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Study Cites Environmental Progress

Some of the world’s most maligned regimes are making strides in protecting humanity from the disaster of an over-exploited world, according to the latest State of the World report.

The annual book-length report being published today by the independent Worldwatch Institute finds mostly bad news around the globe but cites progress from unexpected sources: the governments of China and Iran.

It also praises five countries in Europe for environmentally sound economic policies. Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain and Britain are gradually shifting away from taxing income to taxing activities that destroy the environment, the report said.

In addition, Germany has begun the first broad political shift in favor of wholesale restructuring of a tax system, the report said. The United States, in contrast, lags behind, said Worldwatch’s president, Lester R. Brown.

“We’re subsidizing things that just don’t make sense anymore,” Brown said in an interview prior to the report’s release. “We should tax mining and subsidize recycling.”

He decried the fact that the debate over U.S. tax reform has not focused on such a switch.

The Worldwatch report is published in 27 languages, including a Persian edition printed in Teheran and a Beijing edition, and distributed to government officials around the world.

Worldwatch is a non-profit environmental research organization supported by grants and sale of its publications.

State of the World editions over the last decade have highlighted a broad array of environmental, social and political problems affecting the planet’s future, with a sparse dose of optimism over efforts to reverse the trend.

“The bottom line is that the physical condition of the earth continues to deteriorate on almost every front,” Brown said.

But Brown and the report reserve some positive analysis for the regime of Iran and Beijing’s Communist rulers.

Noting Iran’s acute scarcity of land and water, Brown said the government has limited housing, health and education subsidies to the first three children in a family.

“Iran is making a desperate effort to get off the demographic path that would more than double its 1995 population of 61 million to 131 million by 2030,” Brown said. “Painful though this may be, it could avoid far greater suffering down the road.”

China, too, has turned to taxation policies aimed at slowing population growth, he noted, taxing each birth after the first. Even so, “China’s soaring grain imports are helping drive world grain prices to nearrecord highs,” Brown said.

The report says world grain stocks have dropped to an all-time low of 49 days’ consumption.


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