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The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century

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  • Posted October 26, 2008

    THE LONG EMERGENCY seems a prescient look at 2008 election windup headlines. With a spike of oil price, demand destruction and subsequent fall-off, damage to investment phsyche is complete, and as oil price fades, the world faces the new paradigm.

    THE LONG EMERGENCY is more than a compendium of Kunstler's earlier writings and commentary on suburbia and America's loss of Main Streets. Consolidation of storefronts into big box malls was a local tragedy, to be sure. But Kunstler discerns another, less Chamber-Of-Commerce element lurking in the wings: the certitude of a reckoning with assumptions of cheap energy, always provided by drilling, digging, or technofix.<BR/><BR/>Master economists, more by luck than IQ, now it seems, rode the wave of cheap energy along with the rest of us, and now are eating humble pie. It is poetic justice that we shall all eat the pie together, and that is at the heart of our long emergency, nobody shall escape this. When a world economy built on cheap energy sees limits, we all become limited in our prospects, and must work together to pull through the trials ahead.<BR/><BR/>It is so much like todays financial headlines to read Kunstler's "Long Emergency", one can concentrate on Kunstler's closings wherein he deals with remedies, and imperatives for maintaining a semblance of American solidarity; what must in fact be done to hand on to our young the Union of States intact. JHK has a work list of ways and means of carrying on American Civilization that look very 19th century, and it is here that one must be most critical. <BR/><BR/>We shall gradually lose the oil and natural gas, and even the coal and shale resources have finite limits. Kunstler admits to electricity and nuclear and the common renewables like solar and wind generation. His fears center more on the political and social ramifications of the Oil Interregnum than ability of mankind to transition our affairs to oil depletion. There is a thread now running, the localization, or "Village" approach as a be-all & end-all. JHK is astute enough to include these shifts of living patterns, without using localization as a refuge, or final destination.<BR/><BR/>The clue in many of Kunstler's writings is his knack for including amenities, social as well as technical, that predate oil as a fuel, and must be carried by the family of man thru the Oil Interregnum, the period we are now entering, "The Long Emergency". Not a secret, just visualize America of the railroad century, roughly 1850-1950. Midpoint, people like Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse, Sprague, and their enterprises gave us light and mobility, aside from the oil/auto economy. Kunstler gives few words to railways and electric streetcars, and the Societal & Commercial Cohesion afforded by the railway network we enjoyed even as the automobile engulfed us. This reference to railways is more than a passing thought; witness massive railway rehab and extension now underway in every single US economic competitor around the world, including new High Speed Rail in Mexico!<BR/><BR/>Paradixically, we enetered the automobile age with electric cars, and we shall leave the oil age likewise. Moreover, we know more than we did in the 1890's, and Kunstler tries to encourage us even as he sounds the alarm. His mention of railways is inclusive in localization, notwithstanding the current mega-rail mergers now extant. Branchlines and local rail lines are also budding under the radar. Companion read for Kunstler are books like "ELECTRIC WATER" by Christopher Swan, and titles by Richard Heinberg. Websites like "theoildrum.com" and "peakoil.net" (see articles 374 & 1037) help us see JHK's viewpoin

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 29, 2011

    Good book

    I read this for a class. Kunstler has very bleak predictions about our future, but he provided a lot of ideas that makes you think.

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