A pretty insightful Tom Friedman column notes that what we really need from India (and China) is for economic growth there to be paired with an effort to leapfrog the United States in terms of green development, with rising national income going into high-speed trains and clean, efficient mass transit infrastructure rather than into building the sort of vast network of highways, parking lots, gas stations, and car-dependent sprawl that we have.
In principle, this should be doable. Transitioning a place like the United States to a more green-friendly country is very challenging precisely because so many of us have so much invested already in high-carbon lifestyles. If India just puts sensible policies in place in terms of road and parking pricing, land use, and transit funding then Indians ought to be able to painlessly grow richer in an ecologically sustainable manner. After all, since right now Indians are mostly getting by without either cars or quality transit options, it’s not a question of giving anything up. Obviously, though, nothing along these lines is going to happen unless the right countries — and especially the richest country of all — shows a determination to start moving away from our current model.