Meditation Focus #97

Shifting Our Global Priorities


What follows is the 97th Meditation Focus suggested for the two consecutive weeks beginning Sunday, October 12, 2003.


1. Summary
2. Meditation times
3. More information related to this Meditation Focus


As a follow up on the previous Meditation Focus, let us now consider how inappropriate and wasteful are several global priorities favored so far by many national governments, particularly in the realm of military spending (a total of US$784 billion in 2002, including $335.7 billion for the United States, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute) when compared, for instance, to development assistance to developing countries ($57 billion in 2002, including $12.9 billion given by the United States, representing 0.12% of its Gross National Income, according to the OCDE Aid and Debt Statistics). Another relevant aspect is the total Third World debt which has hit a new high of $2.5 trillion in 1999, with some of the world’s poorest nations devoting 30 percent of their national budgets to debt servicing.

Some of the consequences of these imbalances are as follow: 30,000 children die each day of preventable illness. 1.2 billion people lack access to safe water, roughly on-sixth of the world’s population and 2.4 billion or 40 percent of the world’s people lack access to adequate sanitation services. 13 million children have lost a parent due to AIDS last year. 14.4 million people die each year from infectious disease. There were 12 million international refugees in the beginning of 2002 and another 50 million environmental refugees—driven from their homes by dam building, drought, flooding, etc. Some 815 million people worldwide are chronically hungry. Almost half of humanity lives on less than $2 a day. Moreover, globalization has deepened economic disparities, and the gap between the world's poorest and richest nations has more than doubled since 1960.

Please dedicate your prayers and meditations, as guided by Spirit, in the coming two weeks, and especially in synchronous attunement at the usual time this Sunday and the following one, to contribute in creating a greater awareness of the urgent need to shift our global priorities so as to redirect our resources and creativity towards assisting all those in need of food, shelter and better living conditions to fulfill those vital needs. May everyone understands that misdirecting the dwindling Earth's resources on futile and wasteful military pursuits and to further enrich those who are already abundantly rich is not only morally indefensible but contribute in creating the very conditions of instability and insecurity that prevent the world from attaining global peace, environmental sustainability and social harmony, three conditions essential for true happiness and a sense of spiritual justice that are so lacking on Earth today. May we all realize that as brothers and sisters of the One Human Family, we share the common responsibility to care for all human beings and protect the sacred Web of Life, for the Highest Good of All.

This whole Meditation Focus is also available at


i) Global Meditation Day: Sunday at 16:00 Universal Time (GMT) or at noon local time. Suggested duration: 30 minutes.

ii) Golden Moment of At-Onement: Daily, at the top of any hour, or whenever it better suits you.

These times below are currently corresponding to 16:00 Universal Time/GMT:

Honolulu 6:00 AM -- Anchorage * 8:00 AM -- Los Angeles * 9:00 AM -- Mexico City, San Salvador & Denver * 10:00 AM -- Houston * & Chicago * 11:00 AM -- Santo Domingo, La Paz, Caracas, New York *, Toronto *. Montreal *, Asuncion & Santiago 12:00 AM -- Halifax *, Rio de Janeiro & Montevideo 1:00 PM -- Reykjavik & Casablanca 4 PM -- Lagos, Algiers, London *, Dublin * & Lisbon * 5:00 PM -- Jerusalem, Johannesburg, Geneva *, Rome *, Berlin *, Paris * & Madrid * 6:00 PM -- Ankara *, Athens *, Helsinki * & Istanbul * & Nairobi 7:00 PM -- Baghdad *, Moscow * 8:00 PM -- Tehran * 8:30 PM -- Islamabad 9:00 PM -- Calcutta & New Delhi 9:30 PM -- Dhaka 10:00 PM -- Rangoon 10:30 PM -- Hanoi, Bangkok & Jakarta 11:00 PM -- Hong Kong, Perth, Beijing & Kuala Lumpur +12:00 PM -- Seoul & Tokyo +1:00 AM -- Brisbane, Canberra & Melbourne +2:00 AM -- Wellington +4:00 AM

+ means the place is one day ahead of Universal Time/Greenwich Mean Time.

* means the place is observing daylight saving time (DST) at the moment.

You may also check at to find your current corresponding local time if a closeby city is not listed above.


This complement of information may help you to better understand the various aspects pertaining to the summary description of the subject of this Meditation Focus. It is recommended to view this information from a positive perspective, and not allow the details to tinge the positive vision we wish to hold in meditation. Since what we focus on grows, the more positive our mind-set, the more successful we will be in manifesting a vision of peace and healing. This complementary information is provided so that a greater knowledge of what needs healing and peace-nurturing vibrations may assist us to have an in-depth understanding of what is at stake and thus achieve a greater collective effectiveness.

If need be, you may also review the previous related Meditation Focus #96: Appreciating the Miracle of Life at


Poverty, Disease, Environmental Decline Threaten Global Stability

Washington, D.C.— Failure to meet the needs of the world’s poorest citizens threatens long-term global stability, reports Vital Signs 2003, the latest publication from the Worldwatch Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based research organization.

The report points to the more than 13 million children who have lost a parent due to AIDS, the 14.4 million people who die each year from infectious disease, and the 12 million international refugees in the beginning of 2002 as clear indicators of a world where human suffering is rampant. While the global economy has grown sevenfold since 1950, the disparity in per capita income between the 20 richest and 20 poorest nations more than doubled between 1960 and 1995.

“The world's failure to reduce poverty levels is now contributing to global instability in the form of terrorism, war, and contagious disease,“ says Vital Signs Project Director Michael Renner. “An unstable world not only perpetuates poverty, but will ultimately threaten the prosperity that the rich minority has come to enjoy.“

Vital Signs 2003— produced in cooperation with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)— also warns that environmental degradation is exacerbating poverty and further contributing to global instability.

Weather-related disasters brought on by land clearing, deforestation, and climate change are most catastrophic for the world's poorest citizens. In 2002, rains in Kenya displaced more than 150,000 people, while more than 800,000 Chinese were affected by the most severe drought in over a century. Over the past two decades, floods and other weather-related disasters were among factors prompting some 10 million people to migrate from Bangladesh to India.

At least seven small island nations face the prospect of a sizable share of their populations being displaced by sea level rise due to global warming in the coming decades.

“It is almost impossible to ensure lasting peace and stability when massive inequalities exist and the natural systems that support us remain under threat,“ says UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer. “Little will ever be achieved in terms of conservation of the environment and natural resources if billions of people have no hope, no chance to care.“

For the past 12 years, Vital Signs has tracked a wide array of economic, environmental, and social trends, using thousands of different data sources, in order to gauge the health of human societies and the natural world. Among the indicators of growing pressures on the world's poor cited in this year's report:

Infectious diseases kill twice as many people worldwide as cancer each year. Those dying of infectious illnesses are often either in the early or prime years of life, unravelling the economic and social fabric of societies. (The dramatic emergence of SARS in recent months now threatens the health not only of Asian economies but also of the global airline industry).

Roughly one-quarter of the world's 50 wars and armed conflicts of recent years have involved a struggle for control of natural resources. Virtually all of these conflicts have occurred in poor countries where a particular ethnic group or economic elite has gained control of resources at the expense of the poor majority.

Harvesting of illegal drug crops—principally cannabis, coca, and opium poppies— has increased dramatically since the 1980s, leading to rising addiction rates in industrial nations, and a growing black market that undermines development in many poor nations.

In addition to the 12 million “official“ refugees worldwide, there are another 50 million environmental refugees—driven from their homes by dam building, drought, flooding, etc.— and other internally displaced persons not included in official UN statistics.

Corruption— the misuse of public power for private benefit— is costing some of the world's poorest countries billions of dollars each year and undermining efforts to promote economic development.

Vital Signs 2003 provides further evidence of the importance of the Millennium Development Goals, adopted by 191 nations in 2000. Among other targets, these goals call for halving the share of the world's people living in extreme poverty by 2015, as well as the share suffering from hunger and lacking access to clean drinking water; reducing infant mortality rates by two-thirds; and ensuring that all children are enrolled in primary school.

Governments reaffirmed the Millennium Development Goals at last year’s World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg and agreed to several other important targets, including restoring fisheries, stabilizing biological diversity, and meeting the sanitation needs of half a billion people.

In this year's edition, the following trends stand out as holding promise for progress:

HIV/AIDS TREATMENT: While only four percent of people living with HIV/AIDS in low- and middle-income countries are receiving treatment, some progress has been made in making access to treatment more equitable. In 2002, Botswana became the first African nation to adopt a policy of universal access to treatment, while other nations like Brazil, Argentina, Costa Rica, and Panama are providing free or subsidized treatment.

COMMUNICATIONS: The gap between the information haves and have-nots is still huge but shrinking, thanks largely to new mobile phones, whose towers are cheaper to build than conventional, fixed-line systems. In Africa, mobile phones now outnumber fixed lines by a higher ratio than on any other continent.

CLEAN ENERGY: New industries are beginning to provide pollution-free electricity and good jobs. Global wind power use has tripled since 1998 and is the now the world's fastest-growing power source. As new policies are adopted, rapid growth is projected in China and India over the next few years.

In light of the many findings in Vital Signs 2003, Worldwatch President Christopher Flavin expressed deep concern that a faltering global economy and the vast effort now required to restore peace in the Middle East will divert the resources needed to address the causes and consequences of poverty in scores of developing nations.

“The human tragedies behind the statistics in Vital Signs 2003 are compelling reminders that social and environmental progress are not luxuries that can be set aside when the world is experiencing economic and political problems,“ says Flavin. “Suffering that is allowed to fester today will lead to adverse and unpredictable consequences for many tomorrows to come.“


Facts on poverty: rich-poor gap

54 countries saw average income decline during the 1990s

21 countries showed deterioration in income, life expectancy and literacy

30,000 children die each day of preventable illness

500,000 women a year — one for each minute — die in pregnancy or childbirth

13 million children were killed by diarrhea in the 1990s — more than all the people lost to armed conflict since World War II

33.1 years is now the average life expectancy in Zimbabwe, against 56 in the early 1970s. In the UK it rose from 72 to 78.2

363 children in every 1,000 in Sierra Leone do not reach their fifth birthday — in Norway the figure is only 4 in 1,000

(Taken from

Water Facts

...1.2 billion people lack access to safe water, roughly on-sixth of the world’s population and 2.4 billion or 40 percent of the world’s people lack access to adequate sanitation services.

...Some 6,000 children die every day from diseases associated with unsafe water and poor sanitation and hygiene.

...Unsafe water and sanitation cause an estimated 80 percent of all diseases in the developing world.

...Women and girls tend to suffer the most as a result of the lack of sanitation facilities.

...One flush of a Western toilet uses as much water as the average person in the developing world uses for a whole day’s washing, drinking, cleaning and cooking.

...Water use has grown at twice the rate of population during the past century. The Middle East, North Africa and South Asia are chronically short of water. In developing countries, as much as 90 percent of waste water is discharged without treatment.

...Overpumping groundwater for drinking water and irrigation has caused water levels to decline by tens of metres in many regions, forcing people to use low-quality water for drinking.


(Taken from where you will find more such water facts.)



Earth's Vital Signs Show The Pain of Poverty

By J.R. Pegg

Environment News Service 24 May, 2003

An examination of Earth's "vital signs" reveals alarming trends of poverty, disease and environmental decline that threaten global stability, according to the Worldwatch Institute's annual report on trends shaping the world's future.

There is little for humanity to cheer about in the organization's "Vital Signs 2003," which outlines how the continued failure to address widespread poverty serves as a lightening rod for health, social and environmental problems across the world.

The consumption choices of the rich and the inability of political leaders to act has brought this situation to bear, says Michael Renner, coauthor and project director of Vital Signs 2003, and there are few signs that things will change anytime soon.

Vital Signs 2003 was produced researchers at the Worldwatch Institute, an international environmental and social policy research organization, in cooperation with the United Nations Environment Programme.

Humanity's challenge, Renner explained at a press briefing held today in Washington D.C., is to find a way to balance the need to protect the Earth's ecosystems without denying the world's poorest individuals the opportunity to achieve a better life.

"These twin goals cannot be achieved as long as humanity remains divided into the extremes of rich and poor," Renner said.

But this divide is growing, not shrinking. Globalization has deepened economic disparities, Renner explained, and the gap between the world's poorest and richest nations has more than doubled since 1960.

Some 815 million people worldwide are chronically hungry. The scope of the world's poverty is severe - almost half of humanity lives on less than $2 a day - and the "world economy is rigged against the interests of the poor," Renner said. Agricultural subsidies in the developed world, trade barriers, unequal trade relations and the crippling $2.4 trillion in foreign debt owed by the world's poorest nations all contribute to this growing disparity.

Less income often means individuals are far more susceptible to disease - the infant mortality rate in low income countries is some 13 times higher than in the world's wealthier countries.

Infectious diseases kill some 14.4 million people a year, most of whom are among the world's poorest. Those who perish from infectious disease are often individuals in the early or prime years of life and the loss of these individuals can contribute to further economic and social stress on a nation.

The recent outbreak of the new disease SARS "shows how quickly economies can be thrown out of whack," said coauthor Molly Sheehan.

Lack of clean water or sanitation kills some 1.7 million people each year, 90 percent of which are children.

Seventy percent of the world's HIV positive people live in sub-Saharan Africa and 82 percent of the world's 1.1 billion smokers live in developing countries.

The consequences of poverty manifest in the form of terrorism, war and contagious diseases, Renner said, and the effects are felt both by the world's poor and its rich.

"An unstable world not only perpetuates poverty," Renner said, "but will ultimately threaten the prosperity that the rich minority has come to enjoy."

Desertification has made even subsistence farming difficult for many of the world's poor. (Photo by R. Faidutti, courtesy FAO) And just as the fruits of the world economy are not shared equally, neither are the consequences of environmental degradation. The poor are more vulnerable to weather related disasters caused by land clearing, deforestation and climate change.

Weather related economic losses were highest in industrial countries, but the human toll was far greater for developing countries.

In 2002, more than 150,000 Kenyans were displace by massive rains, while more than 800,000 Chinese struggled with the most severe drought in more than a century.

The report concedes that weather related disasters are likely to worsen as the climate continues to change, a trend that highlights how the actions - or inaction - of the world's rich affect the poor.

Last year was the second warmest since record keeping began in the late 1800s and most scientists are convinced this trend will result in more erratic weather and rising seas.

The report finds that the burden of responsibility for climate changes falls squarely on the shoulders of the industrial nations, in particular the United States.

The United States has five percent of the world's population but produces some 25 percent of the total of greenhouse gas emissions responsible for global warming.

The pressures on the Earth's ecosystem brought about by poverty are striking, the report finds, including evidence that more than 12 percent of the bird species face extinction within the next century.

Among the few positives in the report are some progress in combating AIDs, a slight increase in communication technology within the developing world and the global increase in clean energy use.

But even these favorable developments come as the world wrestles with increased security concerns, Renner said, that have prompted the industrial world to ramp up defense spending instead of using their wealth to address social, health and environmental problems.

Low income nations tend to follow suit, Renner explained, and although low income countries only account for seven percent of global military spending, this is more than double their share of the world's gross economic product.

The aftermath of war often leaves many without stable food supplies. The 32 richest nations spent some $839 billion on defense in 2001. The United States responsible for some 36 percent of the global defense spending. "The message of increased military spending is that violence pays," Renner said.

The continued and seemingly unbreakable chain of poverty for many in the world can foster a loss of hope, Renner explained, and cause some to engage in desperate and destructive measures.

"Terrorism is the final symptomatic outcome of a larger problem," he said.

Worldwatch Institute President Christopher Flavin added that the world's focus on terrorism and unrest in the Middle East, combined with a faltering economy, will further divert resources needed to address the causes and consequences of global poverty.

Political will is needed to move beyond words and into action, Flavin said, and the human tragedies underscored by the statistics in this latest report need to serve as "compelling reminders that social and environmental progress are not luxuries that can be set aside when the world is experiencing economic and political problems."

"We must not forget that a very large share of the human population has been left behind," Flavin said. "Suffering that is allowed to fester today will lead to adverse and unpredictable consequences for many tomorrows to come."

To access "Vital Signs 2003", see



Not just warmer: it's the hottest for 2,000 years

Widest study yet backs fears over carbon dioxide

Ian Sample, science correspondent

September 1, 2003

The Guardian

The earth is warmer now than it has been at any time in the past 2,000 years, the most comprehensive study of climatic history has revealed.

Confirming the worst fears of environmental scientists, the newly published findings are a blow to sceptics who maintain that global warming is part of the natural climatic cycle rather than a consequence of human industrial activity.

Prof Philip Jones, a director of the University of East Anglia's climatic research unit and one of the authors of the research, said: "You can't explain this rapid warming of the late 20th century in any other way. It's a response to a build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere."

The study reinforces recent conclusions published by the UN's intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC). Scientists on the panel looked at temperature data from up to 1,000 years ago and found that the late 20th century was the warmest period on record.

But the IPCC's report was dismissed by some quarters in the scientific community who claimed that while the planet is undoubtedly warming, it was warmer still more than a thousand years ago. So warm, in fact, that it had spurred the Vikings to set up base in Greenland and led to northern Britain being filled with productive vineyards.

To discover whether there was any truth in the claims, Prof Jones teamed up with Prof Michael Mann, a climate expert at the University of Virginia, and set about reconstructing the world's climate over the past 2,000 years.

Direct measurements of the earth's temperature do not exist from such a long time ago, so the scientists had to rely on other indicators of how warm - or not - the planet was throughout the past two millennia.

To find the answer, the scientists looked at tree trunks, which keep a record of the local climate: the rings spreading out from the centre grow to different thicknesses according to the climate a tree grows in. The scientists looked at sections taken from trees that had lived for hundreds and even thousands of years from different regions and used them to piece together a picture of the planet's climatic history.

The scientists also studied cores of ice drilled from the icy stretches of Greenland and Antarctica. As the ice forms, sometimes over hundreds of thousands of years, it traps air, which holds vital clues to the local climate at the time.

"Drill down far enough and you could use the ice to look at the climate hundreds of thousands of years ago, but we just used the first thousand metres," said Prof Jones.

The scientists found that while there was not enough good data to work out what the climate had been like in the southern hemisphere over that period, they could get a good idea of how warm the northern hemisphere had been.

"What we found was that at no point during those two millennia had it been any warmer than it is now. From 1980 onwards is clearly the warmest period of the last 2,000 years," said Prof Jones.

Some regions may well have been fairly warm, especially during the medieval period, but on average, the planet was a cooler place, the study found.

Looking back over a succession of earlier centuries, the temperature fluctuated slightly, becoming slightly warmer or cooler by 0.2C in each century. The temperature has increased by at least that amount in the past 20 or so years, the scientists report in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

"It just shows how dramatic the warming has been in recent years," said Prof Jones.


Special report: Climate change,12374,782494,00.html



Social Inequities and Environmental Decline

New study by the Worldwatch Institute: Vital Signs 2000

Worldwatch News Release 27 May 2000

Social and Economic Inequities Impeding Global Environmental Action

Inequalities of wealth, power, opportunities, and survival prospects among the world’s peoples are confounding efforts to reverse environmental degradation, reports a new study by the Worldwatch Institute, Vital Signs 2000: The Environmental Trends That Are Shaping Our Future.

“From the global digital divide to the devastating AIDS and tuberculosis epidemics, the trends in Vital Signs 2000 are exposing numerous fault lines between the North and the South, within nations, and between men and women,” said Worldwatch Senior Researcher Michael Renner, co-author of the report. “At the same time, however, we need an unprecedented level of cooperation to solve global problems.”

Although the world economy pumped out nearly $41 trillion of goods and services in 1999, 45 percent of the income went to the 12 percent of the world’s people who live in western industrial countries. “This wealthy minority is largely responsible for the excessive consumption that drives environmental decline,” said co-author Molly O. Sheehan, Worldwatch Research Associate. For example, per capita paper use in industrial nations is 9 times higher than in developing countries. The number of cars per person is about 100 times higher in North America, Western Europe, and Japan than in India or China, according to Vital Signs, funded by the United Nations Population Fund and the W. Alton Jones Foundation.

“The disparities between rich and poor are equally striking in the digital world,” said Sheehan. “Although Internet access is growing rapidly in the developing world, some 87 percent of all Internet users live in industrial countries. Fewer than 1 percent of the people in China, India, or the continent of Africa are online.”

The poor are not only left behind in the race to cyberspace. Third World debt hit a new high of $2.5 trillion in 1999, with some of the world’s poorest nations devoting 30 percent of their national budgets to debt servicing. Developing countries are also more vulnerable to environmental change, such as the devastating floods and landslides in Venezuela in December 1999. Worsened by deforestation, this disaster killed more than 30,000 people.

But even the richest nations cannot insulate themselves from emerging global threats. The resurgence in tuberculosis (TB) may kill an additional 70 million people by 2020. A catastrophic decline in amphibians is wiping out a rich source for new medicines. The warming atmosphere has spurred more severe weather events, including the December 1999 storms that caused nearly $10 billion in damage in Central and Western Europe. Some of the other shared challenges highlighted in Vital Signs 2000 include:

- Proliferation of synthetic chemicals: Although recent research has confirmed that a number of pesticides, industrial compounds, and other chemicals can interfere with human and animal endocrine systems, more than 1,000 new chemicals are introduced to the global market each year without testing for these effects.

- Deteriorating water supplies: Worldwide, people are overpumping groundwater by at least 160 billion cubic meters a year – roughly the amount of water needed to produce a tenth of global grain supplies – threatening future food production and basic living standards. At the same time, human activities are sending massive quantities of pollutants into aquifers, irreversibly damaging the freshwater supplies that provide drinking water to almost a third of the planet’s people.

- Increasing infections from HIV and TB: Insufficient public awareness, the spread of intravenous drug use, and widespread unsafe sexual behavior portend an ongoing explosion of the AIDS epidemic. Almost 50 million people have so far been infected by the HIV virus, and 16 million have died. Weakening the immune system of its victims, AIDS is also the single largest contributor to a worldwide resurgence in TB. Both epidemics are exacerbated by other trends covered in Vital Signs 2000: growing tourism, refugee movements, and soaring prison populations.

“We have begun to address these global challenges,” said Renner, “but all too often we are only slowing destructive trends, rather than reversing them. If we are going to build a more environmentally stable, healthy, and equitable society, we need to massively scale up our efforts.”

Even though cigarette smoking has declined worldwide in recent years, annual deaths are projected to jump from 4 million in 1998 to 10 million in 2030. Some 80 percent of the world’s smokers live in developing countries. Cigarette-related illnesses are likely to surge in countries that can least afford to treat them.

The AIDS epidemic is particularly devastating in Sub-Saharan Africa, where it now causes one out of five deaths each year. Average life expectancy there is expected to plummet from a high of 59 years in the early 1990s to 45 years in this decade. The poor also bear the brunt of the TB epidemic: 95 percent of all new cases reported in 1998 were in developing countries.

Another trend that is not moving fast enough in the right direction is carbon emissions. Worldwide, climate-altering carbon emissions from fossil fuel burning fell 0.2 percent in 1999, marking a second consecutive year of decline. However, far more serious reductions are necessary to achieve the 70 percent cut that many scientists believe is needed to avert dangerous climate change. In this case, consumption in rich countries is hindering progress. Growth in motor vehicle production, and erosion of fuel efficiency as a result of surging sales of sports utility vehicles (SUVs), thwart a more substantial decline.

Global disparities are found not just between rich and poor countries, but also between men and women. “Women make up more than two-thirds of the illiterate population and three-fifths of the poor,” said Sheehan, “and they account for only 13 percent of the representatives in national legislatures.” Population growth is most rapid in the world’s poorest regions, where women often lack access to family planning and education. The global population passed the 6 billion milestone in 1999, growing from only 2.5 billion in 1950.

Vital Signs 2000 highlights several encouraging trends in renewable energy and efficiency technologies. For instance, 1999 saw wind power, the world’s fastest-growing energy source, surge by 39 percent, production of solar cells expand by 30 percent, and sales of energy-efficient compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) grow by a robust 11 percent. As these energy alternatives are scaled up and take root in developing countries as well, they will make a serious dent in carbon output and help stabilize the climate.

Another instance of a positive trend that could be accelerated is organic farming. Much of the agricultural economy around the world has stagnated, but sales of organic products are growing by more than 20 percent a year. Organic farmers replace agrochemicals with a greater diversity of crops, rotations, and sophisticated pest control strategies. As a result, organic farming can reduce groundwater pollution, threats to wildlife, and consumer exposure to pesticides. Farmers in Europe have doubled the area cultivated with organic methods to 4 million hectares in only 3 years. In Italy and Austria, the share of agricultural land certified organic topped 10 percent in 1999. However, farmers around the world are expected to scale back plantings of genetically modified seeds in 2000.

Tax reform is one of several policy tools that can accelerate positive environmental change. By levying taxes on fossil fuels and pesticides and other pollutants, governments can simultaneously reduce environmental decay and reduce levies on income, wages, profits, and built property. In the last decade, eight Western European countries pioneered “tax shifts,” raising taxes on environmentally harmful activities and using the revenue to cut conventional taxes. Although these nations have taken the first modest steps, environmental taxes must be boosted above the 3 percent of worldwide tax revenue they now generate if they are to halt global environmental decline.

International treaties can help to push reforms forward. The list of international environmental accords now numbers almost 240. Five were forged in the past year alone, and more than two-thirds of the total were crafted since the 1972 UN conference on the environment in Stockholm. The 1987 Montreal Protocol on ozone depletion is among the most successful pacts, spurring a nearly 90 percent drop in global chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) emissions. However, most of these treaties are neither strong enough nor monitored and enforced sufficiently to reverse ecological decline.

Growth in the satellite remote sensing industry is a potentially beneficial trend for environmental protection efforts. Satellites can collect detailed information about parts of the Earth that are otherwise difficult to access, and can record changes to the environment over large areas and long periods of time. International organizations and national governments can also incorporate satellite monitoring into stepped up efforts to enforce national and international environmental laws.

“As the unfulfilled potential of satellite remote sensing suggests, the solutions for overcoming social inequities and reversing environmental decline will not be merely technical,” said Renner. “We need a groundswell of public support to prod governments to use the whole range of tools at their disposal—from taxes and laws to new information technologies—to reverse the trends that threaten our future.”

Diese PM auch hier zu lesen - mit Kontakt zu den Autoren



US fuels boom in global military spending

By Thalif Deen

STOCKHOLM - The "war on terrorism" has triggered a dramatic increase in US military spending, according to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) released on Tuesday.

The world spent US$784 billion on arms last year, a sharp acceleration from $741 billion the previous year, the SIPRI report says. The United States accounted for almost three-quarters of that increase.

SIPRI attributes this increase primarily to the US response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. But US military spending had been rising earlier too. The figures show that US military spending climbed from about $296 billion in 1997 to $335.7 billion last year.

"Our figures show clearly that the bulk of the rapid increase in spending in 2002 is accounted for by the United States alone," SIPRI director Alyson J K Bailes said.

The US Department of Defense has estimated US military spending for 2004 at about $390 billion, rising to $400 billion in 2005. The recent war on Iraq is expected to cost the United States more than $150 billion; by contrast, the 1991 Gulf War cost about $61 billion.

Japan, the world's second-largest military spender, is far behind the United States with an annual defense budget of $49 billion, followed by the United Kingdom with $36 billion. The top five spenders - the US, Japan, the UK, France and China - account for about 62 percent of total world military expenditure.

According to the SIPRI Yearbook, the United States now accounts for 43 percent of world military expenditure.

China, Russia and Brazil have all increased defense budgets significantly. The countries with the sharpest reductions in military spending in 2002 were Argentina, Guatemala and Venezuela in Latin America and Belarus and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in Europe.


Jayantha Dhanapala, former United Nations undersecretary general for disarmament affairs, said the rising global military expenditure is not just diverting precious financial, material and human resources from productive to non-productive pursuits, but also jeopardizing the environment and the prospects for social and economic development.

Sixteen years ago the world community gathered at the United Nations for the International Conference on the Relationship between Disarmament and Development. Yet today military expenditure is rising, he said.



Military Budget - Countries

$ 379 billion (2003) - United States -- $48 billion - increase from Fiscal 2002 to 2003
$ 34.8 billion ( 2001 ) - United Kingdom
$ 29 billion ( 2000 ) - Russia
$ 27 billion ( 2000 ) - France
$ 23.1 billion ( 2001 ) - Germany
$ 18.7 billion ( 2000 ) - Saudi Arabia
$ 15.9 billion ( 2000 ) - India
$ 14.5 billion ( 2000 ) - China
$ 12.8 billion ( 2000 ) - South Korea
$ 12.8 billion ( 2000 ) - Taiwan
$ 7.5 billion ( 2000 ) - Iran
$ 3.3 billion ( 2000 ) - Pakistan
$ 1.8 billion ( 2000 ) - Syria
$ 1.4 billion ( 1999 ) - Iraq
$ 1.3 billion ( 2000 ) - North Korea
$ 1.3 billion ( 2000 ) - Yugoslavia
$ 1.2 billion ( 2000 ) - Libya
$ 425 million ( 2000) - Sudan
$ 31 million ( 2000 ) - Cuba

Source: The International Institute for Strategic Studies

The Military Balance 2000-2001



Global Priorities

For approximately 30% of Annual World Military Expenditures (~$810 billion), all of the following could be accomplished:

- Eliminate Starvation and Malnutrition ($19 billion)
- Provide Shelter ($21 billion)
- Remove Landmines ($4 billion)
- Build Democracy ($3 billion)
- Eliminate Nuclear Weapons ($7 billion)
- Refugee Relief ($5 billion)
- Eliminate Illiteracy ($5 billion)
- Provide Clean, Safe Water ($10 billion)
- Provide Health Care and AIDS Control ($21 billion)
- Stop Deforestation ($7 billion)
- Prevent Global Warming ($8 billion)
- Stabilize Population ($10.5 billion)
- Prevent Acid Rain ($8 billion)
- Provide Clean, Safe Energy: Energy Efficiency ($33 billion), Renewable Energy ($17 billion)
- Stop Ozone Depletion ($5 billion)
- Prevent Soil Erosion ($24 billion)
- Retire Developing Nations Debt ($30 billion)

See also:

OCDE Aid and Debt Statistics,2340,en_2649_34447_2507754_1_1_1_37413,00.html

Central America's Environmental Decline
WASHINGTON, Nov. 3, 98 (IPS) - At the same time that Central America had developed ecological reserves the environmental quality of the biologically-diverse region was in rapid decline - according to a joint report by non-governmental organisations, the United Nations, and international financial institutions. (...) 'Forests are disappearing at a rate of 388,000 hectares per year...and soil loss is the norm due to lack of land planning, mining and the construction of hydroelectric dams,'' the report said. (...) The interplay of poverty and unequal distribution of land is another main cause of environmental problems in the region. ''In the rural sector, the concentration of land is greater than that shown in statistics, as frequently the best land is occupied by those who have the means and the technology at their exploitation, consigning the needy to poor quality land found mainly on slopes,'' the report said. This pressure on fragile land causes ''deforestation and the high levels of erosion and soil loss which are affecting the region.'' Central America possessed seven percent of the world's biodiversity and is one of the richest regions in terms of variety of plant and animal species. Many species, including many frogs and the harpy eagle, are found only in this region. In recent years, as loss of habitat from deforestation became apparent, governments mapped out protected reserves where these species could take refuge. But despite these efforts, 44 hectares of Central American forest - including protected land - continued to disappear every hour, the report said. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimated that, between 1990 and 1995, the region lost around 2,284,000 hectares of forest. Species are rapidly becoming extinct as wildlife became isolated and fragmented in small reserves. Such populations were especially vulnerable to disease or natural disasters, like floods or fires, the report said.

Species Extinction
The Earth's species are dying out at an alarming rate, up to 1000 times faster than their natural rate of extinction. By carefully examining fossil records and ecosystem destruction, some scientists estimate that as many as 137 species disappear from the Earth each day, which adds up to an astounding 50,000 species disappearing every year. Tropical rainforests contain at least half of the Earth's species. In Panama, scientists discovered fully 80% of the world's currently known beetle species on only 19 trees.2 The incredible diversity of the rainforests means that most species have evolved to inhabit very specialized niches in their environment; when humans disrupt that environment, many species cannot survive. Because species depend on each other in a complicated web of relationships, changing just one part of that web harms the entire ecosystem: as people destroy or significantly change the rainforests, certain species die out, and as they go extinct, other species die out, which in turn leads to further breakdown of the ecosystem. This breakdown of rainforest ecosystems will likely lead to the disappearance of up to 10% of the world's species within the next 25 years unless we act to stop it. CLIP

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