What’s New December 2009

This page lists changes to this site for December 2009.

See below for other updates and to get notified of changes to the site.

UNAIDS has updated their estimates for various aspects for AIDS/HIV. It says that for 2008 worldwide, there were an estimated:

  • 33.4 million living with HIV
  • 2.7 million new infections of HIV
  • 2 million deaths from AIDS

Approximately 7 out of 10 deaths for 2008 were in Sub-Saharan Africa, a region that also has over two-thirds of adult HIV cases and over 90% of new HIV infections amongst children.

Looking over recent years, UNAIDS finds some improvements, such as reductions in deaths from AIDS and of new incidences of HIV infections. Yet, were it not for the politics and other problems throughout the past couple of decades, perhaps means more lives could have been saved.

The AIDS page has been updated with newer graphs and charts.

Throughout the 1990s, a coalition of numerous non-governmental organizations, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), campaigned successfully to prohibit the use of landmines.

This helped to create the 1997 Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction, also known as the Ottawa Treaty. (It also won the ICBL the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts.) This treaty came into force in 1999.

Although landmine use in the past decade has been significantly reduced, problems such as clearance and rehabilitation remain. Furthermore, some key countries continue to use landmines, or support the need for them, despite the problems they often cause for civilians long after conflicts have ended.

The landmine page has been significantly updated to describe the above further.

The latest data covering global arms sales shows that sale of arms in 2008 decreased to around $55 billion, over 75% of which went to developing countries. This was down from a total of almost $60 billion the year before but was still the second highest amount in the 8 year period the data covers.

While the global financial crisis has affected many countries, it seems like the decrease in arms purchases in 2008 occurred mostly in industrialized nations; developing nations saw a slight increase in purchases.

Updated graphs and charts on arms sales data are provided here.

The arms trade is big business. The 5 permanent members of the UN Security Council (US, Russia, France, United Kingdom and China), together with Germany and Italy, account for over 80% of the arms sold between 2001 and 2008.

Some of the arms sold go to regimes where human rights violations will occur. Corruption often accompanies arms sales due to the large sums of money involved.

For years, many have argued that our current economic system does not fully capture the cost of the environment. The price signal, for example, should be an indicator of resource scarcity or other environmental concerns, but often does not capture the full costs. (Current climate change is perhaps a clear indication of this.)

As a result, we continue efficiently producing products and services from a profit perspective, but we do so in a way that is often detrimental to the environment in some way (which is inefficient, on the whole, in the long run).

For those who fear excessive government regulation, a truer accounting of such costs could allow markets to more naturally price those existing goods and services, and highlight seemingly efficient companies and industries as inefficient. (An irony may be that to see such a change in our economic systems may require political leadership by governments and citizens — although that is how national and global market systems came into being in the first place.)

There is a risk of commodifying nature with this argument by valuing the environment just from an economic perspective and ignoring less tangible benefits. However, eliminating waste and discouraging environmentally harmful practices is crucial and this could be one tool, from many, to understand how efficient or inefficient some of our activities really are, while giving clues as to what direction we should take instead. One example of the difference this could make is what the Institute for Economic Democracy found in the mid-1990s: that almost half of the entire US economy back then was wasted capital, labor and resources.

Currently, for example, GDP figures may assign environmentally destructive activities as being economically beneficial, ignoring the costs that they really pose. If businesses and nations continue to look to GDP to understand growth, then aiming for growth (in its current form) may include more environmental destruction. Accounting ignored environmental costs may therefore help make a more solid economic case for protecting the environment, rather than exploiting it almost without care.

The biodiversity page has been updated to explain this further.

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