Most of the people in the world today consume far less than this. The average Bangladeshi, for example, uses only about twenty-six hundred kilowatt-hours a year—this figure includes all forms of energy, from electricity to transportation fuel—which is the equivalent of using roughly three hundred watts continuously. The average Indian uses about eighty-seven hundred kilowatt-hours a year, making India a one-thousand-watt society, while the average Chinese uses about thirteen thousand kilowatt-hours a year, making China a fifteen-hundred-watt society.
Those of us who live in the industrialized world, by contrast, consume far more than two thousand watts. Switzerland, for instance, is a five-thousand-watt society. Most other Western European countries are six-thousand-watt societies; the United States and Canada run at twelve thousand watts. One of the founding principles of the 2,000-Watt Society is that this disparity is in itself unsustainable. “It’s a basic matter of fairness” is how Stulz put it to me. But increasing energy use in developing countries to match that of industrialized nations would be unacceptable on ecological grounds. Were per-capita demand in the developing world to reach current European levels, global energy consumption would more than double, and were it to rise to the American level, global energy consumption would more than triple. The 2,000-Watt Society gives industrialized countries a target for cutting energy use at the same time that it sets a limit for growth in developing nations.
I'm sure that you, like me, get tired of hearing how many more resources the average American uses up when compared with people in the rest of the world, as the problem seems so insurmountable. The question is, what can you do? What would a 2,000 Watt a year life look like? Well, it would look a lot like all of the things we talk about all the time: energy effienciency, public transportation and biking/walking, local foodsheds, renewable energy, and a reduction in the culture of consumption. The Swiss researchers who came up with this model expressed their doubts that the US would or could go to from a 12,000 to a 2,000 watt society, but concluded that if global climate change models pan out as expected, we will be dragged, kicking and screaming, to adopt it.