It was with some reticence that I chose to read Bringing Progress to Paradise. Perhaps I have been unlucky in my nonfiction choices, but I have experienced some really dry, slow and boring nonfiction reads in the past few years. Additionally, after this book had arrived but before I'd started it, some book pals of mine mentioned that they found the author's writing arrogant. There is little I hate more than arrogance in a writer (except perhaps bad writing!).
Thankfully, my fears were quickly alleviated when I began reading this book. While, certainly, Mr. Rasley says things about the people who went on treks with him that I don't think needed to be said (or perhaps just not said so overtly or in such detail), his arrogance didn't bother me that much (that said, I would not want to be one of the people he skewered in this book!).
The charm of this book to me was its breadth. It is part memoir, part travelogue, part humanitarian mission report, part exploration of Nepalese culture and part treatise on the high and low points of mountain trekking/climbing. It reads like a diary of how, in general, the author went from mountain climber to humanitarian but also, in specific, how one particularly-important trek succeeded and failed.
Mr. Rasley's over-arching thesis is this--at what point does bringing Western aid, culture and technology to a tiny Himalayan village without running water or electricity change that village for the worse? In other words, when does helping hurt? The author uses the Sherpa culture as an example--how they have become so Westernized (from making money off of the mountain-climbing industry) that their culture has lost its old ways. He fears that his may be the eventual outcome of his fundraising and humanitarian efforts for the tiny village of Basa.
The writing was better than I expected--quite good, actually--especially in bringing the experience of the trek, the people and the places to life. Recommended especially for anyone who thinks they may want to try trekking and those who wish to experience a different culture and country.
What did you think of this review?
Fun to Read
About the reviewer
I have been a customer reviewer on Amazon.com for well over a decade and an Amazon Vine reviewer since the program began. I enjoy writing product reviews that will help customers make a buying decision. … more
Consider the Source
Use Trust Points to see how much you can rely on this review.
What does it mean to bring progress--schools, electricity, roads, running water--to paradise? Can our consumer culture and desire to "do good" really be good for a community that has survived contentedly for centuries without us?
In October 2008, climbing expedition leader and attorney, Jeffrey Rasley, led a trek to a village in a remote valley in the Solu region of Nepal named Basa. His group of three adventurers was only the third group of white people ever seen in this village of subsistence farmers. What he found was people thoroughly unaffected by Western consumer-culture values. They had no running water, electricity, or anything that moves on wheels. Each family lived in a beautiful, hand-chiseled stone house with a flower garden. Beyond what they already had, it seemed all they wanted was education for the children. He helped them finish a school building already in progress, and then they asked for help getting electricity to their village.
Bringing Progress to Paradisedescribes Rasley's transformation from adventurer to committed philanthropist. We are attracted to the simpler way of life in these communities, and we are changed by our experience of it. They are attracted to us, because we bring economic benefits.Bringing Progress to Paradiseoffers Rasley's critical reflection on the tangled relationship between tourists and locals in "exotic" locales and the effect of Western values on some of the most remote locations on earth.