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The engine driving environmental decline is our unsustainable consumption of resources. We know we need to slow down, but our expectation is that things can only get worse when countries like India and China start wanting to live as we’ve been living. But what if they don’t want to do that?

We tend to assume that the historical sequence we’ve lived through must inevitably be repeated by every other society. But that isn’t necessarily true: Russia, for example, went from 13 per cent telephone ownership, and the expectation of decades of catch-up, to virtually total coverage in a few years—it…

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