A powerful argument that our current path toward progress, based on continual economic expansion and inefficient use of resources, runs contrary to three foundational scientific laws.
In this compelling, cogently argued, and acclaimed book, Tom Wessels demonstrates how our current path toward progress, based on continual economic expansion and inefficient use of resources, runs contrary to three foundational scientific laws that govern all complex natural systems. It is a myth, he contends, that progress depends on a growing economy. Wessels explains his theory with his three laws of sustainability: the law of limits to growth; the second law of thermodynamics, which exposes the dangers of increased energy consumption; and the law of self-organization, which results in the marvellous diversity of such highly evolved systems as the human body and complex ecosystems. Wessels argues that these laws, scientifically proven to sustain life in its myriad forms, have been cast aside since the eighteenth century, first by Western economists, political pragmatists, and governments attracted by the idea of unlimited growth, and more recently by a global economy dominated by large corporations, in which consolidation and oversimplification have created large-scale inefficiencies in both material and energy usage.
Wessels makes scientific theory readily accessible by offering examples of how the laws of sustainability function in the complex systems we can observe in the natural world around us. Demonstrating that all environmental problems have their source in a disregard for the laws of sustainability, he concludes with an impassioned argument for cultural change. This new edition has a new preface wherein the author regards The Myth of Progress as his most important work. It has been in constant demand since it was first published in 2006.
Preface to the Revised Edition
1. The Myth of Control: Complex versus Linear Systems
2. The Myth of Growth: Limits and Sustainability
3. The Myth of Energy: The Second Law of Thermodynamics
4. The Myth of the Free Market: The Loss of Diversity, Democracy, and Economic Resiliency
5. The Myth of Progress: A Need for Cultural Change
Epilogue: From Consumption to Connection
Glossary of Scientific Terms
Tom Wessels is a professor of ecology and the founding director of the master's degree program in conservation biology at Antioch New England Graduate School. He is the author of Reading the Forested Landscape: A Natural History of New England; Forest Forensics: A Field Guide to Reading the Forested Landscape; and Granite, Fire, and Fog: The Natural and Cultural History of Acadia.
"This is an impassioned, critical, and bold book. Wessels is guided by his overwhelming sense that the laws of sustainability demand respect, understanding, and interpretation, and unless we educate ourselves about their full complexity and truth, we will do irreparable damage to the landscapes we love."
– Northern Woodlands