Film review: Surviving Progress

[Articles and opinion pieces published in this blog do not necessarily reflect the polices and opinions of the organizers of the International Conference on Degrowth in the Americas. They are posted here to stimulate discussion and debate on issues relevant to degrowth.]

Intelligent, compelling and featuring some of the world’s great contemporary thinkers, Surviving Progress is nothing short of a massive taking stock. Inspired by Ronald Wright’s bestselling non-fiction book about societal collapse, Mathieu Roy and Harold Crooks’ documentary explores the concept of progress in our modern world and, more specifically, the idea of ‘progress traps’. Simply put, these are innovations that seem like smart moves forward but inadvertently cause new problems.

Drawing on historical examples, Roy and Crooks guide us through a sweeping but detailed survey of the major progress traps facing our civilization in the arenas of technology, economics, consumption and the environment. Along the way, we hear powerful arguments in interviews with modern luminaries such as Jane Goodall, Margaret Atwood, David Suzuki, Stephen Hawking and Ronald Wright himself, as well as grassroots activists. From prevalent issues like untenable economic structures, deforestation and political corruption, to the more controversial domains of overpopulation and synthetic biology, Roy and Crooks do not shy away from even the thorniest of topics.

Like some of the key socio-political documentaries of the last ten years – The Corporation, Manufactured Landscapes, An Inconvenient Truth, Force of Nature and Inside JobSurviving Progress raises critical questions about the pivotal mistakes society has made. It does so from a remarkable big-picture perspective, seamlessly tackling multiple and disparate issues. The question of how we escape the traps leads to even deeper concerns about the potential fixes.

– Agata Smoluch Del Sorbo, Toronto International Film Festival

A Short History Of Progress by Ronald Wright

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