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The Ganges, Ice Cream and Water


[from The New York Times, 9/27/98, p. WK16]

Every year, the United Nations Human Development Report looks
for a new way to measure the lives of people.  Putting aside
faceless statistics like per capita gross domestic product or
export-import figures, the report burrows into the facts about
what children eat, who goes to school, whether there is clean
water to drink, how women share in the economy, or who doesn't
get vaccinations against diseases that go on killing even though
they are preventable.  This year, the report takes its first
look at what people have--from simple toilets to family
cars--and what proportion of the world's goods and services are
consumed, comparatively, by the rich and by the poor.  The pie
is huge--the world's consumption bill is $24 trillion a
year--but some servings are very small indeed. -- Barbara Crossette

THE HAVES  The richest fifth of the world's people consumes 86%
of all goods and services while the poorest fifth consumes just
1.3%.  Indeed, the richest fifth consumes 45% of all meat and
fish, 58% of all energy used and 84% of all paper, has 74% of
all telephone lines and owns 87% of all vehicles.

NATURAL RESOURCES  Since 1970, the world's forests have declined
from 4.4 square miles per 1,000 people to 2.8 square miles per
1,000 people.  In addition, a quarter of the world's fish stocks
have been depleted or are in danger of being depleted and
another 44% are being fished at their biological limit.

THE GANGES  The Ganges River symbolizes purification to Hindus,
who believe drinking or bathing in its waters will lead to
salvation.  But 29 cities, 70 towns, and countless villages
deposit about 345 million gallons of raw sewage a day directly
into the river.  Factories add 70 million gallons of industrial
waste and farmers are responsible for another 6 million tons of
chemical fertilizer and 9,000 tons of pesticides.

THE ULTRA RICH  The three richest people in the world have
assets that exceed the combined gross domestic product of the 48
least developed countries.

AFRICA  The average African household today consumes 20% less
than it did 25 years ago.

THE SUPER RICH  The world's 225 richest individuals, of whom 60
are Americans with total assets of $311 billion, have a combined
wealth of over $1 trillion--equal to the annual income of the
poorest 47% of the entire world's population.

COSMETICS AND EDUCATION  Americans spend $8 billion a year on
cosmetics--$2 billion more than the estimated annual total
needed to provide basic education for everyone in the world.

THE HAVE NOTS  Of the 4.4 billion people in developing
countries, nearly three-fifths lack access to safe sewers, a
third have no access to clean water, a quarter do not have
adequate housing, and a fifth have no access to modern health
services of any kind.

MEAT  Americans each consume an average of 260 pounds of meat a
year.  In Bangladesh, the average is six and a half pounds.

THE FUTURE  By 2050, 8 billion of the world's projected 9.5
billion people--up from about 6 billion today--will be living in
developing countries.

SMOKE  Of the estimated 2.7 million annual deaths from air
pollution, 2.2 million are from indoor pollution--including
smoke from dung and wood burned as fuel, which is more harmful
than tobacco smoke.  80% of the victims are rural poor
in developing countries.

WRISTWATCHES AND RADIOS  Two-thirds of India's 90 million
lowest-income households live below the poverty line--but more
than 50% of these impoverished people own wristwatches, 41% own
bicycles, 31% own radios and 13% own fans.

TELEPHONE LINES  Sweden and the United States have 681 and 626
telephone lines per 1,000 people, respectively.  Afghanistan,
Cambodia, Chad, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have
one line per 1,000 people.

ICE CREAM AND WATER  Europeans spend $11 billion a year on ice
cream--$2 billion more than the estimated annual total needed to
provide clean water and safe sewers for the world's population.

AIDS  At the end of 1997 over 30 million people were living with
HIV.  With about 16,000 new infections a day--90% in developing
countries--it is now estimated that more than 40 million people
will be living with HIV in 2000.

LAND MINES  More than 110 million active land mines are
scattered in 68 countries, with an equal number stockpiled
around the world.  Every month more than 2,000 people are killed
or maimed by mine explosions.

PET FOOD AND HEALTH  Americans and Europeans spend $17 billion a
year on pet food--$4 billion more than the estimated annual
additional total needed to provide basic health and nutrition
for everyone in the world.

$40 BILLION A YEAR  It is estimated that the additional cost of
achieving and maintaining universal access to basic education
for all, basic health care for all, reproductive health care for
all women, adequate food for all, and clean water and safe
sewers for all is roughly $40 billion a year--or less than 4% of
the combined wealth of the 225 richest people in the world.

Source: UNReform online forum