Pinker and progress

Steven Pinker is famous for saying that we’re making progress:

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I ain’t saying we’re not smart. We’re smart. We can learn.

We’ve gradually learned how to live in civilization. So if you compare where things are at against most any time prior during the last five thousand years the statistics will indicate progress.

But the fruits of our learning how to cope and thrive might be peaking as we speak. In his book, Peak Everything, Richard Heinberg says so. He acknowledges that gross statistics show substantial increases in material living standards, literacy, and longevity; and the seemingly propitious trendlines have accelerated as the industrial revolution has advanced. But, Heinberg asserts, those trendlines are peaking now. They are unsustainable because they’ve been based on extractive processes that are ecologically malign.

* * * *

We’ve “made progress” relative to the civilizational historical past. But if it’s not sustainable, what good is it?


We need to give up. We’re not going to conquer nature or mortality or infirmity or precarity. Nope. Stop trying so hard. Stop stressing. Relax, give in, settle down. Stop stressing the planet. Live more lightly. Drop development. Let it be. Live cyclically.

Grateful Dead:

When I was just a little young child
Papa said: “Son, you know you’ll never get far.
I’ll tell you the reason … you ought to know:
Child of mine, there isn’t really very far to go.”



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Steven Welzer

Steven Welzer


The editor of Green Horizon Magazine, Steve has been a movement activist for many years (he was an original co-editor of DSA’s “Ecosocialist Review”).