A quote from David Holmgren's recent book:
Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability
Because of the high-energy nature of the modern world, each person, especially in rich countries, has much greater power and impact on nature and society than any previous -- or probably, future -- generation. Estimates of the resources that a person in the rich world commands are in the order of 100 energy slaves. Even the majority of citizens of poor countries today have the equivalent of several energy slaves. During the lifetime of an American baby-boomer born in 1950 and dying in 2025, over half the conventional oil reserves of the United States (the second-richest oil nation after Saudi Arabia) will have been consumed. The relative power between individuals and groups within generations is naturally the focus of economics and politics. Thus we are constantly comparing ourselves to our peers, but we have many more abstract and vague concerns about future generations. Further the culture of growth assumes that future generations will be more powerful than we are.
Rapid energy descent means that our individual behaviour today may be more potent in determining the future than the behaviour of whole communities in that future.
Much of this power is expressed through our purchasing decisions in the monetary economy. In this way, it is the billion or so middle-class people around the world who are the engine of global destruction, rather than the numerically small elite, or the relatively self-reliant but increasingly destitute majority.
The rise of individualism in the modern world makes possible personal expression and action through lifestyle choice, even if few choose to do so in any more than superficial ways. This empowerment of the individual provides a unique opportunity for bottom-up change.