Can a planet in distress keep it up?

Position:Human Existence

Global oil consumption has reached an all-time high, the number of workers in vulnerable employment exceeds 1,500,000,000 people, and physical water scarcity affects some 1,200,000,000 individuals, according to research from the Worldwatch Institute, Washington, D.C.

"Our economic systems and theories are programmed to squeeze ever more resources from a planet in distress," says senior researcher Michael Renner. "A mixture of population growth, consumerism, greed, and short-term thinking by policymakers and business people seems to be inexorably driving human civilization toward a showdown with the planet's limits."

However, some of the trends highlighted are positive. Globally, sanitation and water access for 227,000,000 people has improved over the last decade, to the point where these individuals no longer are considered slum dwellers. Within the agriculture sector, efficient irrigation methods have increased more than sixfold over the last two decades, and organically certified agricultural land has more than tripled since 1999.

Meanwhile, socially sustainable ways of doing business continue to emerge: about 1,000,000,000 people in 96 countries...

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