King Solomon of Biblical times wrote, “Man’s fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other”. Surviving Progress, a documentary co-directed by Mathieu Roy & Harold Crooks, journeys across the globe to Brazil, China, Dubai, the United States, and Canada, exploring whether the notion of ‘progress’ accelerates humankind’s fate of death. As generations come and go, and while so much is done on smaller, faster, taller, wider, shorter, larger scales, the documentary appears to suggest that ‘progress’ leads to extinction and mass decay. One common theme among the thought leaders, children, scientists and grassroots activists interviewed in the film was that ‘progress’ depletes earthly resources. Jane Goodall, a renowned Primatologist points out, “Arguably, we are the most intellectual creature that’s ever walked on planet Earth. So how come, then, that this so intellectual being is destroying its only home?” Highlighted in the film is the deforesting of the Amazon in Brazil. Enio Beata, a sawmill owner, commented, “The people responsible for destroying the Amazon are the big farmers, the international corporations. The biggest farmers are senators, deputies, colonels. They’re the ones destroying the Amazon forest. Them. Not us.”
Surviving Progress continues with describing how ‘progress’ contributes to economic oppression. Kambale Musavuli of Friends of the Congo states, “What is interesting is all the money plundered from all the international debts is found in Western banks.” In other words, Western banks lend money to underdeveloped countries and the corrupt leaders of those same countries plunder the coffers, putting the stolen money back into Western banks. Consequently, the economic development projects are stalled indefinitely.
While observing China, the opinions are varied. When Mark Levine, a leader with China Energy Group was asked to explain progress, he replied, “What is progress? I think… that’s too hard a question.” On the other hand, Chen Ming, a self-driving tour guide, voiced, “I’m like the monk, the master, I’m leading the members to the West, to find out the real meaning of life, to reach true enlightenment.”
Surviving Progress is based on Ronald Wright’s best-seller, “A Short History of Progress”, and has the blessing of Academy Award-winning director, Martin Scorsese, an Executive Producer of the film. An important topic that should always stay on top of mind, Surviving Progress repurposed the phrase, ‘save our planet’, during a time when promoting a green economy is trendy. Unfortunately, Surviving Progress doesn’t stand out from the mother earth crowd of films.