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“Progress is impossible without change, and those who
cannot change their minds cannot change anything”1 I
came across this quote from George Bernard Shaw, who was an Irish playwright
and political activist, many years ago and it has always resonated with me as a
good ideology to live my life by. As a 20 year old student in college one might
argue that I haven’t experienced enough of the world yet however whether it was
focusing in secondary school and changing my attitude towards studying for my
leaving cert, or motivating myself to go to the gym and live a healthy life
style something about the quote always just made sense in my life. I chose to
read The Myth of Progress Toward a Sustainable Future by Tom Wessels for my
book review. This was the stand out book to me as it was clear it was going to
revolve around progress and change and so I was intrigued to read Tom’s work in
order to see could it alter and change my opinion on the way I’ve lived my life
for many years.

 

The main core theme running through the book was that
how the world is run and structured and what we are fed as consumers from
governments and politicians are based on a myth. In the opening pages of the
book Wessels describes a myth as “an accepted belief that is fallacious”2 Wessels demonstrates in the book through many
compelling arguments that our current progress towards a sustainable future is
in fact a myth. Wessels arguments and core beliefs are based on his three laws
of sustainability. The first is the law of limits to growth, the second is the
second law of thermodynamics and the third, the law of self-organization.

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Wessels claims that the implementation and following of these three laws is the
path to progress. Wessels describes the current way of life as following a
linear approach when in fact the world we live in is based on many complex
systems that all feed into one another.

 

His first law, the limits to growth is based on
carrying capacity which he describes as “an ecological concept that is defined
as the maximal population size that an ecosystem can support without being
degraded in some fashion”3. Wessels’
own description of his book is that it “is a critique of our reigning paradigm
of progress—that in order to progress we need to keep growing the economy”4. This description links in with his first law. The
current rate of population growth is unsustainable and has been for quite some
time. Wessels explains that is took 150,000 years for the world to reach a
population of 1 billion people and only 70 years after the population was at 2
billion people all using the same original resources.5 Global population of humans soared during the past
century from 1.5 billion in 1900 to more than six billion in 20006  and as of
December 2017 it is estimated that the current world population is 7.6 billion
people.7 Society is lead to believe that the world
has unlimited resources to continue to support all the growth however Wessels
argues there will come a time when the population and the resources will reach
an equilibrium point and there after the population growth will no longer be
sustainable. Wessel argues that if changes on how we see progress are not made
now the sustainability of mankind on this earth will not be possible.

 

His
first law really struck a cord with me as there are loads of examples of
limited resources all around me but I’ve never really stopped to think of the long-term
repercussions of them. Most relevant to my life would be the serious student accommodation-housing
crisis that cork is experiencing. I am from Waterford and so for the past 3
years I have required student accommodation in order to attend UCC and study
process and chemical engineering as it not available as a course in W.I.T at
home. While I have been fortunate enough to have gotten accommodation over the
past few years many of my friends have not been so lucky. People have been 

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