Twenty five years following the progress trap story!

Escaping the progress trap - Paperback It was in 1991 that the idea for the book "The progress trap" was submitted to McGill-Queens University Press in Montreal, Canada. Being only the third submission to a publishing house the author was naturally delighted when the Editor-in-chief wrote back that "your work does in fact provide a powerful analysis of our situation and what may be a fruitful way of resolving the dilemma which that analysis exposes." The book took 10 years to write, and another two years before the University Press completed its review. In the end (2003) the publisher expressed the vote via one reviewer's opinion: "nor do I believe there is any strategy for revision or rewriting that would turn the present product into a publishable book". To his credit, the editor supported the book all along.

The idea had occurred to the author while completing his studies at Concordia University, Montreal in mid 1990, and was presented as a paper in the Global Ecopolitics course, titled "The Progress Trap - Science, Humanity and Environment". Believing the intellectual property would be protected, he registered copyright in 1991 on the book project under "The Progress Trap and how to avoid it".The Progress Trap - Science, Humanity and Environment

The author was therefore taken aback when a short history on the very same topic appeared in 2004, a year after his book was completed, by a Canadian publisher and author who even claimed to have come up with the term "progress trap". He scrambled to find another publisher and decided to self-publish in 2007 with the title "Escaping the progress trap".

While the short history1 did little more than lament the shortcomings of progress in doleful terms, the original book described how modern and ancient institutions can be victims of success, and also investigated behavioral causes and possible remedies - as the University publisher recognized. However the short history had popular appeal and a documentary version was produced with the backing of Canada's National Film Board, Martin Scorsese and others. Indeed, in 2016 it was saluted as one of most influential books of the previous 25 years with the Literary Review of Canada proclaiming, "For his popularizing of the 'progress trap' alone—a nifty distillation of our fixation on one way of being in the world—the cultural legacy of A Short History of Progress would be secure".

The struggle to get recognition for the behavior paradox of humans repeatedly taking short-term measures that compromise their long-term survival as a complex syndrome may yet be in its early stages. The most compelling explanation comes from the neurosciences, where the discrepancies between the interests of the mind under different circumstances are borne out in the different capabilities of various parts of the cerebral hemispheres. The most extensive study on this research and the way society is affected is Iain McGilchrist's The Master and his emissary2. However the behavioral disciplines have yet to take up the cause, no doubt because the left-brain, right-brain research was heavily popularized, and often ridiculed. Another obstacle may be the doubt that neural insight casts on the reliability of the scientific method with its insistence on absolute certainty.3 While McGilchrist's exhaustive work explains the effect of this conflict of interest in cultural terms, Escaping the progress trap shows how the same mental conflicts play out in the environment.

This 'escaping the progress trap' project has long argued for the application of the principle of beyond a reasonable doubt in the context of climate change:

On September 20, 2016, three hundred and seventy five members of the National Academy of Sciences, including 30 Nobel laureates conceded4 "Absolute certainty is unattainable. We are certain beyond a reasonable doubt, however, that the problem of human-caused climate change is real." It is also encouraging that in 2016 most countries have accepted that humans have contributed markedly to the current dangerous levels of pollutants, and the resulting climate change.

There is thus high confidence that the behavior paradox hypothesis (progress traps) will eventually be confirmed by the experts. And, since its causes are credibly identified in Escaping the progress trap, meaningful solutions are also presented, for solving problems and steering knowledge toward wisdom.

1. Wright R., A short history of progress Anansi 2004

2. McGilchrist, Iain (2009). The Master and His Emissary, The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World Yale University Press

3. O'Leary, D. B. Escaping the progress trap Geozone Com., Montreal, 2007, p 171

4. An Open Letter Regarding Climate Change From Concerned Members of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences


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"The Progress Trap - and how to avoid it" Copyright Daniel O'Leary, registered at
the Copyright Office, Consumer and Corporate Affairs, Canada on April 5, 1991 (ref 405917)