By Ronald Wright
Da Capo Press, pb $35

One of the central questions Wright seeks to answer in this concise and gripping work is, “Why, if civilizations so often destroy themselves, has the overall experiment of civilization done so well?” He tries to answer it, with some success, by describing ‘progress traps’ that confer success at the cost of sustainability. These progress traps often take the guise of cultural belief, an almost mythical beast that, with the correct sacrifices, offers a strange mix of immortality and wealth; the determined deforestation on Easter Island is a particularly chilling example of this. Wright bangs the old drum of ‘Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it” but he taps a compelling rhythm, one that takes a tired adage & transforms it into an urgent reality. A precise & extremely compelling work that inspires a desire to know more.

November 2006