I titled this post “Surviving Progress – When Human Advancement Backfires” because of a movie I recently watched titled “Surviving Progress.” This movie was first released in 2011 but still holds true, possibly more so today.
We think of progress as more of the same. When we think of progress we think of technology, but is progress creating more machines and medicines that make our everyday life easier and longer? Or is progress figuring out how we are going to sustain the one and only planet we have?
The movie titled “Surviving Progress” which was inspired by Ronald Whites book about Technological advancement, economic development, population increase and are they signs of a thriving society? Or too much of a good thing?
In the movie he explains “progress Traps” as unsustainable advancements that lead to destruction. Take the Mammoths for example, In the Stone Age, humans so perfected their hunting tools and techniques, like running a herd of mammoths over a cliff instead of spearing a few for dinner, that they drove their prey into extinction.
Or even Easter Island where the civilization that lived there used up all the natural resources and were left with nothing. Is this where we are headed because most people choose to ignore a problem until it becomes to big to ignore? And even if we do acknowledge the problem, what is the correct plan of action?
Why don’t we think about long term consequences? Or act on them? Why didn’t someone question the person that cut down the last tree on Easter island? And why did it even get to that point in the first place?
We are so consumed by our everyday lives and personal progress that we forget to look at the big picture, or choose not to look at it because it does not fit into our plans.
Capitalism is what made this country great, but it is also what is creating the economic disparity in this country today. Too many people are willing to get rich at any cost, and the fact that the well will soon run dry is only more reason to take advantage now.
This is exactly what caused the fall of the Romans Empire and many other society’s throughout history. But we are not talking about Europe, South America and North America anymore… we need to look on a global scale.
Progress in medicine and technology has its advantages and disadvantages, with advances in technology our everyday lives are easier, we can travel to any place on the planet and even off of this planet, but this means so can diseases and anyone else bent on our destruction. It is much easier for a terrorist or another nation to attack given the technology we have today.
Overpopulation is another issue and a touchy subject because of peoples religious views and ethics, but with the control of small pox and other vaccines overpopulation has become a problem which no one wants to talk about. But the truth is once a glass is full, it can’t hold anymore water, and our planet will never get any bigger and can only sustain a finite number of people.
The natural resources this planet provides is also finite, If you think of natural resources like money in the bank, 100 years ago we were living off the interest, now we are using more than the interest, meaning we are eating away at the savings account that this planet provides.
The Roman Empire and the Dark Ages
In the movie surviving progress they talk about how it was normal from about 2000 BC until the time of Jesus to periodically forgive dept.
Rome was the first civilization to do away with debt forgiveness, because when enterprise and credit pass out of the hands of the state and into private hands, the last thing those private enterprises wanted was to have a king that would cancel the debts and restore equality.
Rome went to war to overthrow the governments and the kings that wanted to cancel the debts stripping these countries of everything they had.
In principal we probably all agree that a debt is a debt, but this is ultimately what led to the rise of the Roman Empire and its eventual fall. The progress that Rome made eventually led to ecological devastation which led to social and economic problems.
As the inequality of Rome began to increase the empire began to fall. This concentration of wealth to the elites in the Roman Empire is eerily similar to the situation we face today, only on a global scale. As Ronald Write stated…
“Each time history repeats itself, the price goes up.”
An excerpt of this article “A Look at the Dark Ages” states:
“The Dark Ages is a period that is generally accepted as having begun in the year 410 with the fall of Rome and ending in 1095 with the launch of the first Crusades.
The fall of Rome sets a good understanding for what the Dark Ages were all about because for centuries the Roman Empire was a unified force that brought stabilization to most of Europe. It had a vibrant trade and commerce industry that supported a reasonably secure lifestyle for millions of people.
When Rome fell, this network of trade and commerce collapsed and the European World was set into chaos. It took seven hundred years of wars, plague, and poverty before the continent came out of it and was moved into the Renaissance. “
Like I said, eerily similar right?
The New Dark Age
An economic collapse is very concerning to me, but a collapse could be just the first step into the new dark age. If we continues to overuse resources economics becomes a secondary issue, and the question I have is
“if we continue to progress and advance as we define it now, are we are pushing ourselves over the cliff like our ancestors did to the Wooly Mammoth?”
Only time will tell, but it is very clear that change is coming whether we like it or not, and if we as a country and a planet do not change the way we think about progress we are doomed to the fate of the Myans and the Romans, with one exception, rebuilding a nation can take hundreds of years, while rebuilding a planet can take thousands.
Even though this movie was made in 2011 I still suggest you watch it. You can find it on YouTube or watch it on Netflix like we did, but either way it is great food for thought. I also wrote a post about another good movie called “Prophets of Doom” if you haven’t seen that one.