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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars End of Immoral Capitalism, Rise of Sustainable Societies
I pulled this book from my waiting stack after reviewing Vice: Dick Cheney and the Hijacking of the American Presidency While all that we do wrong is rooted in corrupt politics such as Dick Cheney represents so well, I wanted to get away from the personalities and focus on the underlying truths of the greatest challenge facing all of us, preserving the planet for future...
Published on January 10, 2007 by Robert David STEELE Vivas

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1 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars What is progress? or what do we value...
Progress depends on a growing economy. Not really.
Much depends on how we want to define "progress".
Progress for me is improvements in areas I believe are important and have value.
So it comes down to what we value and our priorities.
We value life, we value efficiency, we value new and useful ideas, we value health, we value life extension, we value...
Published 12 months ago by S. Vorhauer


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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars End of Immoral Capitalism, Rise of Sustainable Societies, January 10, 2007
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This review is from: The Myth of Progress: Toward a Sustainable Future (Hardcover)
I pulled this book from my waiting stack after reviewing Vice: Dick Cheney and the Hijacking of the American Presidency While all that we do wrong is rooted in corrupt politics such as Dick Cheney represents so well, I wanted to get away from the personalities and focus on the underlying truths of the greatest challenge facing all of us, preserving the planet for future generations.

This thoughtful careful author from New Hampshire has created a really special book, small, readable, and packed with fact (superb footnotes). He gives all due credit to his predecessors in the field--Georgescu-Roegen, Meadows, Dalay, Hawken et al.

He brings out the nuances of complex systems and how our linear reductionist thinking, and our false assumption that technology will resolve our waste creation and earth consumption issues, combine to place all that we love at risk. I was personally surprised to learn that even if we fund 100 water desalination or decontamination plants, and resolve our shortfalls of clean water, that the energy required to do so would result in entropy and further losses.

The author brings up the need for better metrics (see my reviews of "Ecology of Commerce" and "Natural Capitalism" as well as my list on "True Cost" readings. He points out that the GDP does not reflect the non-cash economy or the degree of equality/inequality in the distribution of new wealth. I would add to that the importance of counting prisons and hospitals as negatives rather than positives.

A good portion of the book (a chapter for each) is spent discussion the three fundamentals: the limits to growth; the second law of thermodynamics (entropy); and the nuances of self-organization and what happens when you reduce diversity.

The author lists the attributes of complex systems as being emergent properties that arise from the interactions (i.e. the space between the objects); self-organization, nestedness, and bifurcation into either positive or negative consequences.

The bottom line for the first part of the book is that in complex systems, especially complex systems for which we have a very incomplete and imperfect understanding, "control" is a myth, just as "progress" is a myth if you are consuming your seed corn.

The author excels at a review of the literature and demonstrating the flaws of economic theories that are divorced from reality and the "true cost" of goods and services (e.g. a T-shirt holds 4000 liters of virtual water, a chesseburger 6.5 gallons of fuel).

I have reviewed a number of books on climate change, in this book the author makes the very important point that the annual cost of weather disasters has been steadily increasing, and is the annual hidden "tax" on our reductionist approach to clearing the earth, losing the forests and mashlands, and so on.

He points out that concealing or ignoring true cost does not make it any less true, it simply passes the cost on to future generations. In the same vein he is optemistic in that he believes that if we take positive action now, however small, the benefits of that action as the years scale out, will be enormous.

This is actually an upbeat book for two reasons: first, it makes it crystal clear that the classical economics that have allowed corporations to pilage the world, bribe dictators and other elites, and generally harvest profit at the expense of the commonwealth; and second, it ends on a note of hope, on the belief that we may be approaching a dramatic cultural shift that embraces reciprocal altruism, true cost calculations, equitable wealth distribution, and so on.

He cites other authors but gives very positive insights into public ownership (by stakeholders, not the government), essentially repealing the flawed court-awarded "personality" of corporations, and re-connecting every entity to its land-base and the people it serves. He recommends, and I am buying, David Korten's "Post-Corporate World." By restoring the populace to the decision process, we stamp down the greed that can flourish in isolation.

The book ends hoping for a cultural shift from consumption to connection. I believe it is coming. Serious games/games for change, fed by real-world real-time content from public intelligence providers including the vast social networks from Wikipedia to MeetOn to the Moral Majority, could great a wonderfully distributed system of informed democratic governance that implements what I call "reality-based budgeting," budgeting that is transparent, accountable, and balanced.

This is a much more important book than its size and length might suggest. It is beikng read by and was recommended to me by some heavy hitters in the strategic thinking realm, and I am disappointed at the lack of reviews thus far. This book merits broad reading and discussion.

See also:
A Power Governments Cannot Suppress
The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People
Society's Breakthrough!: Releasing Essential Wisdom and Virtue in All the People
Escaping the Matrix: How We the People can change the world
All Rise: Somebodies, Nobodies, and the Politics of Dignity (BK Currents)
Imagine: What America Could Be in the 21st Century
The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing the World
The Average American: The Extraordinary Search for the Nation's Most Ordinary Citizen
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Toward a Sustainable Future, September 5, 2010
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This review is from: The Myth of Progress: Toward a Sustainable Future (Hardcover)
This outstanding book presents us, in a very humble way, a great deal of carefully chosen and neatly connected science facts that manage to effortlessly bring the reader to the evidence. Understanding and respecting earth's ecosystems is crucial to everyone, not only to ecologists.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A recipe for saving the planet and ourselves, March 30, 2007
By 
George O. DEWOLF (Wentworth, NH United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Myth of Progress: Toward a Sustainable Future (Hardcover)
This will no doubt be one of those rare books I read over and over again. If you believe that profligacy holds empty promises; that we are spiralling on a downward course of natural resource depletion and want to go out into the world armed with a message of hope inspired by nature and supported by scientific principle then this is the book for you.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent and Enlightening book, February 13, 2007
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This review is from: The Myth of Progress: Toward a Sustainable Future (Hardcover)
Tom Wessels uses excellent examples to support his arguments in Myth of Progress. He has a writing style that is fluid, understandable, enjoyable, and uplifting. If more people read this book we would be on our way to a sustainable future with an environmental ethic.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent., September 17, 2009
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This review is from: The Myth of Progress: Toward a Sustainable Future (Hardcover)
I selected this book, with some trepidation, for use in my college humanities course on sustainability. I feared that it might be too science-based for my decidedly smart, but non-scientifically oriented students. I needn't have worried. Even the most science-challenged among them absolutely loved it. A beautifully written book that presents even the most complex ideas with clarity. Who knew that such a slim volume of elegantly radical perception would have the power to change lives?

A must-read.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Concise, clear and timely, December 12, 2008
This review is from: The Myth of Progress: Toward a Sustainable Future (Hardcover)
This is a beautifully written book that clearly articulates difficult ideas from several disciplines and puts them together to create a compelling argument for change. It's short, readable and brings together the theses many of the most important progressive thinkers of our time. Everyone should read this book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Compact and interesting, January 11, 2013
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This review is from: The Myth of Progress: Toward a Sustainable Future (Hardcover)
I wish more people would read this book. The writing is good, with helpful references at the end of each chapter. As an environmental scientist, Tom Wessels has a well-founded and healthy perspective on economics, politics, and the future. He says no more and no less than he needs to. Anyone looking for a more educated view of the current state of the world should read this. Obviously, I don't claim that this book is a comprehensive analysis of and solution to our current downward spiral, but Tom Wessels is, as far as I can tell, correct in most of what he claims in this book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars 1st: An Inconvenient Truth, Next: The Myth of Progress, October 24, 2012
By 
M. He Sapa (Outermost Thules, Oregon) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Myth of Progress: Toward a Sustainable Future (Hardcover)
Oughta be required reading for every citizen of voting age, and surely every politician, in the US. Ranks up there in importance with Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth. M. He Sapa
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What happens if there is a global disaster?, March 3, 2010
By 
Theodore A. Rushton (PHOENIX, Arizona United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Myth of Progress: Toward a Sustainable Future (Hardcover)
This beautifully done brief book deftly applies three basic laws of physics to the reality of human progress; the inescapable result, Wessels asserts, is about the same as how the law of gravity applies to a falling object when it impacts the solid Earth.

Five earlier reviewers succinctly covered this book's merits; their unanimous verdicts salute its merits. Instead, I would like to add a question in the hopes of furthering the basic discussion: What happens when Progress self-destructs?

Wessels cites the fate of deer on Attu and lemmings in Disney movies. What happens to people in similar situations? London has survived several thousand years; rising time and again from the ruins of war, garbage, greed, human waste and industrial pollution. Is this the price of "progress"? Two steps to rise, then one step backward into the muck?

If Global Warming causes massive catastrophes, do people die, flee or wait for helicopters? The fate of London, Berlin, Rome and even New Orleans reassures my faith in humanity; a look at the ruins shows the cost of survival and progress.

Was Hurricane Katrina a preview of coming catastrophes? The rich flee, the poor die and everyone else loses their hard-earned material "progress" possessions. What if climate change triggers another Ice Age? The world's oceans rose 300 feet after the last ice age, what if the world's oceans drop 300 feet?

In brief, what does humanity do when faced with catastrophe? The notion of "progress" says people are getting smarter in handling raw materials as well as social conditions. Sadly, my reading of 'The Iliad' indicates no progress in personal attitudes and relations since the arguments of Agamemnon, Achilles and the Achaeans.

Progress is the interminable human desire to always do better. On an individual basis. To know the price of an excessive quest to always exceed, read 'Tammy Wynette' by Jimmy McDonough (ISBN 978-0-670-02153-6). Does a society, like some people, simply destroy itself as she did? Or does a society, as portrayed in 'Soylent Green,' simply adapt at whatever human cost is necessary?

Wessels doesn't delve into such speculation, which lets his book stand as an exercise in scientific reasoning. It's why it is very worth while reading; Wessels presents facts, then lets readers consider the probable imponderables.
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1 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars What is progress? or what do we value..., June 22, 2013
This review is from: The Myth of Progress: Toward a Sustainable Future (Hardcover)
Progress depends on a growing economy. Not really.
Much depends on how we want to define "progress".
Progress for me is improvements in areas I believe are important and have value.
So it comes down to what we value and our priorities.
We value life, we value efficiency, we value new and useful ideas, we value health, we value life extension, we value our environment. The things and ideas that we value we look after them. Always trying to improve on what we know and pushing the limits that have been imposed on us. If he starts with a weird definition of "progress" no matter how logical does not make it true. So first he should defend his definition of "progress". Otherwise he is beating a dead horse.
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The Myth of Progress: Toward a Sustainable Future
The Myth of Progress: Toward a Sustainable Future by Tom Wessels (Hardcover - September 29, 2006)
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