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Surviving Progress, Modernity and Making Sense of the Crisis in Nature

  • Divya AnandAffiliated withDiversity and Academic Programs Associate, Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research


The historical understanding of progress as economic, social, and cultural finds its strongest disavowal when we measure “progress” against the right to clean air and water. Progress is also a word upon which ideas of nationhood and identity have been built and buttressed, wars fought and forests plundered, rivers dammed, people dispossessed and displaced, and animals and plants driven to extinction. The irony of Harold Crooks and Mathieu Roy’s documentary Surviving Progress does not escape this narrative from its start to the very end. Inspired by Ronald Wright’s A Short History of Progress, the documentary takes off from making sense of the term progress to the causes and outcomes of the particular idea of progress that has won universal traction and remains the foundational cause behind much of the world’s environmental problems. Interpolated with commentary from across the world and cutting across disciplines, the documentary cuts an arc across the common denominations of progress in different parts of the world. This chapter argues that modernity is the cornerstone upon which this particular idea of progress took shape and examines the variant themes of Surviving Progress as well as analysing the medium and the message of the documentary.