Ronald Wright

The steering committee is proud to announce Mr. Ronald Wright as the Polivery Conference's Keynote speaker this year.

A novelist, historian and essayist, Ronald Wright has been described as one of Canada’s “intellectual treasures.”  He has won awards in all three genres, and is published around the world in more than a dozen languages.  In 2004 he gave the CBC Massey Lectures, A Short History of Progress, which became an international bestseller, won the Libris Nonfiction Book of the Year award, and is now in production as a documentary film.

His nine books include the novel A Scientific Romance, which won Britain's David Higham Prize for Fiction and was chosen a book of the year by the Globe and Mail, the New York Times, and the Sunday Times.

His latest work, the number-one bestseller What Is America?  was a finalist for the 2009 BC Book Prize.

"Ronald Wright is an historical philosopher with a profound understanding of other cultures."  -Jan Morris


Presentation Abstract:

Now is Our Last Change to Get the Future Right

Drawing on his bestselling Massey Lectures, A Short History of Progress, Ronald Wright will illustrate how human beings have repeatedly dug themselves into 'Progress Traps' and been overwhelmed by 'wicked problems' throughout history.

A ‘progress trap’ is a seductive and seemingly benign development, which upon reaching a certain scale becomes a dead end. The first of these was the perfection of hunting in the Old Stone, which led to the extermination of animal species and the end of hunting as a viable way of life for most people. Some escaped from that trap by the discovery of agriculture, only to fall into greater traps such as overpopulation, overconsumption, soil degradation, and social upheaval caused by concentrations of wealth and power. These brought down entire civilizations in the past, and now threaten us worldwide.

By understanding the human tendency to create such ‘wicked’ problems – we may be able to avoid repeating them. The fundamental reform that is needed is a transition from short-term to long-term thinking, from ‘hoping for the best’ to the precautionary principle.