Progress

If you want something nice and sunny to read, I recommend that you avoid Ronald Wright’s A Short History of Progress, the book that serves as a companion to his Massey lecture a few years ago. The situation that is presented is stark – we are drastically overusing the Earth’s capacity and as Wright points out, “[i]f civilization is to survive, it must live on the interest, not the capital, of nature.”

In our cultivation of land, in our use of hydrocarbons, in our emptying of the sea, we are simply not doing this. Wright points out that when earlier civilizations imploded (the Mayans, Easter Island, Sumeria) it usually involved the mishandling of resources and it had a regional effect. If we implode now, it is global, it will be terrible, there will be no escape. It makes me think of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.

Wright points out that there are those hoping for a deus ex machina ending to all this, such as a Reagan administration staffer who said, “I don’t know how many generations we can count on until the Lord returns” when asked about the environment. But how is that line of thinking different from this?

I will try to post something happy next time.