Magazine article The Futurist

Annual Report Card on Our Future: The Millennium Project Assesses Where the World Is Gaining or Losing Ground

Magazine article The Futurist

Annual Report Card on Our Future: The Millennium Project Assesses Where the World Is Gaining or Losing Ground

Article excerpt

2013-14 State of the Future

by Jerome C. Glenn, Theodore J. Gordon, and Elizabeth Florescu. The Millennium Project, www .millenium-project.org. 2014 239 pages plus a CD-ROM containing 10,000 pages. #39.95.

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The world community is in better shape than it should be, states the Millennium Project's leadership team in its 2013-14 State of the Future report. This volume, the international think tank's acclaimed annual "report card on the future of the world," finds that human health and living standards are trending upward but are doing so despite deficient stewardship of the planet and widespread occurrences of poor governance, political corruption, crime, and violence.

"When you consider the many wrong decisions and good decisions not yet taken--day after day and year after year around the world--it is amazing that we are still making as much progress as we are," the authors write.

The Millennium Project has been producing annual State of the Future reports since 1996. Each report makes a full-scale assessment of where life on Earth is heading, based on constantly incoming data from an international network of more than 4,500 contributing researchers. Like its predecessors, this year's report integrates the data into a list of 15 Global Challenges that require collaborative action by the world's leaders, along with a State of the Future Index (SOFI) that marks areas of life in which we are "winning," "losing," or experiencing "unclear or little change."

This report's SOFI cites some encouraging firsts. For the first time, we are "winning" on renewable energy--worldwide renewable capacity has been growing and is on track for a much larger growth spurt this decade. We are also winning for the first time on Gross National Investment Per Capita, Foreign Direct Investment, and Health Expenditures Per Capita.

Also, some positive trends from earlier years are still running strong. The number of physicians per capita is growing worldwide, as it was in 2011. The world is likewise winning on energy efficiency, a winning streak that started in 2012.

Other trends are not good. For the first time, we are losing on forest area. Also, greenhouse-gas emissions and our overall ecological footprint, two areas that have been on the "losing" side of the ledger for the past few years, are still losing areas today. Glaciers are melting and coral reefs are dying at accelerating rates as climate change gathers steam.

"The global situation for humanity continues to improve in general, but at the expense of the environment," the authors write.

All is not trending well for human life, either. The SOFI notes little or no progress on nuclear nonproliferation and HIV prevalence--areas in which we were winning in 2011. Some trends from 2012 or earlier are continuing to worsen, too--namely, income inequality, terrorism, and political corruption.

This year's 15 Global Challenges list additionally notes that global material waste increased tenfold last century and could double again by 2025. The authors also voice concern over shrinking supplies of potable water. They call for new agricultural approaches that would consume less water, such as new ways to synthesize meat without growing animals, genetic engineering for higher-yielding and more drought-resistant crops, and cultivating insects as animal feed.

On the upside, literacy and IQ scores keep rising, and the growth of online educational resources could accelerate intellectual growth even further. …

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