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The Long Emergency : Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-first CenturySurviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-first Century
"Stark and frightening. Read it soon." --Jim Charlier, Daily Camera
"It used to be that only environmentalists and paranoids warned about the world running out of oil and the future it could bring: crashing economies, resource wars, social breakdown, agony at the pump. Not anymore. . . . America's dependence on oil is too pervasive to undo quickly, [Kunstler] warns. . . . In the meantime, we'll have our hands full dealing with . . . the soaring temperatures, rising sea levels and mega-droughts brought by global climate change. Not long ago, a Jeremiah like Kunstler would have been dismissed as a kook. . . . As brilliant as it is baleful . . . and we disregard it at our peril." --The Washington Post
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.
"What sets The Long Emergency apart from numerous other books on this theme is its comprehensive sweep--its powerful integration of science, technology, economics, finance, international politics and social change--along with a fascinating attempt to peer into a chaotic future. And Kunstler is such a compelling, fast-paced and sometimes eloquent writer that the book is hard to put down." --American Scientist
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. (May)
Copyright (c) Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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March 01, 2006
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Excerpt from The Long Emergency by James Howard Kunstler
Sleepwalking into the Future
Carl Jung, one of the fathers of psychology, famously remarked that "people cannot stand too much reality." What you're about to read may challenge your assumptions about the kind of world we live in, and especially the kind of world into which time and events are propelling us. We are in for a rough ride through uncharted territory.
It has been very hard for Americans--lost in dark raptures of nonstop infotainment, recreational shopping, and compulsive motoring--to make sense of the gathering forces that will fundamentally alter the terms of everyday life in technological society. Even after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, that collapsed the twin towers of the World Trade Center and sliced through the Pentagon, America is still sleepwalking into the future. We have walked out of our burning house and we are now headed off the edge of a cliff. Beyond that cliff is an abyss of economic and political disorder on a scale that no one has ever seen before. I call this coming time the Long Emergency.
What follows is a harsh view of the decades ahead and what will happen in the United States. Throughout this book I will concern myself with what I believe is happening, what will happen, or what is likely to happen, not what I hope or wish will happen. This is an important distinction. It is my view, for instance, that in the decades to come the national government will prove to be so impotent and ineffective in managing the enormous vicissitudes we face that the United States may not survive as a nation in any meaningful sense but rather will devolve into a set of autonomous regions. I do not welcome a crack-up of our nation but I think it is a plausible outcome that we ought to be prepared to face. I have published several books critical of the suburban living arrangement, which I regard as deeply pernicious to our society. While I believe we will be better off living differently, I don't welcome the tremendous personal hardship that will result as the infrastructure of that life loses its value and utility. I predict that we are entering an era of titanic international military strife over resources, but I certainly don't relish the prospect of war.
If I hope for anything in this book, it is that the American public will wake up from its sleepwalk and act to defend the project of civilization. Even in the face of epochal discontinuity, there is a lot we can do to assure the refashioning of daily life around authentic local communities based on balanced local economies, purposeful activity, and a culture of ideas consistent with reality. It is imperative for citizens to be able to imagine a hopeful future, especially in times of maximum stress and change. I will spell out these strategies later in this book.
Our war against militant Islamic fundamentalism is only one element among an array of events already under way that will alter our relations with the rest of the world, and compel us to live differently at home--sooner rather than later--whether we like it or not. What's more, these world-altering forces, events, and changes will interact synergistically, mutually amplifying each other to accelerate and exacerbate the emergence of meta-problems. Americans are woefully unprepared for the Long Emergency.
Your Reality Check Is in the Mail
Above all, and most immediately, we face the end of the cheap fossil fuel era. It is no exaggeration to state that reliable supplies of cheap oil and natural gas underlie everything we identify as a benefit of modern life. All the necessities, comforts, luxuries, and miracles of our time--central heating, air conditioning, cars, airplanes, electric lighting, cheap clothing, recorded music, movies, supermarkets, power tools, hip replacement surgery, the national defense, you name it--owe their origins or continued existence in one way or another to cheap fossil fuel. Even our nuclear power plants ultimately depend on cheap oil and gas for all the procedures of construction, maintenance, and extracting and processing nuclear fuels. The blandishments of cheap oil and gas were so seductive, and induced such transports of mesmerizing contentment, that we ceased paying attention to the essential nature of these miraculous gifts from the earth: that they exist in finite, nonrenewable supplies, unevenly distributed around the world. To aggravate matters, the wonders of steady technological progress under the reign of oil have tricked us into a kind of "Jiminy Cricket syndrome," leading many Americans to believe that anything we wish for hard enough can come true. These days, even people in our culture who ought to know better are wishing ardently that a smooth, seamless transition from fossil fuels to their putative replacements--hydrogen, solar power, whatever--lies just a few years ahead. I will try to demonstrate that this is a dangerous �fantasy.