Urbanization is one of the critical global trends shaping the future. While great environmental challenges lie ahead, there are many innovative and effective approaches to environmental management undertaken by cities and communities around the world.

Executive Summary

World Resources 1996-97 is an authoritative primary reference volume on global environmental and natural resource conditions and trends for the United Nations, World Bank, and related international organizations. It is widely used by scientists, students, and nongovernmental organizations. As a printed book, it runs to 384 pages, including 162 pages of data tables covering 150 countries.


p>The special supplement on The Urban Environment served as an official source book for the U.N. Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II). Copies were distributed as part of official conference materials to delegates, government leaders, embassy officials, NGOs, the media, businesses, and others participating in the Istanbul conference.

Part I: The Urban Environment

World Resources 1996-97 focuses on the critical environmental challenges facing the world's rapidly expanding urban areas. With their concentration of humans and economic activities, urban areas can be the sites of intense environmental degradation. Yet with their vitality and efficiencies of scale, cities and towns also have the potential to minimize stresses on the natural environment and improve the quality of life. Achieving those opportunities will require approaches that reconcile the demands of economic growth, environmental protection, and social justice.

Special section on the urban environment. A fascinating analysis of the environmental challenges facing the world's cities, such as:

  • Manila, where three out of every four people live in unauthorized housing;
  • Mexico City, where air pollution contributes to 6,400 deaths every year and 29 percent of all children have unhealthy levels of lead in their blood;
  • Philadelphia, where more than 20 percent of the population lives below the poverty level; and
  • densely packed Jakarta whose 8 million residents live without a waterborne sewage system.

Produced in close consultation with the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements, this 170-page section includes:

  • a comparison of urban conditions and trends throughout the developing and developed world,
  • a sobering look at the impacts of urban environmental conditions on human health and productivity,
  • timely analysis of how urban transportation systems are contributing to -- or reducing -- environmental problems, and, finally,
  • a close-up look at creative strategies for improving the urban environment based on case studies from cities and communities across the globe.

Part II: Conditions and Trends in the Global Environment

As in previous volumes, World Resources 1996-97 surveys conditions and trends for important global issues and includes core country data in each of the major resource categories from population to land cover to water to energy. The report includes natural resources data for 152 countries. Among the highlights of this portion of the report are: an in-depth look at the threats to marine biodiversity, including a novel analysis of coastlines at risk; a discussion of future energy demand and its implications for global climate; and an analysis of whether agricultural production can keep pace with the world's growing population.