Someone who might benefit from thiseconomic “miracle” is 26-year-old VidyaShedge, another participant in the BBC pro-gram. Vidya lives with 10 members of herfamily in a single room in the considerably poorer outskirts of Mumbai. There is no run-ning water, no fridge, and no DVD player.But they do now have electricity—enough toburn three incandescent lightbulbs and acouple of fans during the hottest part of theday. Vidya’s ambition is to save enough fromher 7,500 rupees ($160) a month job in abank to afford a car. She, too, is looking for- ward to her visit from the BBC. They wantto talk to her about “carbon footprints.”Perhaps surprisingly, both George and Vidya already know something about climatechange. They understand that human activ-ities are responsible for global warming.George has even discussed what his householdcan do to reduce their carbon emissions.Every room in the apartment has energy-efﬁcient lightbulbs. A little more surprisingly,and in spite of believing that the industrial world must lead the way, both George and Vidya are relatively optimistic that somethingcan be done to halt climate change. A recent international survey confirmsthese counterintuitive ﬁndings. In June 2007the HSBC Bank published a Climate Conﬁ-dence Index. People in India showed thehighest level of concern about climatechange—60 percent of respondents placed itat the top of their list of concerns—the high-est commitment to change (alongside Brazil),and the highest level of optimism that soci-ety will solve this problem. Skepticism andintransigence, it seems, are mainly the domainof industrial nations. The United States andthe United Kingdom scored lowest on com-mitment. France and the United Kingdomscored lowest on optimism. India’s optimismin ﬁnding solutions is driven in particular by the younger age groups. A whole new gen-eration of Indians see hope in the future.
Justifying that hope will not be easy. ForGeorge’s family, life has clearly improvedsince his parents’ generation. And yet hisstandard of living—measured in conventionalterms—is modest at best. Vidya’s family hasa massive hill to climb. Eleven people livingin one small room with a combined incomeof $16 a day is a level of poverty long con-signed to history in the West. So how is itgoing to be possible for George, Vidya, 1billion other Indians, and great numbers of Chinese (not to mention people in Africa,Latin America, and the rest of Southeast Asia)to achieve the standard of living taken forgranted in the United States—and still “solvethe problem” of climate change?How can a world of ﬁnite resources andfragile environmental constraints possibly support the expectations of 9 billion peoplein 2050 to live the lifestyle exempliﬁed for solong by the afﬂuent West? That is the chal-lenge that guides and frames this chapter.
The Math of Sustainability
Broadly speaking, the impact of human soci-ety on the environment is determined by thenumber of people on the planet and the way in which they live. The math of the relation-ship between lifestyle and environment ispretty straightforward. It was set out severaldecades ago by Paul Ehrlich of Stanford Uni- versity and has been explored in detail inmany other places since. In essence, the les-son is simple. Reducing the overall impact thatpeople have on the environment can happenin only a limited number of ways: changinglifestyles, improving the efﬁciency of tech-nology, or reducing the number of people onthe planet.
The question of population is clearly crit-ical. Population is one of the factors that“scales” humanity’s impact on the planet.
WWW.WORLDWATCH.ORGSTATE OFTHEWORLD 2008The Challenge of Sustainable Lifestyles