Environmental issues

One of the most common viewpoints on the China’s future is:
"They won’t be able to sustain the development (until they solve/because of) the environmental damage"

Which always puzzles me – didn’t the "develped" countries reached the current status by destroying or exploiting almost every natural resource?
Environmental damage is a serious issue and I love beautiful nature – for one thing, I am still disheartened to hear the news that the river dolphin is likely to be extinct. The reason that I stopped watching documentaries such as DiscoveryChannel is because they always end in a sad note, alarming us of the endangered species and the supposedly good news is that these documentaries were filmed before their extinction.
But, has environmental damage been a serious issue enough to HALT economic activities? We never change our nasty behaviors until these "issues" strikes back at us directly, like yellow tap water (not the tasty Gatalade in Idiocracy).
The question is how expensive the price of environmental damage might be – judging from the state of developed countries, we can tolerate almost infinite amount of price, and the show will move on.