Have you ever wondered what Canadian public television is like? Probably not. But for the five of you that have, "Surviving Progress" is exactly what you've been waiting for.
The documentary -- made in Canada, from Canadian source material -- is based on the lecture series, and later book, by Ronald Wright titled "A Short History of Progress." Wright's work, though, centered on ancient civilizations. He looked at how groups in the Stone Age, on Easter Island, and in Rome and Maya, for example, progressed, but then declined. The idea, of course, is to analyze our own society and see what might be in store.
Directors Mathieu Roy and Harold Crooks fill their documentary with academics, among others, but they take a decidedly less intellectual approach. The election to the presidency of Barack Obama, for example, is one sign of progress. The decline is told much as you'd imagine a doc released on Earth Day weekend would tell it: We are destroying ourselves by destroying the environment.
|2 out of 4 stars|
|Stars: Stephen Hawking, Jane Goodall, David Suzuki|
|Directors: Mathieu Roy, Harold Crooks|
|Rated: Not rated|
|Running time: 86 minutes|
A number of thinkers, including Wright, fill us in on the doomsday scenario: primatologist Jane Goodall, Canadian environmental activist David Suzuki, theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking and even novelist Margaret Atwood. Now, Margaret Atwood writes beautiful novels, but she's not an expert on environmental science or economics.
It seems strange to call this a "documentary" when only one side of a very disputed set of issues is presented. Without fail, the voices that tell us we're doomed are from the left, with very specific complaints and a very specific agenda.
Never mind that we live in the most prosperous era of human history, with medical and technological advances of which our ancestors couldn't even dream. There's no sense here that human beings have accomplished much of anything through our history, except for harming other, less ambitious species.
None of the doomsayers offer any real, thoughtful solutions, either. Where we've been, where we're going: These are crucial questions facing us, no matter what side of the aisle you're on. But, unfortunately, you won't find any substantive discussion of them here.