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Vital Signs 2001 The Worldwatch Institute
Washington, DC: Worldwatch Institute, 2001
192 pp., $13.95, paper

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In order to fulfill its goal of promoting a healthy global environment, The Worldwatch Institute released its tenth volume of Vital Signs 2001. This book is a collection of global trends that are often overlooked by the media and average reader, and introduces the environmental, human and economic issues that play an important role in determining our future. Vital Signs 2001 points out that by looking at signs today, one can pretty much have an insight of what tomorrow might bring. With six billion people in the planet and our depleting food supply, the folks at the Worldwatch Institute hope to alert people and policy-makers alike of the different global trends that should assist in decision- making.

Among some of the trends presented by Vital Signs 2001 are those that are overshadowed by more controversial issues. For example, although malaria has been one of the leading fatal diseases, AIDS has been taking much of the headlines. Having nearly 40 percent of the global population at risk, malaria infects an average of 950 people every minute. However, after "winning" its war over malaria after World War II, industrialized countries have withdrawn their focus on malaria. This means shifting the world's attention on diseases that can pose a threat to developed countries and leave the rest of the world to struggle against malaria on its own. This trend is also visible in pharmaceutical production where only a small percentage of production is allotted to combat tropical diseases which are "some of the world's biggest killers."

While indeed Vital Signs 2001 presents issues that we often overlook, there are still those issues that are always on the news but nevertheless remain to be rightfully dealt with by our decision-makers. One of the more controversial and interesting issues that Vital Signs 2001 presents has to do with energy trends. It lays out the different energy resources, and which way countries that are leaning. North America and Western Europe are not building any nuclear reactors and are not planning to build any time soon (this is true while the book was being written), but the same could not be said for India, China and Brazil. India has completed three nuclear reactors, Brazil has one and China started one last year. On the other hand, while the world accounts for less than one percent of its total energy resource from the wind, Denmark is getting 13 percent. Other movements towards wind power are also being seen in various parts of the world from China to the Oregon-Washington border. Another energy source that is rapidly gaining popularity is solar energy. Government subsidies and loans are some of the major reasons for the spread of solar energy. For example, the Japanese government has allocated $130 million to support a third of the cost for rooftop solar systems. South Africa and other developing countries' governments are also looking at solar power to provide electricity in rural areas.

Together with energy trends, Vital Signs 2001 presents agricultural, atmospheric, economic, health, transportation and military trends that they claim are key indicators in determining our future. Vital Signs 2001 achieves its purpose of filling a gap in our knowledge. The different issues presented not only enlighten the reader of the different issues that s/he often never pays attention to, it also provides the reader with a synthesis on the broader topic of global health. By summarizing all the different trends worldwide, Vital Signs 2001 serves as an indicator of what our future holds. By giving facts and joining forces with the United Nations, The Worldwatch Institute increases its credibility and further appeals to the reader's global consciousness. Aside from creating an informed reader, the book builds a globally mindful individual.

- Maria Aliza Laghab

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"As we see all around us, racism and racial discrimination continue unabated. Although we refer to our world as a global village, it is a world sadly lacking in the sense of closeness towards neighbour and community which the word village implies. In each region, and within all countries, there are problems stemming from either a lack of respect for, or lack of acceptance of, the inherent dignity and equality of all human beings. Our world is witness to serious ethnic conflicts; to discrimination against minorities, indigenous peoples and migrants workers; the accusation of institutionalized racism in police forces; harsh immigration and asylum policies; hate sites on the Internet and youth groups promoting intolerance and xenophobia."
– Mary Robinson,
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
24 March 1999

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