The phrase "progress trap" originated with Ronald Wright, A Short History of Progress
, House of Anansi Press, Toronto, 2004. Wright used it to describe societies, ancient and modern, over-reaching or over-extending resources too late to easily retrench and take a different path.
Perhaps the Easter Islanders are the best-known case of this, but there are others. Joseph Tainter (Collapse of Complex Societies, Cambridge U. Press, 1988) generalizes a pattern for this in the ancient world. A tribe gathers muscle and conquers adjoining tribes occupying prime real estate, and usually enslaving many of them to work the ground. This gave the conquerors some spare energy, which they used to further their military might, build roads to haul stuff in, engage in learning, hold festivals, and of course, erect stupendous monuments to their own glory.
Once extended, if conditions change, like prolonged drought, degradation of the land, or epidemics, this system became tough to hold together. Other tribes could move on them, and if the imperialists had lost mojo, do them in. If conditions were really bad, everyone had to either move on or perish in droves on the spot.
This seems to be the kind of cycle that much-derided Malthus had in mind. He merely pointed that when a human society expands beyond its food supply, population has to decrease. He wrote when European plagues and chronic wars were not such distant memories, but also just before huge increases in production were ramping up from the industrial revolution.