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Worldly wealth

Can a future population of 9bn enjoy the stuff, space and speed that is the preserve of today's rich without crippling the global environment? Despite the claims of the "austerity school," it is possible with technology only slightly more advanced than we now possess. Sometimes there really are technical fixes

By Michael Lind   July 2004

Can everyone on earth be rich? Not rich in relative terms – in a world of billionaires, millionaires would feel poor – but in terms of the lifestyle choices that today only the rich enjoy: in particular, in stuff (personal technology), space (low-density living in proximity to nature), and speed (geographic mobility). The world’s population is expected to stabilise at around 9bn and then decline. Can 9bn people enjoy stuff, space and speed?

The austerity school says no. The earth’s environment will be devastated if 9bn human beings attempt to enjoy the average standard of living of a middle-class individual…

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