Short History of Progress / Edition 1

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A Short History of Progress is nothing less than a concise history of the world since Neanderthal times, elegantly written, brilliantly conceived, and stunningly clear in its warning to us now. Wright shows how human beings have a way of walking into "progress traps," beginning with the worldwide slaughter of big game in the Stone Age. The same pattern of overconsumption then took a new from, as many of the world's most creative civilizations - Mesopotamia, the Maya, the Roman Empire - fell victim to their own success.
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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
A provocative assembling of evidence from history, archaeology and anthropology that what we call civilization may carry the seeds of its own destruction. Already a bestseller in his native Canada, essayist Wright is now making his biggest mark since his debut novel (A Scientific Romance, 1997) attracted wide attention. The "progress" in the present title is purely ironic: These case studies-of ancient Sumer, the Maya in Central America, Rome, Greece and others-aim to show man as a parasitic species that constantly violates its own first rule of survival: "Don't kill off your host." In setting the scene, the author, perhaps most controversially, asserts that Stone Age hunters regularly drove their prey into extinction. As he tracks major transitions in the two linked "experiments" of agriculture and civilization that coincided with the opening of a favorable climate window in Neolithic times, Wright is logical and penetrating: The former wheat fields of Mesopotamia's fertile crescent are now salt pans and flood plains in Iraq, and some 200,000 Roman farmers were on federal subsistence by the time the Gothic horde reached Rome in the fourth century. On Easter Island, somebody cut down the last tree standing to make rollers in order to situate a freshly carved monolith. And if Earth's climate is better today than it's ever been, Wright postulates, what happens if it reverts (as it has before, taking only decades) to its norm of extreme shifts? "As we domesticated the plants, they domesticated us. Without us, they die; without them, so do we." The author declares outright that farmland the size of Scotland, much of it in Asia, is lost every year. Terrorist suicide bombers are nothing new, heasserts, citing Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent, written a century ago, and they're a small threat compared to hunger, disease or climate change. Attacking terrorism's causes rather than its symptoms, he believes, might also save civilization from itself. Illuminating and disturbing, and expansively documented.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780887847066
  • Publisher: House of Anansi Press
  • Publication date: 11/28/2004
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 5.06 (w) x 8.06 (h) x 0.57 (d)

Table of Contents

I Gauguin's questions 1
II The great experiment 29
III Fools' paradise 55
IV Pyramid schemes 81
V The rebellion of the tools 107
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