The Trap that is Progress

A Guest Blog article by Dan Fisher (student, world citizen)

“Every time history repeats itself, the price goes up” – Ronald Wright

From the day the Earth was made to today, it can be said that mankind has made tremendous progress. Progress can be defined by two types: good progress and bad progress.

Either way, progress is an outcome of change.

During mankind’s early life, progress was happening at a rapid pace. However, from the industrial revolution to the present, there has been a phenomenon that Mathieu Roy of the Documentary “Surviving Progress” calls a progress trap. For the last 200 years, mankind has been stuck in a situation similar to a broken record, in that it doesn’t stop, not having a clear way out.

Perhaps the biggest retardant to progress is population. Increasing numbers of humans threatens life on Earth in many obvious ways. Earth is only so large, and it is important to try to preserve human life by taking care of our home and allowing there to actually be a “future” for future generations.

The goal is clear: find a way out of this progress trap and find a way to stop destroying our planet Earth, life’s only home. However, it will take the power of the entire human race to get us out of the trap and insure the future of the human existence.


20 thoughts on “The Trap that is Progress

  1. I could not agree more with your worries about our future world, and the necessity of coexistence to overcome these barriers. But just like you said, with an increasing population comes an increased use of resources to fuel life on earth. But with a projected population of almost 10.5 billion in 2050, only 37 years from now, I am seriously worried about what our world could come to be.

    And also like you said, the goal is clear “find a way to stop destroying our planet earth.” But how do we go about achieving this goal?

    This is the question that needs answering. Hopefully within the next 20 years we will have made advancements in the fields of technology, enough to where we can find reliable sources of energy that do not deplete our ozone or ruin our ecosystems. But is hard to say whether this is even a possibility.

    The unfortunate fact about our growing world, is that their are almost no ways to stop the growth. With around 300,000 babies born each day in our world, it is hard to catch a glimpse of it ending anytime soon. Unlike in decades past where there were wars to (for lack of a better word) thin out population sizes, we see no way as of now to stop the reproducing.

    But honestly, I sure do hope that some day we will find a way out of this mess, and that my generation will be able to leave a prosperous world for our own kids to live in.

    1. Connor you bring up good points, people as a whole we have jumped out of a plane without a para-shoot. Now it is just a matter of time till we hit the ground, and bite the big one. with in our life times we will run out of oil on the planet (estimated 41 years from now Worldometer). and yet we continue to consume singing, and dancing our like nothing is the matter when the walls are ready to crash around us. the world probably wont end Dec 21, but we are on borrowed time now.

      1. @bcaustin1406, I respect your concern for the state of energy however, oil is not on the decline as sharply as you have been led to believe. Oil reserves have been found in Texas, Alaska, the Gulf of Mexico, and a few other states since the latest Iraqi conflict. Gas prices are high because oil companies don’t have to compete for American customers. Even when the prices could decline, they won’t because whatever oil Americans don’t purchase is sold to other nations who desperately need it at the asking price. So there is no need to drop the prices and lose profits.

      2. @1jasen, Actually, coupled with the growth rate of an estimated 1.10% (courtesy of and estimated world oil reserve with the number of barrels of oil consumed per capita, its safe to say that oil decline is imminent. Think about it this way, if the world population keeps growing, past its 7.08 billion that it is today, that means more oil per person will need to be consumed. Sure we’ve found oil reserves in Texas, Alaska, and the Gulf, but you have to take into consideration of how big those reserves are. The reserves in the middle eastern nations are far greater than the reserves here in America due to sheer size and if we depend on their reserve to fuel the world and we’re worrying about those same reserves being depleted in our own life time, then how can the reserves of a country as small as America (in comparison) even make that much of a difference? We as a country don’t use much of our own oil reserves because frankly there’s so little of it that using it would cause it to run dry so quickly that its not worth tampering with. What I think America is doing is trying to save the reserves for when the world runs out of oil, and trust me, the world WILL run out of oil. It is a nonrenewable resource and it is in high demand.

      3. @COkere, the reserves in Alaska alone hold more oil than America has used to date. Oil predictions have to be alarming by nature, otherwise there won’t be a solid argument for raising the prices. You’re also not considering the fast emerging clean energy market which can only be avoided by big oil for so long. We do NOT need to depend on oil as we have been taught. It is an illusion designed to drive consumers toward paying for something we don’t need.

      4. This is beyond just Oil we could go back and forth with it, but we need a form of sustainable energy, and there are plenty of other questions we need to answer to continue life on the planet.

      5. @1jasen, you are right to say that Alaska’s oil reserve is rather large, but the problem we had contemplating drilling there is the ecosystem that we would harm by doing so. I do not support the drilling of oil as we do in fact know alternative sources of fuel. We have an irrational dependency on oil fueled by consumer demand, you are right about that. We don’t, however, fund those alternative fuel sources well enough for them to become mainstream. Green Energy is advertised greatly but has barely made significant impact in derailing oil as a main fuel source.

      6. @Austin Hin
        I agree, we need a better form of sustainable energy. The thing is, we’ve found them, and they exist and a few of them are in practice. But right now the money isnt going to those forms. Rather they’re going to the cleaning up of the mess we’ve made to this point. The problem of that is that we’re only treating the symptoms not the cause. It’s like going to a doctor and saying you have a cold, for example, and he gives you medicine for runny nose, coughing, sniffles and what have you, yet underneath all of that, the virus that causes the cold still lurks and thats wehere the issue arises. We need to treat the actual problem and not the symptoms. But to do that, we need a paradigm shift, we need to change the mindset of the populous in order to lean towards these other energy solutions.

  2. I respect your opinion, but I have to disagree. The changes over the past 200 years have been astronomical, in both technology and protecting the environment. In the industrial revolution trees around the factories looked black in color because of the soot given off from the factories. These days the government agencies like the E.P.A would shut them down in a heartbeat. I will agree that we do need a serious overhaul of environmental consciousness , otherwise we will be in serious trouble in the future.

    1. I agree with you nick struett that the changes over the past 200 years are astounding and sublime, but i do disagree with the writer of this article that progress is both positive and negative. To me, progress is making substantial and beneficial head way in a given area. I concur that we do need to change our ways to influence the environment in a positive way. I want my kids, kids to be able to live on this earth with out any doubts that the earth is going down the deep end.

      1. I agree with you bronza56. I feel that the writer of this article is right about progress being both positive and negative. As we as humans advance in technology, we create more and more toxic fumes that go into the environment. I’d hate for one day that the earth is no longer livable because humans hadn’t made a quick enough change in the fumes and toxins we emit into the ecosystems.

  3. Great points raised in this article! I would like to offer you a different point of view however. I feel that the only reason the industrial revolution went awry was because of the motivations behind those in charge. The industrial revolution began as a service to unnecessary human struggle. Why travel for years horseback when a train gets you there in weeks? Why work so hard on crops and in various industries when a machine can do that arduous work for you? The industrial revolution would have been awesome if it weren’t for the company heads disregarding practices that harm the environment. The pursuit of monetary gain became more important than the lives that pursuit destroys.

    Not to fret though, there has been much learned from the mistakes of the past. Clean energy is in higher demand. So big oil, much like big tobacco, will be humbled soon enough. Tesla motors just revealed that they secretly built multiple clean energy charging stations across California. Gas stations are starting to offer clean energy stations as well as petrol. The solar and wind power industries are rapidly growing too. With the legalization of marijuana comes the availability of hemp. Hemp is a much cheaper and equally stable solution to paper and some plastic applications. Homes can be constructed entirely of hemp!

    Everything we need to solve our problems have already been provided for us.

  4. I also have some good news about the population “problem” in response to the article. I was watching a documentary on Netflix that discussed the overpopulation concern. I can’t remember the name of the documentary, but it was about the overpopulation problem that Japan is facing and what architects are doing about it. A few prominent architects are featured explaining how building an island structure shaped like a pyramid can house about 750,000 people comfortably. The design takes advantage of solar power and power from the waves’ inertia below the structure. Another architect in the film discusses how much unnecessary space is used for the addition of parking lots to businesses. If parking lots are incorporated into the structure, the need for so much space is greatly reduced.

    The overall point is that our understanding of architecture and its applications to population disparities needs to be heightened because there is an abundance of room on Earth that simply isn’t being utilized efficiently.

  5. I also believe that the population has been growing too rapidly and it will become more of a problem as time goes on. We’ve exponentially reached 7 billion and at that rate it wont settle or decrease.
    An animals population is solely determined by its density dependent and independent factors (weather, space, predation and available food to name a few).
    However for humans, seeing as how we don’t want to lose a battle against nature we created artificial living spaces that allow us to bypass harsh treatment. There are places we can’t normally live, but we alter the environment in our favor so that we can occupy that space and that allows us to populate that area.
    I think of it as a growing tree. If you have one main tree and it creates 1 branch, that branch then splits to 2 branches, then each of those branches split into two individual branches making 4 then 4 to 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256 so on and so forth without stop. I feel that is what has happened to the human population as we’ve gathered more land to occupy. By gathering more land, however, we ruin the ecosystem that was once there and we continue to do this at an alarming rate. With resources depleting and the population still growing indefinitely, it seems like the only way out of this “progress trap” is nature taking its course when resources become scarce and only available to, say, 1/3 of the population. The other 2/3 will have no other choice but to succumb to natures cold grip.

    1. I have to disagree with you COkere. I don’t see the world population growth as the problem it’s been made out to be. There are too many advances in technology to allow that. however, unlike the technology of the past, these advances are becoming not only sustainable, but even environmentally supportive. Any shelter created by an animal or human can be labeled “artificial” That doesn’t mean that the land, or water, wasn’t meant to be inhabited. As cities and towns of tomorrow are being built, they are designed with all of your concerns, plus many more in mind. I encourage you to watch TEDtalks Building Wonders presentations by Cameron Sinclair and his open source architecture, Alex Steffen’s share-able future cities and Ellen-Durham Jones’ retrofitting suburbia. These all can be found on the site or Netflix. If you watch it in Netflix, the suggested videos that pop up will lead you further into the world of what is to be our environment.

      China tried to control births before because of population concerns and they’re already backsliding on that decision because as their economy grows, so does their potential for building new sustainable housing.

      After all, the only other resolution would be war and mass suicides in order to reduce the population. Is that really what you want?

  6. I agree with this article post, but only to a certain extent. I remember watching a video that talked about how technology has been growing at an exponential rate. this can be, in a way, an example of a trap that was created by humans. I also think that the population doesn’t have as much to do with it. There are many other aspects and variables that should be taken into account before putting all the blame into one Issue.

  7. This article is a really broad subject because it’s not just human population that is destroying our earth. Other factors play part of our earth being the way it is, population control is just one issue, outlawing people not to have certain amount of kids will make a big controversy especially in our country. Instead things we could to preserve our earth is to go green by recycling and reusing material instead of disposing into a dump. We should push this on our new generation on the benefits on taking care of our earth because they themselves are going to live on it.

    1. I completely agree with you wilbert p. Overpopulation isn’t the only issue at hand. On a daily basis i see people throwing items into a non recyclable container when the object should be recycled. I feel like this generation has become lazy when it comes to recycling. I feel as if recycling itself hasn’t been pushed as much in the last few years. Reducing, reusing, and recycling are also great ways to help preserve our earth for many more years to come.

  8. Progress for the sake of progress must be quashed. Progress for the sake of the preservation of life must be encouraged and mankind seems to find itself in a quarrel within itself to know the difference between the two forms of progress.

  9. I find the main issue I have with people that commend on our ‘population problem’ or our effect on our planet are overlooking the absolutely mind numbing, exponential increase of technological prowess and knowledge our species has accumulated in our mere sliver of time on this planet.

    I don’t believe we are in a trap, I believe we are poised to spring into the next era of human social evolution. With the advent of more sophisticated robotics, affordable spaceflight, and the possibility of technologies such as artificial intelligence, fusion energy, and sustainable aeroponics farming, population should be a nonissue, but only if we are willing to use our potential as a species, rather than worry some abstract concept of preserving our planet or status quo.

    We’re not in trouble as a species, we’re just waiting for the next technological revolution.

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