Documentary called “Surviving Progress” I recommend it highly. Plot summary from IMDB.
Humanity’s ascent is often measured by the speed of progress. But what if progress is actually spiraling us downwards, towards collapse? Ronald Wright, whose best-seller, A Short History Of Progress inspired SURVIVING PROGRESS, shows how past civilizations were destroyed by “progress traps” – alluring technologies and belief systems that serve immediate needs, but ransom the future. As pressure on the world’s resources accelerates and financial elites bankrupt nations, can our globally-entwined civilization escape a final, catastrophic progress trap? With potent images and illuminating insights from thinkers who have probed our genes, our brains, and our social behaviour, this requiem to progress-as-usual also poses a challenge: to prove that making apes smarter isn’t an evolutionary dead-end.
The film starts with defining what “progress” is. I think most people define it as having more of something. If you make 50k a year moving up to 55k a year is progress. Have 2 cars, bought a 3rd? Progress. 2000sq ft house now 5000 sq ft. Progress. But why is more stuff always progress. Progress like that can’t be sustained forever.
After watching this, and the COSMOS episode about global warming I can’t help but think we are totally 100% fucked. One thing in the movie that stood out to me was when one person held up both their hands and made a circle, “The Earth is this big.” she said. Moving hands wider, “It’s not this big” Going even larger, “And it will never be this big.” Moving hands back to original smaller circle, “This Earth is only this big.” That is a reality we must accept. Earth can not sustain and infinite amount of people. And if we try to make that possible, we are just going to screw up the planet more as we head down that road.
Something I loved about this film is that is approaches the problem differently. Most people when confronted with this sort of problem just think, “Hey we need less people.” But unless you are willing to kill off large swathes of people or squash their liberty in terms of taking away their right to reproduce, it’s just talk without something actionable.
The film makes it very much a moral ethical conversation. I think most people in the world if they go to a 3rd world country would say simply. These people don’t have enough, they need more. We have maybe 7 billion people on this rock. 2 billion are in developed countries and as the other 5 billion are trying to catch up. Those 5 billion need cars, nicer homes, education for their children, clean water and the simple fact is; there is not enough for everyone. So it forces you to have this conversation about ethics; who should get what, and why.
Unfortunately, for the 3rd world and developing countries if they have taken IMF money their country is already in extreme debt and will likely never get out of it. After paying interest for years and years countries like Brazil are having to sell off large swaths of the Amazon rain forest to foreign countries in order to try to pay off the debt. So you see people bitching about saving the rain forest then you have people on wall street giving these companies the money to go in, extract the lumber and $$$ and then get the hell out, leaving nothing behind. Then the government of Brazil has to go after these small mom and pop logging places that provide jobs for poor people and let them feed their kids, because they are destroying the rainforest. But the multinational logging countries get a pass, not surprisingly most Brazilian politicians are involved in agro business. You can’t have both unlimited progress on wall street, long term jobs for loggers, and a healthy rain forest.
One thing the movies wrestles with is debt forgiveness. Something I have a little trouble with because I live a debt free life. But he does give some historical context and points out how it would instantly solve several problems. But the bankers would probably rather see us kill off 4 billion people so they can get their money owed back, than forgive debts.
The movie also comes at it as an evolutionary problem as well. The most basic instinct is for humans to protect themselves, their offspring and make fight or flight instant decisions. In a sense we haven’t evolved to think long term, to think about others instead of self, or to think about our species as a global family. Everyone else is just another human for us to compete against, at the workplace, for the mortgage, for the promotion.
For myself, I think I want to start living a more minimalist lifestyle and I probably don’t need to have kids. I’m scared of the world my children would inherit.