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A Short History of Progress Paperback – Oct 23 2004


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: House of Anansi Press; 1 edition (Oct. 23 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0887847064
  • ISBN-13: 978-0887847066
  • Product Dimensions: 20.1 x 12.7 x 1.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 249 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #40,868 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By RWO on Dec 11 2004
Format: Paperback
It is hard to imagine a more compelling and sobering 'short history' of civilization. Wright has managed to deliver a collection of lectures/chapters that form an argument for change - immediate, fundamental and expansive - unlike any I have read before. By recounting and extrapolating from embarrassing histories of excess, short-sightedness and single-mindedness, Wright puts our current situations into a larger and longer context, going beyond what environmentalists and socialists have argued for much more than the past 50 years. In short, he suggests that "our present behaviour is typical of failed societies at the zenith of their greed and arrogance."
This is, in a sense, a book about the 'what not to do' lessons of the past 10,000 years. It is as much proscriptive as it is prescriptive yet at no point does Wright come across as preachy or imploring (not that both haven't been or won't be necessary). Rather, he makes a thoroughly compelling argument for the "long-term thinking" that is so obviously needed - and soon - if we are to survive as a species and as a planet.
Since finishing the book this morning I have noticed two things: I have begun to think more long-term about the things I do and the choices I make; and I have been making a mental list of the people that I want to read this book. Leaders in business and politics leap to mind, but failing that, I hope that you will. I don't think that you'll regret it.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Marti on Oct. 3 2005
Format: Paperback
Far from being 'left wing propaganda' Wright's book is compelling and well researched, clear and concise. Like Jared Diamond, Wright sees the big picture and this is something we must all try to see. It doesn't give me much confidence in humans based on past behaviour, but it is sobering - and an absolute MUST READ for anyone contemplating public office. I think it should be required reading for all humans in fact. I liked the fact that it is a short book - it will encourage even those who don't read very often to give it a go.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jason Brooks on April 7 2005
Format: Paperback
The word 'progress' is often used to imply a positive step forward. In this brilliant book Wright argues that progress often leads to "traps" with disastrous consequences for humanity and the planet (one need only look to the recently released 'Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Report' to witness the negative impact we humans are having on the earth).

However, instead of whacking his readers across the shins with a litany of doom-and-gloom statistics, Wright calmly points us to past mistakes made by so-called 'civilized' peoples. The author provides his readers with the fascinating accounts of the Sumerians, Romans, Easter Islanders, and the Maya, peoples whose impact on the land was not only catastrophic for their environments, but also for themselves. That said, Wright's book is not entirely without hope, as evidently there were (and are) societies who lived in a symbiotic relationship with nature. Two examples are the Islamic civilization of Spain, and the Incas of Peru, both of which actually repaired eroded landscapes with terracing.

What I found most appealing about 'A Short History of Progress' was Wright's mastery of form-he is, without a doubt, a fantastic writer. Furthermore, not only is his book highly readable, but the author is obviously a tireless researcher. Surprisingly, when I neared the end of the book, instead of being overwhelmed by Wright's account, I found myself bolstered by the information.

As observed by Wright "The Myth of Progress has sometimes served us well-those of us seated at the best tables, anyway." Now is the time for humanity, as a collective group, to push our chairs away from our lush feast and prepare for our next meal-a meal that can be shared by all, and that doesn't do our planet such terrific damage.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Orchid on May 28 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Loved this book. It is so Ronald Wright and I can see elements of his "A Scientific Romance" - I am sure he wrote that. Its an interesting take on what happens to the earth after we disappear.

This book offers some interesting ways of thinking about human evolution. Great read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Macread on April 8 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Ronald Wright's book, A Short History of Progress is well written and a fascinating account of why the world is in such a fragile state, economically, socially and political. It describes the fact that human beings have made and make the same mistakes over and over without learning that we must respect our fellow human beings and the flora and fauna which live with us on planet Earth. Ronald Wright poses the big questions which we as human beings need to ponder and act upon, if we are going to be able to sustain life on our precious planet Earth.
A truly interesting read.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The idea intrigued me, then I heard Mr. Wright speak, and I promptly bought seven copies to gift family and friends! This clear, concise, easy-to-understand and rational overview explains who we are, where we came from, why we're where we are now, and where we're likely headed!!
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By Ming Liu on Dec 18 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The book emphasizes American's history, but is very naive in asian history for instance, wrote a lot of wrong events China history.
If I am one of the editor, the mistake can avoid.
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