Tim O'Reilly blog post on Chinese fast growth and pollution in his Chinese Foo Camp review made me think of the book “Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update” which I just got. If you haven't seen it it is an analysis and computer models of where our current world is going with all the growth and pollution and the effectiveness (or not in most cases) of actions we might take to prevent an economic, human and ecological crisis in the next 30 years. It is sobering to play with the variables and assumptions in the models and still end up crashing the planet. For example doubling the amount of oil and other natural resources actually makes things worse in the long term due to even greater pollution. They conclude that we are currently in a global ‘overshoot,' or resource use beyond the carrying capacity of the planet and that there will be a corresponding crash within next 50 years.
I remember reading the original book edition in 1972 and there are some stories on what we have done right (eg CFC and ozone layer) and others that are not so good (global warming).