Rush To Nowhere

Environment

Click here to subscribe to the print edition. [image, unknown] New Internationalist 343[image, unknown] [image, unknown] [image, unknown] March 2002[image, unknown] Click here to search the mega index.

Speed-Up / RUSH TO NOWHERE

The graphic below is about 80k
so may take about 15 seconds to load.
[image, unknown]

[image, unknown] SPEEDING UP
We speed up everything – our work, our entertainment, our consumption of resources, our travel, our communication systems, our expectations, our lives. Where we are going remains a mystery. But the costs of the journey are starting to mount.

. The World Economy has expanded from $4 trillion in output in 1950 to more than $20 trillion in 1995. Countries now industrializing are doing so much faster than in the past. The Chinese economy grew by a staggering 57% between 1991 and 1995.1

. If you were born before 1950 you have seen more population growth in your lifetime than in all of previous human history.1

. The Otis Elevator Company estimates that it raises and lowers the equivalent of the planet’s whole population every nine days. The original elevator traveled at eight inches per second. A special Mitsubishi elevator in a sightseeing tower in Yokohama holds the speed record of more than 40 feet per second – not a bad climb rate for an airplane.2

. It is estimated that up-to-the-second on-line trading now accounts for a quarter of all transactions by individual investors. This leads to unprecedented market volatility. In one three-hour period NASDAQ lost 13% of its value.2

. Products coming in 50% over budget are far more profitable than products coming in six months late.2

. Management consultants estimate that 95% of the products that will be on sale in 10 years do not yet exist.3

. Some 21% of customers proved willing to pay 35 cents to save themselves two seconds through automatic dialing a number just retrieved through information.2

. The New York Tracon flight-control center handles 7,000 flights a day, all moving five miles per minute on their consoles.2

. There will be 1.6 billion (27% of world population) cell-phone users worldwide by the year 2005.4

. Worldwide energy consumption is projected
almost to double between 1990 and 2020.5

[image, unknown]

There are 500 million vehicles today, six times the number there were in 1950.

[image, unknown]

[image, unknown]

While energy use doubled between 1900 and 1940, it quadrupled between 1940 an 1980 and on current trends will have done so again by 2020.

[image, unknown]

[image, unknown]

While the US population doubled in the 20th century, materials consumed per head grew more than 10 times.

RUNNING OUT
The other side of speeding up is running out – and we are running out of some of the essentials of life: breathable air in major cities, fertile soil, water to drink, trees, fish, time for reflective thought,
even sleep.

. Forests: At the turn of the 20th century Ethiopia was half covered with forest. Today trees cover less than 3 per cent of the land.6

. Sleep: The National Sleep Foundation in the US estimates that average sleeptime has dropped 20% over the past century. Sleep-disorder clinics have more than tripled in the US over the past decade.2

. Language: It is estimated that of the world’s 6,000 languages some 90% will be doomed within a century.7

. Water: There is a three-in-four chance that a body of water in Mexico is too contaminated to swim in.8

. Time and Money: The estimated cost of fuel consumed by US drivers caught in traffic delays in 1999 was $8.6 billion.8

[image, unknown]

Some 20% of all bird species are now under threat of extinction.

[image, unknown]

[image, unknown]

The amount of forested land in Africa and Asia is now less than 35% of what it was 200 years ago.

[image, unknown]

[image, unknown]

The number of people with an assured water supply is projected to drop from 92% to 58% by 2050.

[image, unknown]

Previous page.
Choose another issue of NI.
Go to the contents page.
Go to the NI home page.
Next page.


mag cover This article is from the March 2002 issue of New Internationalist.
You can access the entire archive of over 500 issues with a digital subscription. Get a free trial now »

Subscribe   Ethical Shop