42. Agnes Klingshirn and Peter Scott
for helping the world breathe easier.
Aid worker | Germany
Stove designer | Seattle
For years, a group of engineers and aid advocates, including Agnes Klingshirn of the German aid agency GTZ, has insisted that a simple technology -- cleaner, more efficient stoves -- could work wonders in underdeveloped places like Africa and South Asia, where electricity is scarce, firewood requires long walks to the bush, and indoor fumes leave countless sick and disabled. But no one seemed to be listening.
Then in September, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, a new public-private coalition aiming to scale up stove production and distribution, getting 100 million cookstoves out to the developing world by 2020. The announcement put stove designer Peter Scott -- who is, according to a New Yorker profile last year, the movement's Thomas Edison -- front and center: The "rocket stove," an innovative, low-cost device he helped design 20 years ago, could be coming soon to a village near you.
43. Nandan Nilekani
for proving that India can be not only democratic, but efficient.
Entrepreneur | India
India's breakneck expansion inspires as much fear as awe: Although the country's economy is expected to continue its steady march upward, its infrastructure is still woefully inadequate. Nandan Nilekani, an engineer who played a crucial role in bringing the high-tech revolution to India by co-founding IT giant Infosys Technologies, is looking to change that.
Nilekani's 2009 book, Imagining India, laid out an ambitious reform agenda based on twin pillars of education and private enterprise. Now he appears determined to tackle the problem head-on, leaving the private sector to chair a new government agency charged with compiling a national identification system for all Indians. It's not hard to see why the job, which combines his technological skills with his drive for rational government, appeals to Nilekani. For too long, he says, the country has been run on an "aching-tooth approach," treating its problems only when crisis arises.
44. Zheng Bijian
for trying to keep China's rise peaceful.
Geostrategist | China
Zheng Bijian, one of the leading intellectuals of China's Communist Party, was a key architect of the idea of China's "peaceful rise," which he introduced to the West in a 2005 Foreign Affairs article. The theory laid the groundwork for a global strategy that would allow the country to continue its transformation into an economic juggernaut, while also seeking to allay fears that Beijing would use its newfound power to overturn the existing international balance of power.
But as China's success has now become a geopolitical reality, this attractive theory has come under assault from hard-liners on both sides of the Pacific. It has been left to Zheng to formulate a solution that reimagines the "peaceful rise" doctrine for the decades ahead. Introducing a clean-energy collaboration with the Brookings Institution this year, he said, "It is not only necessary, but also possible for China and the U.S. to transcend our differences." Let's hope he's right.
45. Mohamed El-Erian
for reminding us just how bad things could get.
CEO, Pimco | Newport Beach, Calif.
The world's best financial minds have closely watched the prognostications of this Oxbridge-trained economist ever since January 2007, when Mohamed El-Erian, then the head of Harvard University's endowment, bet $1.6 billion of the school's money that global markets were headed for a downturn -- and turned out to be right.
Author of the 2008 book When Markets Collide, a former IMF economist, and head of investment colossus Pimco, El-Erian helped popularize the term "the new normal" to describe the post-crisis economic era: one in which growth remains stubbornly low everywhere but the developing world. This year, as hopes for a rapid recovery have faded, he has penned a series of full-throated articles warning that world leaders aren't taking the potential consequences of a prolonged downturn seriously enough.