive environmental trends

Published April 1, 2000
  • If present global demographic trends continue, the world population is likely to top out at 7.5 billion people in 2040 and begin to decline.
  • Global life expectancy rose from an average of 46 years in 1950 to over 64 years today.
  • “World market prices for wheat, maize, and rice, adjusted for inflation, are the lowest they have been in the last century” according to the International Food Policy Research Institute.
  • Food production increased by 60 percent between 1980 and 1997, according to the World Bank.
  • Temperate forests are expanding. In 1920, U.S. forests covered 732 million acres. Today they cover 737 million acres. Forests in Europe expanded even more dramatically, from 361 million acres in 1950 to 482 million acres in 1990.
  • The world is not running out of “nonrenewable” resources. The prices of all metals and minerals are half what they were in 1970.
  • According to Vice President Al Gore, speaking to the AAAS in 1999, “The past 50 years the value of our economy has tripled, while the physical weight of our economy as a whole has barely increased at all.” In other words, people today use fewer resources to create more value, thus lightening their footprint on the Earth.
  • U.S. air pollution is way down. Sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide levels have dropped more than 75 percent since the 1960s, and particulates are down more than 50 percent since the 1950s.

From Earth Report 2000: The True State of the Planet (McGraw-Hill, 1999).