One of the leading and most accessible sources of information on the issues of environmental, economic and social trends, Worldwatch Institue’s mission is to “delivers the insights and ideas that empower decision makers to create an environmentally sustainable society that meets human needs.” As said, its works focus on discovering and identifying the current state of the global environment and economy, while striving to achieve the transition to an environmentally sustainable world and socially just society.
Founded in 1974, Worldwatch was the first independent research institute devoted to the analysis of global environmental issues, as well as one of the top ten sustainable development research organizations by Globescan Survey of Sustainability Experts. The institute has international partners in 25 countries; its publishing works include 3 types of research: Vital signs, State of the World reports and Worldwatch Magazine. Their reports have been translated in dozens of languages and used as textbooks in many college courses, influencing generations of eco-activists.
With all that being said, however, not everyone shares Worldwatch’s assessments. According to Ronald Bailey of Reason magazine, Worldwatch consistent accentuation of the negatives do not necessarily help better the situation. Apparently, Bailey is only one of many people that have criticized that Worldwatch’s “cant’ bear good news” reports only predict nothing but a gloomy future for mankind. Even though Worldwatch does offer useful data, it ignores so many promising and positive aspects of the present.
For example, the continuous expansion of the world economy (from $6.4 trillion in 1950 to $43.2 trillion in 2000), or the drastic increase in global per capita income. Another positive aspect that Worldwatch ignores is the increasing length of human life: Global average life expectancy, currently 67.2 years, is expected to rise to 73 years by 2025 according to World Health Organization. The fact that food and commodities get cheaper is a good sign for the poor; yet, Worldwatch is always “able to find a dark cloud around any silver lining”, saying that lower prices will also make consumers utilize materials less efficiently and more sparingly, and the increase in consumption will consequently lead to more negative environmental results. Is Worldwatch suggesting that the poor should just pay more for food? It appears that Worldwatch guiding principle seems to be: “Don’t pay too too much attention to inconvenient facts, don’t mention previous mistakes, and don’t stop making predictions of doom and gloom just because they haven’t been right in the past”.
So the question is, should Worldwatch continue to shout at the top of its lungs that the world must reinvent the way it is treating the planets right now or suffer catastrophic consequences? Is Worldwatch really misdiagnosing the Earth, or are we being too optimistic about the current state of the world? I personally believe there is nothing wrong with not keeping expectation too high. It might be better to prepare for the worst than being too optimistic because in that sense, people will strive harder to accomplish. Still, I think that in order to work out a solution to a global issue, we need to start from identifying both strengths and weaknesses. It will help better if, instead of only making gloomy predictions, Worldwatch could provide more realistic facts and stats to let people know what’s actually going on out there. After all, Worldwatch has been pretty much singing the same pessimistic tune for the last few decades, so maybe it’s time to acknowledge that we might be not as bad as we think.