The Price of Progress

The Price of Progress

smoke stacks choke the trees

stray cat loses her mother

to a bulldozer

Copyright © Christina Lynn Lambert


A huge construction project near my home got me thinking about the above haiku poem that I wrote several years ago. The haiku (originally entitled Sounds of the City) was inspired by my morning drive to the campus of the university I was attending at the time. My route took me by countless construction sites stocked full of equipment that, day by day, forever changed the landscape. I usually left my car windows up since I passed by several industrial businesses as well.  Smoke and bad smells permeated the air, leaving a sad fog that I was always glad to be driving through and not home to.

At the time, I viewed these unpleasant things as the price of progress- the price of housing more people, of businesses making more things for people to utilize. At the time, I had no idea the extent of the price that unchecked progress would cost the environment.

On the surface, the current construction project near my home would be seen as nothing new, nothing extraordinary in the scheme of what could go wrong in the world.

The road past the construction site is full of gravel and nails that promise to mar up my car. Stops and detours make me grind my teeth in frustration. But that’s all it will ever be for people- inconvenience and frustration. Deer, foxes, turtles, beavers wander out into the road, wondering what the hell happened to their homes. The freshly laid pavement bears the mark of tire-flattened furry bodies and squished snakes. Trees are leveled by the hundreds and fed through wood chippers. Water is life, and not just for people, yet creeks are filled in with dirt to make way for foundations and parking lots. It’s all part of a never ending process where destruction is labeled as progress. Everywhere is progress. Every square inch of land is targeted for progress.

We have to make way for more grocery stores, more gas stations, so there can be more neighborhoods and more coffee shops, and more restaurants, and then more neighborhoods. More profit. “More” is a hungry, bottomless beast that wants and takes but never gives.

“More” will eat everything in its path and create strip malls, high rises, factories, and cookie cutter homes until nothing else is left. “More” will never starve, at least not until it eats everything it created.

Then do we begin the cycle again or will be have learned about not taking what isn’t necessary? I can’t predict how that will turn out, or how many times the cycle will play out. While trying to creatively figure out a positive, upbeat ending to this post, I hit upon the reality that everything doesn’t have to end happily. Sometimes, we leave a situation or a relationship saddened, hurt, or even outraged. That’s when change happens. There’s that saying that endings aren’t really endings, just chapters that have closed in a small part of a story that keeps going. Humanity is a work in progress. The price of our lessons will hopefully not be too great.