Friday 25 January 2013

Surviving Progress

This documentary film, based on Ronald Wright's best-selling book “A Short History Of Progress”, explores whether human civilisation can be said to genuinely be making progress and just what is progress any way?

The film starts at looking at human psychology, and states that what makes us differ from the apes is our ability to ask why. However it also suggests that physically, emotionally and mentally we haven't developed all that far beyond the first humans. We're still effectively ice age hunters trying to cope with the bewildering economic and cultural developments of human civilisation.

Are we in fact in the middle of a progress trap? Wright offers an example of a very early progress trap, when prehistoric hunters found that rather than just killing the mammoths they needed to eat they could trap whole herds of mammoths. This looked like great progress until the mammoths starting running out and the hunters lost a valuable source of food. (Sound familiar at all?)

The film then looks at progress made by humans across the world and examines it's sustainability:  rampant consumerism, deforestation, genetic engineering, space exploration.

The film interviews politicians, environmentalists (including Jane Goodall) writers (including Margaret Atwood) and economists, all of whom give their perspectives on progress. 

It's a thought provoking film, worth trying to see it if you can.

Surviving Progress is showing at the Filmhouse, Edinburgh tonight at 6.15 and tomorrow at 1.10. Find your local screening here. If you're in the UK or Ireland you can also watch the film on the new Filmhouse Player here (you will need to sign up and pay for this service).

As ever, red text contains hyper-links that take you to other web-pages where you can find out more.


Tommaso Gervasutti said...

I remember Jane Goodall, I am not sure if she was the one who studied Chimps' or gorilla's lives, in the 90's I saw a great documentary on her life.

Juliet, I am telling my students about your blog, so maybe it will be visited by more Italians then!

Crafty Green Poet said...

chimpanzees it was, Tommaso. Thanks for recommending my blog to your students!

Hannah Stephenson said...

So interesting!! It's a good question, genuinely---I wonder how we measure progress?

Ms Sparrow said...

There is a recent documentary on Jane Goodall called "Jane's Journey" that tells about her world-wide travels promoting the cause of saving the environment. It's well-worth watching.

RG said...

Oh such a dilemma - progress ? Clearly but a human condition.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Interesting idea Juliet and I am sure there is a lot of truth in it.

We are contemplating a week in May in the Tweeddale valley - perhaps centred around Peebles. Can you tell me anything about the area?

Lucy said...

It sometimes seems to me that our efforts to make life less cruel, pain-ridden and dangerous, which must be seen as progress in terms of our humanity, are often the same things which are destroying our environment and eventually jeopardising our future as a species. When our lives were nasty, brutish and short we were making much fewer demands on the rest of the planet, but would any of us want to go back to that?

Cuby said...

The idea that progress is always unquestionably good is a concerning thought. I like the sound of the film I have read some Margaret Atwood, clever writer.