The Myth of Progress vs. Sustainability and Treating All Life as Sacred

The Myth of Progress vs. Sustainability and Treating All Life as Sacred

Everyone knows that in any relationship, if there is a conflict that doesn't get dealt with, if someone is upset but doesn't speak up, things don't get better — they simmer and stew and get worse. If we don't stop and deal with our problems as they arise, making changes and course corrections while we go along, things are going to get more and more difficult until just existing in a miserable lie is too much to handle.

Some­how, industrial society thinks it is immune to this law, that as it marches unflinchingly in one direction, that it calls "progress," there is no space for checking to see how things are going, let alone for course corrections. The myth of progress tells a story in which everything that came before this moment is useless and obsolete, while everything that comes after will be better.

No need to discuss, no need to slow down and check to make sure we are on the right course — everything is getting bet­ter, this is the law of life! If a person had this attitude in their human relationships, we might call them a deluded asshole.

Many will agree that the idea of progress, which is the ideological underpinning of civilization, is delusional, but still wonder where does it leave us if we completely throw that notion out. I would suggest that it leaves us with no limita­tions based on the idea of past and future.

Sustainable Living: From the Stone Age to the Future Primitive

The Myth of Progress vs. Sustainability and Treating All Life as SacredWithout the idea of progress, ways of existing sustainably that humans employed in the past are no longer inferior. Instead of saying, "We can't go back to the Stone Age," we can simply and soberly look at what makes sense. There is no judgment based on who, where or when, but an honest evaluation of true sustainability.

This honest evaluation could mean choosing to get in tune with one's body instead of taking pharmaceutical contraceptives; shutting off the electricity and just going to bed when the sun goes down; breathing fresh air, eating good food and getting enough sunlight instead of taking antidepressants; or killing a deer, eating its flesh and tanning its skin instead of importing exotic food and plastic raincoats.

This is the future primitive — a world where the lines of past, present and future are blurred. Where people have no ideological brainwashing that governs their actions, but instead treat all life and the wildness at its center as sacred.

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I can think of nothing more exciting.

©2012 by Miles Olson. All Rights Reserved.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
New Society Publishers.

This article was adapted with permission from the book:

Unlearn, Rewild: Earth Skills, Ideas and Inspiration for the Future Primitive  --  by Miles Olson.

Unlearn, Rewild: Earth Skills, Ideas and Inspiration for the Future Primitive by Miles Olson.Picture a world where humans exist, like all other living things, in balance. Where there is no separation between "human" and "wild." Unlearn, Rewild boldly envisions such a world, probing deeply into the cultural constraints on our ability to lead truly sustainable lives and offering real, tangible tools to move toward another way of living, seeing, and thinking.

Click here for more info and/or to order this book.

About the Author

Miles Olson, author of the book: Unlearn, RewildMiles Olson has spent the past decade deeply immersed in learning and practicing earth skills; living intimately with the land on the forested edge of a sprawling city. While foraging, hunting, gardening, and gathering for his livelihood, his life has been shaped profoundly by a desire to nurture healthy relationships with humans and the non-human world. Miles’ experiences have put him at the forefront of the rewilding movement, radical self-reliance, and the impact of civilization on the natural world.

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