About The World Counts

The Project

Our current consumer society is based on a system that’s not sustainable.

We are already over 7 billion people on Earth. By 2025 we’ll be 8 billion and around 2045 we could hit 9 billion.

This will put enormous pressure on Earth’s resources and calls for radical changes. We already need 1.5 planets for our consumption and waste. And if nothing changes, by mid 2030s we will need 2.

The World Counts gives you overview of critical global challenges. Awareness is the first step towards change!

We also want to show how visionary green companies are leading the way to create positive changes.

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About The World Counts

The World Counts was created to raise awareness of important global challenges. And to be an inspiration for taking action - so that the negative trends can be reversed. We are firm believers that we can all make a positive difference.

Our current consumer society is not sustainable. Basically, products are made from natural resources and eventually turned into waste. With a limited amount of natural resources, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that we can’t run such a system forever.

The World Counts illustrates negative trends using live counters related to:

  • The environment
  • Energy & climate
  • Your health
  • People

Disturbing things are happening in each of these areas. We want to highlight some of them, and to illustrate how they essentially are linked to our consumption of goods and services.

We also want to emphasize and show that we all, as consumers, can make a positive difference by paying more attention to the things we buy. The “you & your stuff” section gives examples of how your choice of companies and products have real world consequences.

The vision: Powering consumer empowerment

Our vision is to create change through awareness and consumer empowerment.

As a consumer you have power. This power is exercised through your choice of products and services to buy.

Companies produce what consumers demand. So if you start demanding and buying products that are both socially and environmentally responsible it has real world effects. In short, you vote with your money.

Yet, to make such an impact possible you need information. A lot of such information is out there, but it is not always easy to come by. We are working to change this.

We are optimists

Yes, we know. The current site shows many negative trends. This is to illustrate that something has to change.

And we believe that change is possible. In fact, it’s possible to change pretty much every single one of the negative trends. We already have the tools to do it. It’s just a question of getting started for real – and things are already happening. companies are getting more serious about their social and environmental profile (corporate social responsibility – CSR),

the markets for organic, fairtrade products are growing every year, socially responsible investments are on the rise, the potential of clean, green energy is humongous, and a revolutionary concept (Cradle to Cradle) holds great promise…

Cradle to cradle design

Cradle to cradle thinking represents an very optimistic vision for the future. The idea is for products not to be “less bad” but to be positively good for the environment. What about a car that purifies air when driven, or a house that produces more green energy than it needs?

Right now, most of our economy in based on a cradle to grave system: the stuff we buy goes through a process of extraction, production, distribution, consumption, and waste.

This is a linear system, and because we have a limited number of resources available to us it cannot go on forever. The cradle to cradle concept, on the other hand, implies a circular system of zero waste where materials re-enter into the production-chain after use, or harmlessly into the natural environment.

The concept is inspired by how things work in nature. In nature, there is no such thing as waste. In fact, waste equals food.

But can we adopt nature’s way of sustainability and zero waste in our industrial production processes?

Yes! But it requires a different way of thinking.

The problem with “reducing”

There is a lot of hype about the idea of “eco-efficiency” – the way we currently deal with most of our environmental challenges. In short, eco-efficiency is based on the concept of creating more goods and services while using fewer resources and creating less waste and pollution. The key word is reducing.

The problem with “reducing” is that it merely slows down the process of destruction.

“Relying on eco-efficiency to save the environment will in fact achieve the opposite; it will let industry finish off everything, quietly, persistently and completely.”

From the book "Cradle to Cradle: Remaking The Way We Make Things"

Look at it this way. By 2030 the global number of consumers will more than double in size to 4.9 billion. Merely reducing our negative impact is simply not good enough. Not by a long shot. We MUST change our focus to start doing good instead of continuing doing less bad.

Be good!

Instead of a future where we aim to reduce everything, we can enjoy the benefits of the consumer society while being an integral part of the ecosystem – not an autonomous entity destroying it.

Instead of setting maximum levels for materials that are known to be bad, we must use materials that are known to be good.

“Our goal is delightfully, diverse, safe, healthy and just world, with clean air, water, soil and power – economically, equitably, ecologically and elegantly enjoyed”.

The vision of the writers of "Cradle to Cradle"

Important cradle to cradle concepts are:

  • Waste equals food. Eliminate the concept of waste.
  • Use current solar income. Power with renewable energy.
  • Celebrate diversity. Respect human & natural systems.
  • Technical nutrients. Produce and build using materials which can be used many times over without any loss in quality, staying in a continuous “technical” cycle.
  • Biological nutrients. Use organic materials that can safely decompose into the natural environment.

Green companies are leading the way

Many companies know that major changes are needed and work hard to change the way they do business.

“Our ultimate, long-term vision is to create finished products with zero waste, as well as “closing the loop” on materials use – that is, using only materials that can be fully recycled into new products”

Nike

“By 2020 we’re going to be 100% renewable–producing as much renewable energy as we consume using renewable sources, such as the wind and sun. We’re also making our buildings more efficient, so we need less energy to run them”.

IKEA

More and more companies are thinking this way!

Industrial ecology

Industrial ecology refers to the exchange of materials between different industrial sectors where the waste output of one industry becomes the input of another.

One of the best known example of industrial ecology is located in Kalundborg, Denmark. Here, an industrial ecosystem has been established which involves an oil refinery, a gyproc factory, a pharmaceutical firm, a fish farm, a coal-fired electrical power station and the municipality of Kalundborg, among others.

They have developed a web of relationships that funnel heat, energy and byproducts from one to the other. For example, gas captured from the oil refinery which had previously been flared off is now sent to the electrical power station which expects to save the equivalent of 30,000 tons of coal a year. Surplus heat from the power plant is used to heat about 4,500 private homes and water for fish farming. Ash is supplied for the production of cement.

The symbiosis has grown over the years to include partners from other districts, as well as farmers and the participating companies are constantly co-operating to find new ways of improving the industrial symbiosis.

The challenge

It will be a huge challenge to change the operation of our consumer society. But it is possible – and very necessary. Visionary responsible companies exist. Our goal is to help you find them.

So become part of the new industrial revolution. And be good ☺

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The Data

The data used on The World Counts comes from a large number of organisations, research institutions, news services etc. Our aim is to use data from the world's most reputable organisations. But we also use data from a number of smaller organisations.

The data becomes "live" through different algorithms, depending on the type of counter and the projections made in the source material.

All sources can be found for each counter in the counter's "Sources" menu tab.

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Objective

The key objective of the data presented on this site is to create awareness! Awareness of the many social and environmental challenges the world faces. But also awareness of how we all can play a role in reversing negative trends and in creating positive change through the stuff we buy.

We believe creating awareness is the first step towards change.

Selected, non exhaustive data

It is not our ambition to cover all aspects of the themes that we cover (Our environment, Energy & climate, Your health, People, You & your stuff). Instead we have selected data that we think is useful to illustrate what is going on around the world.

We support the precautionary principle

The precautionary principle can be defined as “caution practiced in the context of uncertainty”. It is a kind of insurance policy against our own ignorance.

The principle reverses the usual burden of proof and ask for proof that something is safe instead of proof that something is risky. The precautionary principle must be applied both for patterns that must be stopped and for actions that need to be taken.

Our support of this principle implies that we tend to take the “prudent stance” in our choice of data when there is still scientific disagreement. We are aware that disagreements within research communities exist but we cannot go more into depth about these issues than we do in the sources for each statistic.

‘Positive’ vs. ‘Negative’ data

The site contains data on many negative developments. We have found this necessary to establish the argument that profound changes are needed. We try to balance the negative trends with information on the positive potential for change.

Real time data

To better illustrated what’s going on with the social and environmental challenges that we cover on this site, we have chosen to represent the data using ‘real time’ counters – so that the reader will get a feel for what is going on right now, and around the clock. These counters are based on various point estimates and projections, and may not represent scientifically accurate numbers. Some counters are more accurate than others, but all counters are included to highlight important concerns and not to describe exact scientific estimates.

We are not a research institution

We do not produce any original information but rely on data from a large number of organizations, research institutions, news services etc. We aim to use data from respected and well known organizations. But we also use data from a large number of smaller organizations, blogs etc. If you would like to know more about a topic we suggest you check out the sources that we provide.

Thank you!

We are completely dependent on the information made available by a large number of organizations, research institutions etc. and would like to extend our appreciation of the important work done here. It’s important for us to give credit to our sources so if you have any comments or questions concerning the way we link to you or other matters, please let us know.

Sometimes we chose to link to for example wikipedia because it provides a more easy accessible overview for users who want to learn more (for instance regarding data on energy use or world population). Of course, on Wikipedia the original sources are available.

Write us

If you have more correct or updated information regarding some of our content, we would be grateful if you can let us know. We cover quite a lot of data and would be very happy to benefit from the wisdom of the crowd (that’s you☺). If you have ideas for other information we could put on the site we would also like to hear from you.

You can write us at yes@theworldcounts.com

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Contact

The World Counts is based in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The site is being run and continuously updated by Esben Larsen, Karsten Bjerring Olsen, and Victor Emanouilov.

We work on bringing you the latest and most accurate live statistics on the state of the planet.

Do you have questions or comments? In any case, we would love to hear from you!


Who are we

Esben

Esben Larsen (Founder)

Research

Esben is doing the heavy lifting on research and promoting the message through social media.

Esben has a background in political science. He has worked for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in Paris and is currently employed at the Danish Commerce and Companies Agency.

Karsten2

Karsten Bjerring Olsen (Founder)

Design, Code and Research

Karsten is designing and coding. He is also researching content.

Karsten has a background in economics and has worked on several sustainability projects at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in Paris (OECD). He is currently employed as an economist at COWI, a Danish consulting company.

Victor

Victor Emanouilov

Coding

Victor is the coding wizard at The World Counts, working his magic from Sofia (Bulgaria).

Cherry

Eeva Lancaster

Writer

Eeva is our featured writer and she lends her words and her heart to the cause of spreading awareness.

She is a Freelance Writer, Editor, Non Fiction Author and Social Media Marketer from the Philippines.