It has been said that if the whole world replicated the consumption and production patterns of developed countries, we would need three planets' worth of resources.
But as Tony Blair struggled in talks with George Bush to get the world's biggest economy on board over climate change earlier this month, you have to wonder if things are ever going to change for the better.
However, as Britons get richer and leave an ever-increasing environmental footprint, the Government is attempting to address the issue with its strategy for sustainable development.
The strategy is said to highlight "the renewed international push for sustainable development from the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002". The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will chair a programme board to oversee delivery of the strategy, but all government departments will share responsibility for implementing sustainable development.
In the report, innovation is identified as a fundamental aspect of a sustainable future. It says that new materials, energy technologies and product design to minimise waste will all be important in future. The strategy states that measures to stimulate this innovation will include "integrating sustainable development through the Department of Trade and Industry's technology strategy, with funding of £150 million over the next three years for technologies crucial to the future of the UK economy.
"For example, there will be up to £2m support for a Resource Efficiency and Waste Knowledge Transfer Network offering a UK gateway for information and expertise and a focal point for business, government and academia to come together and provide integrated solutions."
Alongside the struggle of influencing the public to make more sustainable choices is tackling the so-called designed-in impacts of the products themselves.
The Government says it will give much greater priority to a coherent 'product policy' approach because by the end of 2006 it will have developed and published a set of measures for taking forward integrated product policy.
This is designed to reduce the environmental impact of everyday products across their lifecycle; enhance measures to close the loop in the way resources are used with recycling, reuse and manufacturing; promote more radical new design solutions and build up the knowledge and capacity needed to drive improvements in product markets.
As the Government claims that it is seeking to make sustainable production a fundamental part of business and not just an add-on, the strategy states: "Product re-use, remanufacturing and recycling offer many commercial opportunities, as well as environmental benefits. The Government will favour policies that advance these kinds of market, wherever they make good business and environmental sense. For example, additional resources are being made available to initiatives such as the Waste and Resources Action Programme and the National Industrial Symbiosis Programme under the Business Resource Efficiency and Waste programme as part of the wider drive for greater resource efficiency."
By the end of this year, it is the Government's intention to present