This week, I've been listening to some of the interviews and lectures archived at IT Conversations, and the one I heard last night really stuck with me. The speaker was Alex Steffen, a writer for WorldChanging.com. In the talk, Alex starts with a description of how the North American lifestyle is a huge consumer of resources, but he quickly moves into a fascinating description of the revolutionary technologies that are being used to improve the quality of life of people in developing countries. The key term he uses is "leapfrogging", where those areas are able to skip the intermediate steps that the West went through, going directly from subsistence to high-tech. Alex's speech is fascinating, and it gives me some hope that, as a species, we'll be able to manage our population growth and rework our societies to have less of an impact on the environment.
Cross-reference: Bruce Sterling's Viridian Movement, which was a progenitor of the WorldChanging work.