Although the economic, social and political structures of many countries in the world are increasingly moving to a global pattern, there is still an immense disparity in the living conditions between poor and rich countries. All countries begin with an agrarian background and gradually move to manufacturing, services and eventually to a knowledge-based society. Many developing countries are lagging far behind. The rates of population growth in these countries are still substantial particularly due to steady birth rates and declining death rates. Agriculture is still prominent in many of these countries and at the same time there has been an explosion in urban populations with its associated problems. Energy has played a major role in the development process of rich countries. However, beginning in the sixties, it was found that excessive use of energy affected the environment and human health. It has now been realised that the availability of water will be the primary concern of the 21st century. Simultaneously, political systems are moving away from dictatorial and socialist economic systems to more democratic and capitalistic structures. There has also been a significant movement towards human rights and free trade.
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