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State of the World 2005: Redefining Global Security
Erik Assadourian, Lori Brown, Alexander Carius, Richard Cincotta, Ken Conca, Geoffrey Dabelko, Christopher Flavin, Hilary French, Gary Gardner, Brian Halweil, Annika Kramer, Lisa Mastny, Danielle Nierenberg, Dennis Pirages, Thomas Prugh, Michael Renner, Janet Sawin, Linda Starke, Aaron Wolf, with a Foreword by Mikhail Gorbachev
New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2005
264 pp., $18.95, paper
ISBN: 0-393-32666-7

The twenty-second in a series dating back to 1984, State of the World 2005 looks at a series of “problems without passports” in its effort to redefine global security in contradistinction to the “homeland security” mantra of the current U.S. administration. Evoking a “’second superpower’—world public opinion” and the use of “’soft power’---a combination of diplomacy, persuasion, and marshalling of public opinion,” the book tallies up the cost of providing clean water and sewage systems, cutting world hunger in half, preventing soil erosion, providing reproductive health care for all women, eradicating illiteracy, providing immunization for every child in the developing world, engaging actively with global HIV/AIDS, and controlling malaria in sub-Saharan Africa as ”a little more than half of the $211 billion likely to be appropriated for the Iraq war by the end of 2004.” Since the emphasis is on solutions rather than roadblocks, the United States gets scant mention after that.

Individual chapters attend to connections between population and security, containing infectious disease, cultivating food security, managing water conflict and cooperation, changing the oil economy, disarming postwar societies, building peace through environmental cooperation, and “laying the foundations for peace.” “Security links” between chapters look more closely at transnational crime, environmental refugees, bioinvasions, toxic chemicals, resource wealth and conflict in the private sector, nuclear energy, nuclear proliferation, chemical weapons, and the environmental impacts of war. Sixteen “boxes,” twenty-one “tables,” and seven “figures” illustrate the text.

“As a peacemaking tool,” we are told, “the environment offers some useful, perhaps even unique qualities that lend themselves to building peace and transforming conflict: environmental challenges ignore political boundaries, require a long-term perspective, encourage local and nongovernmental participation, and extend community building beyond polarizing economic linkages. These properties sometimes make cross-border environmental cooperation difficult to achieve. But where cooperation does take root, it might help enhance trust, establish cooperative habits, create shared regional identities around shared resources, and establish mutually recognized rights and expectations.”

In the midst of reporting on ongoing degradation of the planet and minimal progress toward the U.N. Millennium Development Goals adopted by the world community in September 2000, the above paragraph is perhaps the most hopeful, representing the book’s most essential message. Illustrating that message is the work of the final chapter, which brings to mind, without chanting, another mantra, from the end of the last millennium, “Think Globally, Act Locally.” While much of that thought derives from conferences held by the United Nations in the last decade, none of the action described here derives from North America outside of Mexico, where some advances are noted. Reform of the United Nations, particularly of the Security Council, is called for, as well as reform of the U.N.’s offspring, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, not to mention the World Trade Organization. While globalization is only alluded to, “creating a new high-level oversight board with some measure of authority over both the United Nations and global economic institutions would be one strategy for promoting the needed collaboration…[to] ensure that the new development consensus expressed in the Millennium Development Goals and the broad range of U.N. environmental, social and human rights accords is more clearly reflected on the ground, including in post-conflict situations.”

Reflections on the ground are noted in Mexico, where the government created a “conditional cash transfer” welfare program that provided payments based on a family’s commitment to specific health and education requirements, leading to a 25 percent decrease in illness among infants and 20 percent among children under five, as well as a significant increase in school enrollment. In the state of Kerala in India, where provision of health care, education, and other basic services has been made a priority, infant mortality is one quarter the national rate, immunization rates are almost double, and the fertility rate is two thirds that of the nation as a whole. When the city of Porto Alegre in Brazil gave local people the power to set governmental funding priorities, the health and education budget increased from 13 percent to almost 40 percent in a decade. China has announced a plan to adopt a Green GDP (gross domestic product) measure that will subtract resource depletion and pollution costs from GDP.
It is noted that redirecting just 7.4 percent of donor governments’ military budgets to development aid would provide all the additional funds needed to pay for the Millennium Development Goals, as would simply removing outdated and unnecessary programs from the U.S. military budget. Brazil recently cut its military budget by 4 percent in order to finance an ambitious anti-hunger program.

Finally, the power of civil society organizations and global public policy networks is noted, along with the need to educate “’global citizens’: those who understand their connectedness to the people and problems of other lands, who wrestle with fundamental questions of global justice, and who feel deeply that the natural environment is an integral part of their well-being and therefore deserves protection.”
We’ve heard this all before, but perhaps not as concisely and incisively as here.


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“In a market economy, private investors are the ultimate arbiter of what energy technologies can compete and yield reliable profits, so to understand nuclear power's prospects, just follow the money. Private investors have flatly rejected nuclear power but enthusiastically bought its main supply-side competitors decentralized cogeneration and renewables. Worldwide, by the end of 2004, these supposedly inadeqaute alternatives had more installed capacity than nuclear, produced 92 percent as much electricity, and were growing 5.9 times faster and accelerating, while nuclear was fading.”
—Amory B. Lovins "Competitors To Nuclear: Eat My Dust"
RMI Solutions, Fall 2005

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