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Trail-Blazer Dependency – A Roadmap for the Sustainability Revolution

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While geologists are still considering whether the Anthropocene should be accepted as a formal geological epoch, it is up to us humanists to search for ways making this human era a good one. In this article, I will examine how we can use historical research to provide such tracks based on past regularities or similarities. Positive success stories from the past can at least provide faith that we can do something about our current environmental problems. This investigation is based on two case studies: the Tesla Model S electric car, and the Swedish pulp and paper industry's transition to chlorine-free bleaching. It argues that the sustainability revolution doesn't just share similarities with the quality movement of the 1970s and 1980s, but is essentially a continuation of it. In concordance with previous megatrends, the major benefit of the sustainability revolution will be reaped by countries and companies running ahead of the curve. A new term, 'trail-blazer dependency' is introduced; by setting an example, the first-movers are opening a trail for late-comers to follow.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2020

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  • The half-yearly journal Global Environment: A Journal of History and Natural and Social Sciences acts as a forum and echo chamber for ongoing studies on the environment and world history, with special focus on modern and contemporary topics. Our intent is to gather and stimulate scholarship that, despite a diversity of approaches and themes, shares an environmental perspective on world history in its various facets, including economic development, social relations, production government, and international relations.
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