2. Worlds in Collision

Nearly three decades ago, environmentalists made this simple but powerful observation. The total environmental impact (I) created by human activity on the planet is a function of three factors: population (P); affluence (A), which is a proxy for consumption; and technology (T), which is how wealth is created. The total environmental impact of human activity can thus be expressed as a formula: I = P × A × T.1

Achieving sustainability will require stabilizing and ultimately reducing the human impact on the planet. We can do that by drastically decreasing the human population, lowering the level of affluence (consumption), or fundamentally changing the technology used to create wealth—effectively moving technology (T) into ...

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