The US and Russia used to be considered the two superpowers. Then Europe formed a union and Russia broke apart, and now India and China are poised to be the superpowers of the future. The Worldwatch Institute says that the rise of these two countries represents one of the gravest threats?and greatest opportunities?facing the world today.

The choices these countries make in the next few years in business, oil consumption, politics, pollution protection and agriculture will effect the rest of the world?for good or for ill.

Worldwatch President Christopher Flavin says, “Rising demand for energy, food, and raw materials by 2.5 billion Chinese and Indians is already having ripple effects worldwide.” However, the US still consumes three times as much grain per person as China and five times as much as India. U.S. per-capita carbon dioxide emissions are six times the Chinese level and 20 times the Indian level. If China and India were to consume resources and produce pollution at the current U.S. level, it would require two planet earths just to sustain their economies.

Thankfully, these two countries are beginning to realize this. Flavin says, “We were encouraged to find that a growing number of opinion leaders in China and India now recognize that the resource-intensive model for economic growth can’t work in the 21st century. Already, China’s world-leading solar industry provides water heating for 35 million buildings, and India’s pioneering use of rainwater harvesting brings clean water to tens of thousands of homes. China and India are positioned to leapfrog today’s industrial powers and become world leaders in sustainable energy and agriculture within a decade.”

UPDATE: Meanwhile, China is having the same kind of problems we are, caused by global warming. Clifford Coonan writes in the Indpendent that a hurricane with winds of over 100 mph has hit the southern Chinese coast, killing 11 people and forcing a million more to evacuate.

Maybe we need to learn some lessons from them, before WE become a third-world country!

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