World Trends & Forecasts
Black Males in Crisis
Nurturing Young Black Males, a new book published by the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C., promotes public and private programs that intervene and support youth, especially between the ages of 10 and 15, to reduce the risk of their later becoming a drain on society at large.
Young black males are especially at risk due to high rates of poverty, nonmarriage, and dysfunction among their parents and neighbors, according to the book's editor, Ronald B. Mincy. Incarceration rates among young black men are staggering. Some estimates suggest that 41% of the black male high-school dropouts between 18 and 24 were in prison, on parole, or on probation in 1988. Nearly half a million black men were in U.S. prisons and jails in 1988, at a cost of almost $7 billion (roughly $14,000 per man) per year, says Mincy. "We must provide services to help parents, especially single mothers, nurture their boys into manhood in high-risk neighborhoods, and offer services for boys who have to make it on their own because parents cannot or will not help them," he says.
Mincy recommends developing the capacity of community-based organizations to provide youth-development services geared to the unique circumstances of young black males. Youth in high-risk environments are unlikely to trust people who are unfamiliar with their cultural norms and who come from different racial, ethnic, and socio-economic communities.
A number of successful programs already exist across the United States to provide services to these youth at risk, but the programs have yet to be integrated into an effective structure of interventions to promote healthy development among young black men.
One such community-based program is the Louis Armstrong Manhood Development Program in New Orleans, Louisiana, described in the book by Morris F.X. Jeff Jr. The program, using an Afrocentric approach, "reestablishes the African tradition of male initiation rites whereby elders teach boys the art and science of becoming men. Despite its African focus, the program works with all urban males--Black, white, middle-class, poor, delinquents, and non-delinquents," according to Jeff. The program acts as an extended family and community that provides positive male role models for boys between the ages of 8 and 17. Participants' accomplishments are seen in each component of the program and are acknowledged and rewarded in Rites of Passage ceremonies.
National youth-service organizations should be encouraged to expand service delivery to a broader array of minority youth populations, according to Mincy, Jeff, and other contributors to the book. Lessons learned from inner-city community-based programs need to be explicitly incorporated into existing sports, parks, religious, and recreational programs, both public and private.
In addition, the policy goal of supporting youth development must be incorporated into the public institutions of education, employment and training, juvenile justice, and health services. Until these institutions demonstrate caring, which, say the authors, they currently fail to do for many young people, the potential effectiveness of community-based programs will be severely diminished.
Source: Nurturing Young Black Males edited by Ronald B. Mincy. The Urban Institute Press, 1994. 237 pages. $19.95. Available from University Press of America, 4720 Boston Way, Lanham, Maryland 20706. Telephone 800/462-6420.
Youth and Marijuana
Marijuana use among high-school seniors in 1993 rose for the first time in 14 years, according to a survey by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). In addition, more eighth and tenth graders are using marijuana.
This recent increase reverses several years of declining drug use among youths. NIDA Deputy Director Richard A. Millstein says that this reversal is, at the very least, "a discouraging result of an erosion of antidrug attitudes by youth."
Marijuana was found to be the most commonly used illegal drug in the United States, according to a 1992 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse. The survey found that more than 67 million Americans had tried marijuana at least once and that more than 17 million had used it at least once during that year.
According to NIDA Notes writer Neil Swan, research is still being done on exactly how marijuana impairs memory, perception, judgment, and the coordination and motor skills necessary to drive a car. Several studies have revealed that marijuana use is a significant factor in many highway fatalities. "A Canadian study found marijuana's psychoactive ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), in the blood of more than 10% of fatally injured drivers and in nearly 8% of pedestrians killed by vehicles," says Swan.
The THC component specifically affects the hippocampus, the portion of the brain involved in learning, memory, sensory experiences, emotions, and motivation. While studies have shown that marijuana use can impair short-term memory, some researchers believe that a more permanent impairment may result from chronic use, according to Swan.
Marijuana use can have other health risks, especially when combined with other drugs. "Smoking marijuana increases heart rate, which may not be important to healthy adults, but could be dangerous for people with abnormal heart and circulatory conditions," says Swan. When marijuana is used with cocaine, the heart rate jumps even higher. Combining marijuana and alcohol can lead to serious coordination and judgment problems, especially where driving is involved.
Millstein believes that "a stronger commitment to research is required to strengthen the scientific knowledge base needed to design even more effective prevention programs for those who have not yet begun to use drugs and effective treatment methods for those who are already abusing drugs."
Source: "A Look at Marijuna's Harmful Effects" by Neil Swan and "Marijuana Use Is Up Again," NIDA Notes (February/March 1994), National Institute on Drug Abuse, Room 10A-39, Rockville, Maryland 20857.
World Population Growth
How many people will live on Earth a century from now? Several scenarios exist, including a high-growth forecast predicting 12.6 billion people by 2100.
World population grew at record-breaking rates over the last 50 years, but the rate of world population increase is declining, according to Wolfgang Lutz, leader of the Population Project of the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA). Eventually, world population growth will slow down, but where and how soon growth rates will decline are questions that remain to be answered.
"If the 1994 growth rate of 1.6% per year continued unabated, world population would double within 42 years, quadruple within 84 years, and increase eightfold to an incredible 44 billion within 126 years," writes Lutz in "The Future of World Population," a report of the Population Reference Bureau.
The United Nations and the World Bank predict lower fertility in Africa and other developing regions than do researchers at IIASA, who acknowledge a wider range of possible scenarios than previous projections. By 2030, world population could grow "only" to 8.3 billion or it could double to 10.7 billion.
Though IIASA developed nine different scenarios of world population, researchers conclude that there are three certainties about the future:
1. World population will continue to grow, increasing by at least 50% by 2030.
2. Developing countries will account for a greater share of world population. By 2030, developing countries could represent 85%-87% of the world population, compared with 78% now, Lutz believes.
3. All populations will become older: The faster that fertility declines, the faster populations will age.
Increased emphasis on population problems may yet improve prospects for developing countries, note researchers Carl Haub and Machiko Yanagishita in another report by the population Reference Bureau. However, the goal of two children per family is far from being met, despite decades of family-planning efforts in countries such as India. Haub and Yanagishita predict that India will become the world's second "population billionaire" in about five years.
Sources: "The Future of World Population" by Wolfgang Lutz, Population Bulletin (June 1994, 47 pages. $7), and World Population Data Sheet (1994, Poster. $4), prepared by Carl Haub and Machiko Yanagishita. Population Reference Bureau, Inc., 1875 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., Suite 520, Washington, D.C. 20009. Telephone 202/483-1100.
World Hunger Ahead?
Over the next 40 years, many countries will face massive grain deficits if population continues to grow as projected, according to the Worldwatch Institute's Lester R. Brown and Hal Kane in their timely and readable new book, Full House.
Brown and Kane note that food production has increased rapidly since the middle of the twentieth century, roughly keeping pace with soaring population growth. But now, new constraints have appeared in the world's efforts to keep food production rising.
The first constraint is the shrinking backlog of unused agricultural technology. The "green revolution"--the development of new strains of rice and wheat that increased crop productivity in the twentieth century--has largely finished making its contribution, and the authors see nothing comparable on the horizon. They see little hope that biotechnology will rush to the rescue, though it will help modestly.
A second constraint is already being felt at supermarkets and unemployment offices: Growing human demands are pressing against the limits of fisheries to supply seafood and of rangelands to provide beef, mutton, and milk. Since 1989, the world's seafood catch per person has fallen by 2% a year. All 17 of the world's major fisheries are currently being fished at or beyond capacity. Some fishing grounds have had to be closed to give the fish a chance to recover, causing widespread unemployment in fisheries.
Other constraints on global food production:
* Demands for water are pressing against the limits of the hydrological cycle to supply irrigation water in key food-growing regions. In China, more than 300 cities are now short of water. The aquifer under Beijing has dropped from five meters below the surface in 1950 to 50 meters in 1993.
* The use of additional fertilizer on currently available crop varieties now has little or no effect on yields in many countries.
* Heavily populated countries that industrialize risk losing cropland at a rate that exceeds the rise in land productivity. "Asphalt is the land's last crop," a U.S. official once noted.
* Social disintegration, often fueled by rapid population growth and environmental degradation, is undermining many governments' efforts to expand food production.
Based on their analysis, the authors argue that "food scarcity has replaced military aggression as the principal threat to our security." The world needs to fundamentally reorder its priorities: Family planners will have to assume much of the responsibility for establishing a more humane balance between food and people.
World population is now growing at the rate of 90 million a year: Global population increases each month by as many people as live in New York City. Each year, the population equivalent of the United Kingdom, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway combined is added. The population growth is greatest in nations that already have difficulty producing enough food. Ethiopia and Eritrea, whose starving inhabitants make dramatic subjects for journalists and photographers, are expected to have three times as many people in 2030 as in 1990.
As long as so many world leaders remain in deep denial regarding the need to curb population growth, Brown and Kane suggest, the next few decades will witness a decline in living standards in many countries. There are, however, a number of actions that could be taken to improve things, the first being to make family-planning services more available.
Source: Full House: Reassessing the Earth's Population Carrying Capacity by Lester R. Brown and Hal Kane. 1994. 261 pages. Paperback. Available from the Futurist Bookstore for $8.95 ($8.05 for Society members), cat. no. B-1817. To order, use the coupon on page 38.
The De-Farming Of Taiwan
The challenge of agriculture is that there's no money to be made in growing food anymore. Increased efficiency in growing techniques--as well as more reliance on food imports--has made cultivating farmland an expensive and increasingly unnecessary endeavor in many countries.
In Taiwan, agriculture has hit bottom, dropping from 30% of gross domestic product in the 1950s to 3.5% by 1993, reports The Free China Journal. The government has therefore decided to cut the number of farm workers by 75% over the next 10 years and to turn 18% of the nation's farmland over to industrial, housing, recreational, and other uses.
As Taiwan and other "Tigers" industrialize their economies, the use of human labor on farms is increasingly being considered wasteful: Factories and construction projects have had to import foreign workers. And, because farming limits the amount of land available for other, more-profitable purposes, it drives up land prices and impedes economic growth. About 90% of the island's cultivable land is now being farmed, according to the government's Council of Agriculture. Rice is still the main crop, though it costs three to five times more to grow rice in Taiwan than in China or the United States.
On the other hand, many critics of Taiwan's moves to de-farm argue that food is a form of national security and that an isolated island like Taiwan shouldn't rely exclusively on imported food. And retraining some 800,000 displaced farm laborers will no doubt have its costs.
Sources: "Taiwan Agriculture Faces New Challenge" and "ROC to Cut Farm Workers by 75% Over Next 10 Years" by Virginia Sheng, The Free China Journal (April 22, 1994, and July 1, 1994), Kwang Hwa Publishing (USA), Inc., 900 North Western Avenue, Suite 101, Los Angeles, California 90029. Telephone 213/461-4918.
Smart Highways Face Roadblocks
Advocates of intelligent vehicle highway systems (IVHS) may be biting off more than they can chew. Skeptics are cautioning that, in addition to safety claims being over-inflated for these computerized transportation and information systems, there may not be enough money on the local level to maintain them.
"We know two things for sure," says Brian O'Neill, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. "One is that there is a huge amount of money involved, including hundreds of millions of tax dollars." The other, he says, is that claims of safety by IVHS advocates are "based on flawed research or no research at all. With the money that's changing hands in the race to develop IVHS, it's worth taking a closer look at the more questionable claims."
Intelligent vehicle highway systems encompass a number of high-tech approaches to improving road transportation, including already-familiar items like electronic message boards and more-advanced ones such as moving vehicles down computer-controlled lanes at regulated speeds and intervals. Each vehicle would have on-board systems to keep the car moving smoothly and warn the driver if a crash threatens. The U.S. Congress appropriated $659 million in 1991 for a six-year program to develop IVHS.
The biggest advocate of intelligent vehicle highway systems, an organization known as IVHS America, originally predicted that the number of annual highway deaths could be reduced by 19% by the year 2010. By 1992, this prediction had been lowered to 8%.
Problems with IVHS could also come about from maintaining this new infrastructure without adequate funds. State and local governments will ultimately be responsible for operating and maintaining roads, and some may not be able to afford IVHS.
"There is still a substantial unmet need of maintaining what we currently have in the way of roads, streets, and transit infrastructure," says Robert Sakaguchi, the mayor of Broomfield, Colorado. "The choices with limited funds will be filling pot-holes, installing stop signs, meeting the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements, and addressing environmental concerns--not intelligent vehicle highway systems."
Another concern is whether intelligent vehicle highway systems will actually cause more pollution in the long run. Goals set by IVHS America include reducing harmful emissions, energy consumption, and fuel waste, saving between 3.8 billion and 6.5 billion gallons of fuel by the year 2010. However, IVHS will also increase the number of vehicles that can safely and efficiently share the roadways, thereby negating any decreases in fuel consumption.
"The substantial increase of traffic capacity caused by automated highways (and increases in driving comfort) may attract more drivers," says Kan Chen, a University of Michigan researcher and member of IVHS America's Coordinating Council. "The resultant increase in vehicle miles traveled within urban areas during rush hour may increase the air pollution substantially."
On the flip side, there have been many favorable reviews of intelligent vehicle highway systems. At Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, computer simulations have shown that drivers given IVHS-type information on alternate routes and traffic problems are able to complete their "trips" in substantially less time than those lacking such information.
In addition, analysts for the Ohio-based Freedonia Group predict that the market for IVHS-related technologies (such as automated toll-collection devices, collision-avoidance systems, and navigational and information systems) will reach at least $1.8 billion by 1998.
Sources: "Spurious Claims About Safety Benefits Aren't the Only Problems with IVHS Technologies," Status Report (July 30, 1994), Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 1005 North Glebe Road, Arlington, Virginia 22201. Telephone 703/247-1500; fax 703/247-1678.
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, News and Communications, Troy, New York 12180. Telephone 518/276-6532.
The Freedonia Group, 3570 Warrensville Center Road, Suite 201, Cleveland, Ohio 44122. Telephone 216/921-6800; fax 216/921-5459.
Reinventing the Secretary
A decade ago there were three rungs on the secretarial career ladder: receptionist, secretary, executive secretary. Now, there are some 18 different classifications for what once would have been called secretaries, each with a distinct set of skills.
New technologies have created many of these new positions, says Andrew Denka, executive director of OfficeTeam, an administrative and office-support staffing service. More and more businesses expect secretaries to be computer literate and proficient in specific software packages. Downsizing has also forced a broadening of the administrative field, and secretaries have more authority, self-motivation, and responsibilities, Denka explains. Many "secretaries" of the future would have been considered middle managers in the recent past.
The new specialties for secretaries are:
* Transcription specialist.
* Specialized secretary.
* Administrative assistant.
* Senior secretary/assistant.
* Executive secretary/assistant.
* Statistical typist.
* Desktop publishing/graphics specialist.
* Production word processor.
* Word processor/administrative assistant.
* Switchboard operator.
* Administrative receptionist.
* Receptionist/word processor.
* Office clerk.
* Records clerk.
* Data/order-entry clerk.
* Customer-service clerk.
* Office manager.
Source: OfficeTeam, 2284 Sand Hill Road, Menlo Park, California 94025. Telephone 415/854-9700.
Help for Dyslexics
Researchers are developing new techniques to help identify children with dyslexia and improve their learning skills. Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability caused by a defect in the brain's ability to process rapid visual stimuli.
At the British Medical Research Council's Applied Psychology Unit, children with dyslexia have been found to improve their perception of confusing words and letters when they wear tinted glasses. Each child selects the precise ophthalmic tint that works the best.
Harvard Medical School scientists and clinicians are hoping to develop an early-warning test to identify children with dyslexia. The young students could then be spared years of academic failure by starting special instruction before they enter school, believes neurologist Margaret Livingstone, the principal investigator on the project.
Current tests for dyslexia are expensive, time consuming, and lack sensitivity, so most school systems are unable to test children in time to help them, according to Livingstone. Her Harvard team has devised a portable computer and brain-wave amplifier that creates a real-time record of the way in which children's brains respond to the stimuli of images they are shown on a screen. Dyslexic children can then be started in early, intensive phonetics training, which has been shown to benefit them.
Sources: Cerium Visual Technologies, Cerium Technology Park, Appledore Road, Tenterden, Kent TN30 7DE, England. Telephone (44) 580 765211; fax (44) 580 765573.
The Dana Consortia on Neuroscience, The Charles A. Dana Foundation, 745 Fifth Avenue, Suite 700, New York, New York 10151. Telephone 212/223-4040.…
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: World Trends & Forecasts. Contributors: Not available. Magazine title: The Futurist. Volume: 29. Issue: 1 Publication date: January-February 1995. Page number: 43+. © 1999 World Future Society. COPYRIGHT 1995 Gale Group.
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