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5.0 out of 5 stars
A Short History of Progress, April 7 2005
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.
As noted by Globe and Mail columnist Paul William Roberts: "I don't care if you have never read and will never read any kind of book at all, but you must read this one." I couldn't agree more.