We hear a lot about consumption in the developed world, and rightly so. As an American, I know that the majority of my fellow citizens and I consume an unsustainable amount of goods and resources. This needs to change, as the planet cannot support a growing global population of American-level consumers.
But of course, as developing countries grow, prosper, and move into the middle-class, they want the things that we in the developed world want and have. Cars, computers, smartphones, televisions, lattes and most everything else under the sun. It is a contentious issue, one that has stymied the global climate talks, amongst other things. We can only hope that we soon find a path that we can all live with and still be content.
What does the situation in India look like? People often associate India with poverty and rural villages, but that’s rapidly changing. It is projected that by 2030, approximately half of India’s households are projected to be in the middle class. That amounts to close to 600 million people.
The outlook for India is that growing urbanization, a young working-age population, and higher income will result in increased spending, resulting in a consumption boom over the next two decades. No wonder Wal-Mart is banging on India’s doors (it currently operates in India as a joint venture with an Indian conglomerate, but foreign investment rules could be on the verge of change).
I started this blog because I find India fascinating and believe that what takes place in that country not only affects the world but can provide a learning experience for us all. How can we bring 400 million village people who lack electricity into the 21st century without creating huge amounts of carbon emissions? Like China, India is heavily reliant on coal but is also moving ahead with renewable energy initiatives. What happens when more and more Indians move to urban cities? How will India balance growth, poverty, and the environment? And what about tigers?
I follow and associate with groups that are doing amazing work in India. These organizations, many focused on women (Navdanya, WEA, IDEX, GRAVIS), and others (SELCO, Husk Power Systems), give me hope that as Indians make progress they will also find a sustainable path to prosperity. Technology will play a key role, but so will tapping into historical/ancestral knowledge and traditional best practices.
India has existed for a long time. I’m willing to bet that there is a lot we can learn from the world’s biggest democracy. At the very least, it will be interesting to see how it all plays out.