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We’ll start with a warning. As this is our biggest issue ever, we’ve commissioned and designed it so you don’t need to feel compelled to finish it in a single sitting. Of course you’re more than welcome to if you’re without other distractions on a flight from Helsinki to Bangkok or Mexico City to Madrid, but when we sat down to think about how you might spend your holidays, we wanted to create an edition that you’d return to frequently to revisit a quote, linger on a photo or source a web address.

With our eyes fixed firmly over the horizon, our editors, correspondents, photographers and illustrators have been busy penning essays, capturing subtle expressions, committing heads of state to film and working up solution driven manifestos. For our second annual “20 Who Need a Bigger Stage” feature we’ve asked our lighting director to focus his spot on a diverse mix of people who we think deserve more air and ear time in the years ahead – see page 28. At the same time we also did an office and bureau-wide poll to nominate five who should exit the world stage as swiftly as possible.

While we don’t deliberately set out to commission our editors and writers to submit overly optimistic copy, we think by the time you get to the back cover you’ll have been introduced to a host of creators, NGOs, leaders, policies and brands that are not only changing or maintaining their environments and markets, but also offer up inspiring examples to evolve, mould or simply mimic.

Since we launched, we’ve championed the company that favours quality and service over hollow double-digit growth, governments that use their power gently, but persuasively, individuals who want to create sustainable businesses rather than flash in the pan brands aimed at gullible suitors and moving at a more considered, elegant pace versus a sweaty sprint.

Over the next 200-plus pages, we learn lessons in good (and not so good) management in our Expo on page 195, question what’s going on in Michelle Obama’s garden in our essays starting on page 51, help you with your Christmas shopping list on page 187 and make you all warm and toasty with a special cosiness index on page 170. Cheers to a prosperous 2010.

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