Sustainability barrier nears

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The world's economic growth has almost exhausted its natural systems -- and about the only way of allowing the economy to continue growing is to use more renewable power. In fact, according to this year's State of the World report by the Worldwatch Institute of Washington DC, the world's growth is beginning to "hit a wall" of what can be absorbed. One of the few solutions is clean electricity technologies such as wind. The report was published on January 11.

The institute's annual 250 page report says that, astonishingly enough, during the last seven years worldwide economic growth has been greater than during the 10,000 years up to 1950. Signs of environmental stress are in the shrinking forests, falling water tables, eroding soils, disappearing wetlands, collapsing fisheries, and rising temperatures. "These environmental indicators make it clear that the Western fossil fuel based automobile centred economy is not a viable model for the world," says Worldwatch president Lester Brown.

Christopher Flavin, one of the authors of the report and environmental adviser to the American Wind Energy Association, cites wind as a success story, an emerging economic sector that is already worth $2 billion annually and which is expanding by 25% each year. He also cites wind as offering the hope that humanity can create a sustainable economy. "Renewable energy is expanding at break-neck pace," notes the report, which is translated into 30 languages and used in hundreds of college courses on the environment.

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