The Myth of Progress: Toward a Sustainable Future / Edition 1

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Overview

In this compelling and cogently argued book, Tom Wessels demonstrates how our current path toward progress, based on continual economic expansion and inefficient use of resources, runs absolutely contrary to three foundational scientific laws that govern all complex natural systems. It is a myth, he contends, that progress depends on a growing economy.

Wessels explains his theory with his three laws of sustainability: (1) the law of limits to growth, (2) the second law of thermodynamics, which exposes the dangers of increased energy consumption, and (3) the law of self-organization, which results in the marvelous diversity of such highly evolved systems as the human body and complex ecosystems. These laws, scientifically proven to sustain life in its myriad forms, have been cast aside since the eighteenth century, first by Western economists, political pragmatists, and governments attracted by the idea of unlimited growth, and more recently by a global economy dominated by large corporations, in which consolidation and oversimplification create large-scale inefficiencies in both material and energy usage.

Wessels makes scientific theory readily accessible by offering examples of how the laws of sustainability function in the complex systems we can observe in the natural world around us. He shows how systems such as forests can be templates for developing sustainable economic practices that will allow true progress. Demonstrating that all environmental problems have their source in a disregard for the laws of sustainability that is based on the myth of progress, he concludes with an impassioned argument for cultural change.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“This is an impassioned, critical, and bold book. Wessels is guided by his overwhelming sense that the laws of sustainability demand respect, understanding, and interpretation, and unless we educate ourselves about their full complexity and truth, we will do irreparable damage to the landscapes we love.”—Northern Woodlands
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781584654957
  • Publisher: Vermont
  • Publication date: 9/29/2006
  • Edition description: Older Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 180
  • Product dimensions: 5.84 (w) x 8.12 (h) x 0.63 (d)

Meet the Author

TOM WESSELS is a professor of ecology and the founding director of the master’s degree program in conservation biology at Antioch New England Graduate School. He is the author of Reading the Forested Landscape: A Natural History of New England and Forest Forensics: A Field Guide to Reading the Forested Landscape.
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Table of Contents

Preface to the Revised Edition
Acknowledgments
Prologue
Introduction
The Myth of Control: Complex versus Linear Systems
The Myth of Growth: Limits and Sustainability
The Myth of Energy: The Second Law of Thermodynamics
The Myth of the Free Market: The Loss of Diversity, Democracy, and Economic Resiliency
The Myth of Progress: A Need for Cultural Change
Epilogue: From Consumption to Connection
Glossary of Scientific Terms
Index
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