The Worldwatch Institute recently released a study on current trends showcasing the planet’s growing demand for food and energy, its shrinking resources and the implications of these trends. The report, “Vital Signs: Volume 20,” provides up-to-date figures on many of the most critical global concerns.

Drawing on a wide range of sources, the report provides authoritative data and analysis on significant global trends such as fossil fuel subsidies, agricultural commodities and rapid urbanization in the developing world, according to the Worldwatch Institute.

First, the good news in the report’s findings: Globally, sanitation and water access for 227 million people was improved between 2000 and 2010 to the point where these individuals no longer are considered slum dwellers.

Within the agriculture sector, efficient irrigation methods have increased more than six-fold over the last two decades, and organically certified agricultural land has more than tripled since 1999.

Meanwhile, socially sustainable ways of doing business continue to emerge — about 1 billion people in 96 countries belong to a cooperative, whether as a worker, consumer, producer or purchaser.

Similarly, the emergence of so-called “benefit” corporations offer a more socially and environmentally responsible model for private firms.

The not-so-good findings were global oil consumption reached an all-time high in 2012, the number of workers in vulnerable employment exceeded 1.5 billion people and the physical water scarcity affected about 1.2 billion people, almost one-fifth of the world.

Further highlights from the report include:

* Global coal production increased by 6,941 million tons in 2011, making coal the fastest-growing fossil fuel. Spurred mainly by rising demand in China and India, coal’s share in the global primary energy mix reached 28 percent in 2011, its highest point since recordkeeping began in 1971;

* Global wind power capacity grew by 21 percent in 2011, lower than the 2010 rate of 24 percent and markedly lower than the 2009 rate of 31 percent;

* Passenger car production rose from 60.1 million vehicles in 2010 to 62.6 million vehicles in 2011, and 2012 brought a new all-time record of 66.1 million vehicles;

* Global meat production surpassed 300 million tons for the first time in 2012, and annual meat consumption increased just 0.4 percent to 42.5 kilograms per person;

* Women farmers produce more than half of all food worldwide and currently account for 43 percent of the global agricultural workforce, yet women own just 2 percent of global farmland;

* During 2011, a total of 820 natural catastrophes were documented, causing an estimated 27,000 deaths and costing a record $380 billion in economic losses; and

* Among the global workforce, wage growth has slowed from an average of 3 percent in 2007 to 2.1 percent in 2010 and 1.2 percent in 2011.

“Our economic systems and theories are programmed to squeeze ever more resources from a planet in distress,” said Michael Renner, Worldwatch senior researcher and director of the Vital Signs project. “A mixture of population growth, consumerism, greed and short-term thinking by policymakers and business people seems to be inexorably driving human civilization toward a showdown with the planet’s limits.

“There is no shortage of alternatives to change the destructive trajectory that humanity finds itself on. Renewables and efficient irrigation are two practical options among many others. But we need to get serious about these tasks instead of consigning them largely to the margins.”