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Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman, Signs of the Times

Signs of the Times

Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman

Using a statistical lens, two just-released books shed light on the
ravages of corporate globalization.

Vital Signs 2006–2007 from the Washington, D.C.-based WorldWatch
Institute contends that "the health of the global economy and the
stability of nations will be shaped by our ability to address the huge
imbalances in natural resource systems."

The Least Developed Countries Report 2006, issued by the United Nations
Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), argues that while there
have been relatively higher rates of economic growth in the Least
Developed Countries (LDCs, a UN-designated group of the world's poorest
50 countries), it is "not translating into poverty reduction and
improved human well-being."

Here are 20 factoids from the reports, the first 10 from Vital Signs,
the second 10 from The Least Developed Countries Report:
1. Global oil consumption in 2004 was 3.7 billion tons, about eight
times more than in 1950. Coal consumption was two-and-a-half times more
than 1950, and natural gas more than 15 times greater.

2. 2005 was the warmest year ever recorded on Earth. Atmospheric
concentrations of carbon dioxide reached 379.6 parts per million for 2005.

3. Thanks largely to Hurricane Katrina, weather-related disasters caused
more than $200 billion in damage, nearly double the previous record.
Three of the 10 strongest hurricanes ever recorded occurred in 2005.

4. More money was spent on advertising in 2005 than ever before — $570
billion, about half of which was spent in the United States. The global
figure is 11 times more than was spent in 1950, measured in constant

5. More than 37 million people have died from AIDS over the last two

6. The world's governments spent more than a trillion dollars on the
military in 2004, the highest figure since the end of the Cold War.

7. An estimated 20 percent of the world's coral reefs have been
effectively destroyed.

8. Twelve percent of all bird species are threatened.

9. A billion people worldwide live in slums.

10. More than 300 million people worldwide are obese. U.S. obesity
levels have doubled since 1990, to about 40 percent. Chinese levels have
doubled during the same period, now standing at 7 percent.

11. Per capita, for every 100 researchers and scientists doing R&D in
rich countries, there are only two in LDCs.

12. In 2004, LDCs had a combined trade deficit of $6.5 billion. Exclude
the oil exporters, and the combined deficit was $18.6 billion — more
than 50 percent of the size of non-oil-exporting LDCs' exports.

13. LDCs imported $7.6 billion in food in 2003, while exporting only
$2.2 billion worth of food.

14. The average years of schooling in LDCs is three years.

15. About one-in-five high-skill workers in LDCs (defined as some
college or technical school education) was working in a rich country in

16. Thanks to International Monetary Fund and World Bank structural
adjustment programs, governments in LDCs are only half the proportional
size of rich country governments, with LDCs devoting only 3.5 percent of
their national economy (GDP) to state administrative services.

17. Between 1991 and 2004, only 20 U.S. patents were granted to citizens
from LDCs, compared with 14,824 from other developing countries, and 1.8
million to citizens of rich countries.

18. Labor productivity in LDCs is one-ninety-fourth the level of rich

19. There are 3 percent as many phone lines per person in LDCs as in
rich countries.

20. LDC energy consumption is 1.6 percent the level of rich countries.

Not all the news is so bad. Malnourishment is declining quickly in about
a third of LDCs. Globally, infant mortality is at a record low —
although gains are coming very slowly in the poorest countries. (Only
four LDCs are on target to meet the Millennium Development Goal target
of reducing under-five mortality by two-thirds by 2015.) Bicycle
production is rising rapidly, with 101 million bikes manufactured in
2003 (the latest year for which data is available), nearing record
levels. Global production of photovoltaic cells — which generate
electricity from sunlight — increased 45 percent in 2005, with current
levels six times the amount produced in 2000.

Overall, however, there's no way to look at the data in these two books
and conclude anything but that the current way of doing things is not

[Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime
. Robert Weissman is
editor of the Washington, D.C.-based
Multinational Monitor. Mokhiber and Weissman are
co-authors of On the Rampage: Corporate Predators and the Destruction of
(Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press) © Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman.]