Yeah, I was going to comment on the assumption of "overkill" as well. But I think I've found an even more glaring problem - the assumption that societies of all kinds strive for "progress". It's my understanding that for the vast majority of human history, people were completely uninterested in "progress". As long as their lives worked (they were surviving), they just lived.
The whole concept of "progress" implies a striving for something that one does not have, or to become something that one is not. In other words, it implies a fundamental dissatisfaction with one's current life. It also implies a desire to constantly acquire more (wealth, goods, whatever) if one is talking about progress in the physical sense.
I thought that the notion of "progress" was pretty much limited to civilized life, fueled by the practical reality of having to constantly seek out new resources, territories, and people to exploit and subjugate. I know in our modern life this notion of "progress", ambition, striving for achievement (personally, financially, hierarchically, etc) has been enshrined as the primary goal of life. Honestly, this seems like a classic example of someone imposing their own cultural values on other cultures, probably because those cultural values are unconscious, unexamined, and therefore believed to be universal - just the way everyone thinks.
Richard Wright seems to be saying this can happen in ANY human society without its members even realizing it. They can sort of just go on "auto-pilot" in pursuit of an undefined and unattainable goal, whether it's "more comfort" or "bigger buildings."
What Wright doesn't seem to realize (or acknowledge) is that people don't just subconsciously begin to pursue progress - as a cultural ideal, it happens for a reason. I.e. civilization. Therefore, it would not be correct to assume that it could happen (or has happened) to any, or even all, cultures. Unless, of course, he is talking about civilizations exclusively, but that doesn't seem to be the case since he was talking about hunter-gatherers making species go extinct.
I also found it interesting that the article said:
In the contemporary context, unabated oil consumption in a time of climate change is seen as an illustration of the problem; sustainable development is a solution.
The very phrase "sustainable development" implies progress, so it would seem that the question is not so much whether progress is desirable or not, but rather (taking progress as a given) what form that progress should take.
I think instead the question is: progress or sustainability. Logically, development and progress seem inherently unsustainable. Progress takes a society out of a sustainable balance and therefore will lead to collapse - the only alternative is to cease "progressing" and to return to a state of dynamic equilibrium. In other words, cease striving for something more, and to return to a state of simply being.
Unless I'm totally misinterpreting the theory, of course.