Synopses & Reviews
From one of our most exciting thinkers, the most prescient and engaging look at the problems we face since Alvin Toffler's Future Shock
With his classics of social commentary The Geography of Nowhere and Home from Nowhere, James Howard Kunstler has established himself as one of the great commentators on American space and place. Now, with The Long Emergency, he offers a shocking vision of a post-oil future.
The last two hundred years have seen the greatest explosion of progress and wealth in the history of mankind. But the oil age is at an end. The depletion of nonrenewable fossil fuels is about to radically change life as we know it, and much sooner than we think. As a result of artificially cheap fossil-fuel energy we have developed global models of industry, commerce, food production, and finance that will collapse. The Long Emergency tells us just what to expect after we pass the tipping point of global peak oil production and the honeymoon of affordable energy is over, preparing us for economic, political, and social changes of an unimaginable scale.
Are we laboring under a Jiminy Cricket syndrome when we tell ourselves that alternative means of energy are just a few years away? Even once they are developed, will they ever be able to sustain us in the way that fossil fuels once did? What will happen when our current plagues of global warming, epidemic disease, and overpopulation collide to exacerbate the end of the oil age? Will the new global economy be able to persevere, or will we be forced to revert to the more agrarian, localized economy we once knew? Could corporations like Wal-Mart and McDonald's, built on the premise of cheap transportation, become a thing of the past? Will the misguided experiment of suburbia considered a birthright and a reality by millions of Americans collapse when the car culture becomes obsolete?
Riveting and authoritative, The Long Emergency is a devastating indictment that brings new urgency and accessibility to the critical issues that will shape our future, and that we can no longer afford to ignore. It is bound to become a classic of social science.
Warnings from The Long Emergency:
- The oil age began in 1859 and peaked in 1970.
- The oil endowment allowed us to use the stored energy of millions of years of sunlight. Unfortunately the fossilfuel honeymoon is almost over.
- It has been estimated that without coal, oil, or natural gas, it would take several planets just like Earth to support the current number of humans living.
- World oil discovery peaked in the 1960s. Since 1999, the discovery of large oil and gas fields has collapsed: sixteen in 2000, eight in 2001, three in 2002, and none in 2003.
- There are half a billion cars and trucks currently in use around the world.
- We will not be rescued by the wished-for hydrogen economy. Our daily enjoyment of oil and gas has given us the energy equivalent of three hundred slaves per person in the industrialized nations. No combination of alternative energies will permit us to continue living the way we do, or even close to it.
- All the major systems that depend on oil, including manufacturing, trade, transportation, agriculture, and the financial markets that serve them, will begin to destabilize. The boundaries between politics, economics, and collective paranoia will dissolve.
"The indictment of suburbia and the car culture that the author presented in The Geography of Nowhere turns apocalyptic in this vigorous, if overwrought, jeremiad. Kunstler notes signs that global oil production has peaked and will soon dwindle, and argues in an eye-opening, although not entirely convincing, analysis that alternative energy sources cannot fill the gap, especially in transportation. The result will be a Dark Age in which 'the center does not hold' and 'all bets are off about civilization's future.' Absent cheap oil, auto-dependent suburbs and big cities will collapse, along with industry and mechanized agriculture; serfdom and horse-drawn carts will stage a comeback; hunger will cause massive 'die-back'; otherwise 'impotent' governments will engineer 'designer viruses' to cull the surplus population; and Asian pirates will plunder California. Kunstler takes a grim satisfaction in this prospect, which promises to settle his many grudges against modernity. A 'dazed and crippled America,' he hopes, will regroup around walkable, human-scale towns; organic local economies of small farmers and tradesmen will replace an alienating corporate globalism; strong bonds of social solidarity will be reforged; and our heedless, childish culture of consumerism will be forced to grow up. Kunstler's critique of contemporary society is caustic and scintillating as usual, but his prognostications strain credibility." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[The Long Emergency's] central message that the country will pay dearly unless it urgently develops new, sustainable community-scale food systems, energy sources, and living patterns should be read, digested, and acted upon by every conscientious U.S. politician and citizen." Michael Shuman, author of Going Local: Creating Self-Reliant Communities in a Global Age
"Cant-filled and overwrought: a crying-wolf approach to real but largely addressable issues, long on jeremiads but absent of remedies." Kirkus Reviews
"Credit Kunstler with an energetic argument, but whether he has achieved his stated goal waking up an ostensibly somnolent public via his relentless and alarmist pessimism remains to be seen." Booklist
"As brilliant as it is baleful...and we disregard it at our peril." The Washington Post
"Funny, irreverent, and blunt." Globe & Mail
"The book succeeds as an accessible primer to a looming crisis that could end the American way of life." A.G. Gancarski, Washington Times
"If you express doubt about his views, then you may well be among the deluded masses too addicted to your McSUV and McSuburb to accept the reality that lies ahead." Katharine Mieszkowski, Salon.com
"If you give a damn, you should read this book." Colin Tudge, The Independent (UK)
The depletion of nonrenewable fossil fuels is about to radically change life much sooner than anticipated. This title describes what to expect after the honeymoon of affordable energy is over, preparing readers for economic, political, and social changes of an unimaginable scale.
James Howard Kunstler's The Long Emergency was an underground hit, going into nine printings of the hardcover edition. His shocking vision for our post-oil future caught the attention of environmentalists and business leaders and was the subject of much debate, stimulating discussion about our dependence on fossil fuels. Now in paperback, with a new afterword, The Long Emergency is set to reach an even larger audience.
The last two hundred years have seen the greatest explosion of progress and wealth in the history of mankind, much of it based on the exploitation of cheap, nonrenewable fossil-fuel energy. But the oil age is at an end. Life as we know it is about to change radically, and much sooner than we think. The Long Emergency tells us just what to expect after we pass the point of global peak oil production and the honeymoon of affordable energy is over, preparing us for economic, political, and social changes of an unimaginable scale. Riveting and authoritative, The Long Emergency is a devastating indictment that brings new urgency and accessibility to the critical issues that will shape our future, and that we can no longer afford to ignore.
A controversial hit that sparked debate among businessmen, environmentalists, and bloggers, The Long Emergency by James Howard Kunstler is an eye-opening look at the unprecedented challenges we face in the years ahead, as oil runs out and the global systems built on it are forced to change radically.
About the Author
James Howard Kunstler was born in New York City in 1948. He is the author of two nonfiction books, The Geography of Nowhere and Home from Nowhere, and eight previous novels, including The Halloween Ball, and An Embarrassment of Riches. He has been a regular contributor to the New York Times Magazine and the Op-Ed page, where he has written on environmental and economic issues.
Table of Contents
1. Sleepwalking into the Future 1
2. Modernity and the Fossil Fuels Dilemma 22
3. Geopolitics and the Global Oil Peak 61
4. Beyond Oil: Why Alternative Fuels Wont Rescue Us 100
5. Nature Bites Back: Climate Change, Epidemic Disease, Water Scarcity, Habitat Destruction, and the Dark Side of the Industrial Age 147
6. Running on Fumes: The Hallucinated Economy 185
7. Living in the Long Emergency 235