THE BLOG
01/29/2013 03:29 pm ET Updated Mar 31, 2013

An Aspirational Lifestyle for Seven Billion People?

There is an unconscious and slightly patronizing attitude out there in the world about doing our bit to help poor people with some aid, which does not seem to see the link to the casually well off lives that many of us lead. I sensed it as an eminent line up of world political and business leaders discussed what will follow the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) at the World Economic Forum at Davos last Thursday evening.

It was up to Ban Ki-moon, the secretary general of the UN to remind the panel that the world committed to develop a set of universal Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at Rio+20 in June 2012, to follow on from the MDGs.

Paul Polman, the CEO of Unilever, fretted about growing human population and scarce resources and said we need equitable growth within planetary boundaries. At a climate change session at lunchtime Lord Stern reminded us that our goal is two tons of CO2 per person by 2050, it's currently about 12 tons in the EU.

So our big Sustainable Development Goal from 2015 could be a good life, even an aspirational life, for seven billion people within a fair and sustainable share of the world's resources. This means people from rich countries like me become more resource efficient and get their ecological footprint down from three planets to one and as part of that, my carbon footprint down to two tons. Everything we need that is food, shelter, health care, education, etc. comes from that budget.

At our organization BioRegional, this is what we have been trying to do. I live in a sustainable community which we co-created and have managed to get half way there, but need the rest of London's infrastructure to be as efficient to get down to what we call one planet living. So we modeled it for London in 2009 and found that it is possible even given current technology. Far from suffering, people report being happier and healthier in sustainable communities.

If this works in London then it could also work in countries like Bangladesh or Haiti where people don't have enough and need to grow.

There are seven billion consumers out there. But income inequality, highlighted as a top global risk of 2013 by the World Economic Forum, is depressing demand. Shifting both income and resource use from rich to poor by just a few percent could, combined with resource efficiency for rich nations, kick-start the delivery of a goal we can all understand and be proud of -- a good life for everyone and for future generations.

Subscribe to Must Reads.
The internet's best stories, and interviews with their authors.