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Troubling Health Trends Holding Back Progress on Life Expectancy

People born today will live for 68 years on average, 20 years longer than those born in 1950. By the mid-twentieth century, industrial countries had already made major strides in extending lifespans with improvements in sanitation, nutrition, and public health. After World War II, rapid gains in life expectancy in developing countries began to narrow the gap between these nations and industrial countries. Although average life expectancy worldwide continues to increase, gains have come more slowly in the last few decades. Worryingly, life expectancy has actually declined in some developing countries, while a few industrial countries have stalled or made slow progress on this important indicator of human health and well-being.

November 18th

Two Stories of Disease: Smallpox & Polio

Smallpox plagued humanity for thousands of years. In the 18th century, smallpox killed one out of every ten children in France and Sweden. Over the 20th century, the virus caused between 300 and 500 million deaths worldwide. No effective treatment was ever developed. The eradication of this devastating disease is one of public health’s greatest […]

September 15th

Expanding Deserts, Falling Water Tables, and Toxic Pollutants Driving People from their Homes

By Lester R. Brown People do not normally leave their homes, their families, and their communities unless they have no other option. Yet as environmental stresses mount, we can expect to see a growing number of environmental refugees. Rising seas and increasingly devastating storms grab headlines, but expanding deserts, falling water tables, and toxic waste […]

Growing Water Deficit Threatening Grain Harvests

  By Lester R. Brown Many countries are facing dangerous water shortages. As world demand for food has soared, millions of farmers have drilled too many irrigation wells in efforts to expand their harvests. As a result, water tables are falling and wells are going dry in some 20 countries containing half the world’s people. […]

Growing Goat Herds Signal Global Grassland Decline

After the earth was created, soil formed slowly over geological time from the weathering of rocks. It began to support early plant life, which protected and enriched it until it became the topsoil that sustains the diversity of plants and animals we know today. Now the world’s ever-growing herds of cattle, sheep, and goats are […]

Cancer Now Leading Cause of Death in China

By Janet Larsen Cancer is now the leading cause of death in China. Chinese Ministry of Health data implicate cancer in close to a quarter of all deaths countrywide. As is common with many countries as they industrialize, the usual plagues of poverty — infectious diseases and high infant mortality — have given way to […]

Time to Rethink Japan’s Energy Future

By J. Matthew Roney Nearly four weeks after a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami devastated northeastern Japan, emergency personnel are still struggling to stabilize the disabled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Beyond the immediate need to minimize further radioactive leakage and protect public health, the government is beginning to reconsider its long-term plans for nuclear power […]

Wind: The Centerpiece of the Plan B Economy

By Lester R. Brown For many years, a small handful of countries dominated growth in wind power, but this is changing as the industry goes global, with more than 70 countries now developing wind resources. Between 2000 and 2010, world wind electric generating capacity increased at a frenetic pace from 17,000 megawatts to nearly 200,000 […]

Solar Cell Production Climbs to Another Record in 2009

By J. Matthew Roney Solar photovoltaic (PV) cell manufacturers produced a record 10,700 megawatts of PV cells globally in 2009—an impressive 51-percent increase from the year before. While growth in 2009 slowed from the remarkable 89-percent expansion in 2008, it continued the rapid rise of an industry that first reached 1,000 megawatts of production in […]

September 21st

The Limits and Potential of Plant-Based Energy

By Lester R. Brown As oil and natural gas reserves are being depleted, the world’s attention is increasingly turning to plant-based energy sources. These include food crops, forest industry byproducts, sugar industry byproducts, plantations of fast-growing trees, crop residues, and urban tree and yard wastes—all of which can be used for electrical generation, heating, or […]

September 15th

Geothermal: Getting Energy from the Earth

By Lester R. Brown The heat in the upper six miles of the earth’s crust contains 50,000 times as much energy as found in all the world’s oil and gas reserves combined. Despite this abundance, only 10,700 megawatts of geothermal electricity generating capacity have been harnessed worldwide. Partly because of the dominance of the oil, […]