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Blinded by Progress: Breaking Out of the Illusion That Holds Us

This book walks us smack into tough questions about our survival on this planet … and finds possibilities within our reach!

More of us are seeking answers to great questions:

Why do we Americans praise lifestyles and growth economics that require five planets?

Why does this five-planet illusion grip us so tightly even though it defies commonsense?

Why do we continue to pursue economic growth as if it is economic health when we know it is ecologically suicidal? Are we that sinister? unconscious? Is it blind faith in technology? Are we simply addicted to “More?”

Blinded by Progress takes us into the ring to tussle with these urgent, life-defying questions … and come out empowered with new thoughts and actions. A whole new worldview is spelled out. Reading Blinded by Progressreleases that “ah-hah” feeling we get when truth breaks in on us and breaks us out of illusion.

Read it alone or discuss it in a group.

To purchase Blinded by Progress (print copies)

Print copies from Amazon at http://amazon.com/dp/0991155408 discounted from $12.95 to $11.66.

Buy the print edition at Amazon and get the eBook for half price, only $1.99.

Print copies from the CreateSpace eStore (coming)

To purchase Blinded by Progress (eBook options from 4 stores)

Kindle eStore for $3.99.

Nook eStore 

iBook eStore 

Kobo eStore 

To connect with the author

Email: lee@jubilee-economics.org


To read an excerpt from Blinded by Progress for FREE

 The “Foreword” by Chuck Collins, the “Table of Contents” showing the overall topics of the book, and “Section One” (pages 1-27) can be read FREE at Scribd.com.

To see a 25 slide presentation via Slideshare.net click here

Korean Translation of Blinded by Progress is available, published by Jeeyoungsa Publishing, Seoul, Korea, 2015  

Suggestions for Using this Book

Designed for Groups and for Going Deeper Personally

 by Lee Van Ham

Using the Cycle: Read! Act! Reflect!

The Read-Act-Reflect Cycle can be entered at any point. The sequence matters little; doing all three is what deepens each of the others.


Note: Actions accompanying Blinded by Progress help us see more clearly the clash between MultiEarth and OneEarth ways of living. They will deepen our knowledge of the primary crisis of our time—an essential part of choosing strategic solutions!

  1. Calculate your ecological footprint! Use the calculator on the Global Footprint Network website. Click here
  2. Identify 6 ways you’ve experienced the clash of the MultiEarth and OneEarth ways of thinking and living. Use the table on pages 8-14 of the book.
  3. Resacralize what MutlEarth commodifies. That is, practice seeing the wholeness, sacredness of what you encounter in everyday life instead of treating it as a commodity, i.e., worth something only according to what The Market says it’s worth. 

Section I: The MultiEarth Complex

This “Guide” selects themes from Blinded by Progress: Breaking Out of the Illusion that Holds Us, restates them briefly, and then offers questions to stimulate conversation or personal cogitation designed to take you to the edges of your personal comfort—those edges where we necessarily go in order to move into greater maturity of consciousness and action.

That said, you are in control. You hold the power for just how transparent you will be with yourself and with others. Of course, the more responsibility you openly accept for your life choices and feelings, the more you will push into new topographies of consciousness where you walk into previously unseen pathways for OneEarth living.

Topic 1: Know your footprint size 
(pages 3-5; Ponder and Discuss Q.1, page 27)

Here’s a way to contribute something simple to the movement for OneEarth living: know your footprint size and, in every appropriate conversation, ask people about theirs. Our footprints are our baseline. Knowing yours anchors you for the rest of the book; makes what you read more personal, more concrete. Every bike race, 100 meter sprint, or marathon begins from a well-defined starting line; footprint size is the starting line for our quest for OneEarth living.

To discover your size, use the calculator on the Global Footprint Network website (www.footprintnetwork.org/en/index.php/GFN/page/calculators). Also, read the short blog on footprint size on the OneEarth Project blog.

1. What are the feelings you have about your footprint?
2. If you wish to change the size of your footprint, 
    a. what would be the easiest adjustment to make in your life? 
    b. what would be really difficult? 
    c. where do you need some changes in policies, laws, or technologies?

Topic 2: Complexes hold great energies; they’re also hard to break out of 
(pages 25-27; Ponder and Discuss, Q. 2 and 3, page 27)

Perhaps you’ve been told that you have an inferiority complex or a mother complex. Such use of the word “complex” came through the psychological work of Carl Jung (1875-1961), who used it to describe the conglomerate of experiences that clustered around some inner core. So, for example, the father or mother complex described not just our memories of our father or mother, but the clusters of experiences of males and females in our lives who have served parental or authority figure roles. These experiences attach to an inner core of “father” or “mother”—a core of motherhood and fatherhood shared in common with all humans. What was important to Jung is the diverse and intense energies inhabiting these clusters—energies that could be triggered by any number of external stimuli and then take over the consciousness of that person, determining their behaviors.

By analogy, “MultiEarth” is a complex. More than an ecological footprint, it has a wide variety of lifestyle choices and actions clustered around its core. “MultiEarth” is an entire worldview. Emanating from it is a mythology that offers stories to shape our lives according to that worldview. The stories may inspire us, explain things, or give purpose and meaning to life. Stories have such powers. Coming to respect the great impacts of MultiEarth mythology helps us see that leaving it for a stronger, better story demands quite some risk on our part.

1. What life experiences justify for you the MultiEarth complex’s way of living, or make that complex most difficult to break free of?
2. Where do your energies get most triggered to defend and pursue MultiEarth ways? For example, the advancement of my children; kinds of travel and vacations; where to live; convenience; comfort; etc.
3. Thinking about your life so far, what have you stopped doing that in terms of the MultiEarth-OneEarth worldviews was MultiEarth? What are you doing today that tilt toward OneEarth thinking and living? What influenced these changes?

Topic 3: Working with the Two Worldviews that vie within us and around us
(pages 5-16; Ponder and Discuss Q. 4)

Worldviews or paradigms connect countless dots between otherwise disconnected elements in our experience.

Central to a dialogue with the MultiEarth Complex are the two worldviews or paradigms vying for control. The word “paradigm” is becoming more frequent in conversations, such as when we hear someone describe a change in perspective by saying “that experience totally changed my paradigm.” However, “paradigm” remains fuzzy and ambiguous because it is used to refer to so many different sizes of perspective.

In science, paradigm-level shifts have been used to describe Copernicus’ discovery that Earth revolved around Sun; also Einstein’s discoveries of quantum physics that explained aspects of reality which Newtonian physics couldn’t. (Also see the “Glossary” definition, pages 179-180)

Without debating how comprehensive a change of perspective needs to be before it qualifies as a change in paradigm, I use it as a synonym for worldview—in particular to contrast the MultiEarth and OneEarth worldviews. (See my short blog on how I chose names for these two worldviews.)

The Table covering pages 8-14 contrasts the two paradigms.

1. Name five items in the Table that especially illustrate for you the Multi-Earth vs. OneEarth contrast. Say why and, if possible, give examples of how the contrasts play out in your world.
2. Name any specifics in the Table you disagree with or would like to say in a different way. 
3. Remember that the Table does not pretend to be comprehensive. If you were to revise it, what would you put into a new version?
4. Can you describe a change in how you look at the world that feels to you like a paradigm shift from the way you saw and lived in the world before?

Topic 4: Living East of Eden—the story of civilization as history and mythology 
(pages 16-27; Ponder and Discuss Q.5, page 27)

John Steinbeck’s magnum opus, East of Eden, based on the Cain and Abel myth, dresses that ancient myth into a 20th century novel situated in the agricultural valley around Salinas, California. Blinded by Progress follows up on Steinbeck’s update, and uses Cain and Abel to give bold, mythic guidance for the MultiEarth-OneEarth conflicts we’re in today.

The word “myth” can throw some readers who use it to refer to falsehoods. But as stated in the “Glossary” (page 180), Blinded by Progress uses “myth” in another way, namely, as a genre of literature and story that carries truth bigger than what historical records convey. The MultiEarth complex benefits from an enchanting mythology conveyed through stories of technological Progress, the American Dream as open to all, and America as an exceptionally ethical and morally purposed nation compared to the rest of the world. These camouflage so well the negative consequences of the MultiEarth complex that many citizens cannot bear it being exposed as an illusion. (See my short blog on the mythology of the American Dream.)

1. What truth do you hear in the mythologies of (1) technological Progress, (2) the American Dream, or (3) America as exceptionally moral?
2. What falsehoods do these stories hide?
3. How does thinking of Cain and Abel as myth rather than history increase that story’s relevance and power to expose error and guide us to a OneEarth path today? (see pages 19, 20, and 26)
4. The original tellers of the Cain and Abel myth wanted to say how the imperial ways of living in cities and treating the land were murdering the non-imperial way of living in community with Earth and nature. Can you identify examples today of how that part of the myth gives insight into the antagonism between MultiEarth and OneEarth ways?
5. If you can think of a modern movie that describes the MultiEarth-OneEarth antagonism, describe it.

Topic 5:  Both the Gorilla Ishmael and Genesis Protest the Civilization Project
(pages 20-22; 24-25)

Breaking out of the MultiEarth Complex can be aided by seeing civilization for what it is–a project shaped by human choices, not an inevitable flow of history outside of our control. 

We’ve often assumed that the “history of the world” marches along more or less inevitability to the drumbeats of human progress. But as Paul Hawken says in his endorsement of Blinded by Progress (see “Praise for Blinded by Progress” pages at the very front of the book), “There were many paths that we might have taken in the past that would have led to a better world than the one we inhabit.” 

Ishmael, the gorilla in Daniel Quinn’s book Ishmael, teaches his student that civilization seceded from the deeper and older history of his species and all species, including even the Homo sapiens (see pages 24-25). Genesis, the first book of the bible, likewise protests the assumption that the history of civilization is anything more than a MultiEarth story from its beginning (see pages 20-22). Quinn, through his gorilla lead character, and the storytellers of Genesis reposition the human story inside of Creation—a longer story far more connected to the sustainable processes of Earth. The result is an Earth-centered consciousness instead of a civilization-centered one.

For short piece on “thinking like a gorilla,” see my OneEarth Project blog post.

1. How does thinking of civilization as a MultiEarth secession from the older and continuing OneEarth story impact your understanding of what civilization is?
2. How does Old Testament scholar Wes Howard-Brook explain why Genesis was originally a protest of the civilization project?
3. “Learning from nature” happens at some level for most of us. But what does it mean to take it to the level that Quinn does with Ishmael? Or the Jewish storytellers exiled in Babylon did with Eden, Cain and Abel, and the rest of their “book of origins?” What are the gorillas, other animals, and plants telling us about civilization’s attitude that nature is there simply for our use?

Dust jacket image of East of Eden from first edition hardcover, first printing, 602 pages, published 1952 by New York: Viking Press

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