The Long Emergency: Surviving the Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century

Overview

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. As a result of artificially cheap fossil-fuel energy, we have developed global models of industry, commerce, food production, and finance over the last 200 years. But the oil age, which peaked in 1970, is at an end. The depletion of ...
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Overview

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. As a result of artificially cheap fossil-fuel energy, we have developed global models of industry, commerce, food production, and finance over the last 200 years. But the oil age, which peaked in 1970, 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. The Long Emergency tells us just what to expect after 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. It is bound to become a classic of social science.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
With the discovery of new oil fields at a crawl and alternative energy sources not up to snuff, we're facing some big changes. So argues Kunstler, who writes regularly on economic and environmental issues. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Move over, Malthus. According to suburbia-hater Kunstler (Home from Nowhere, 1996, etc.), the world's going to hell in a handbasket-and in about 15 minutes, too. Aiming at the broadest side of the barn, Kunstler asserts that we're living in "a much darker time than 1938, the eve of World War Two." Why so? Well, for one, because the world's population is vastly overextended-never mind that Julian Simon and Paul Ehrlich hashed that argument out a generation ago, with Malthusian arguments taking a beating in the bargain. All right, because there's a superplague about to descend on the world, or maybe AIDS in mutated form, or a designer virus unleashed to rid a given polity of its surplus population, the elites having been inoculated beforehand. ("If this sounds too fantastic," Kunstler helpfully adds, "imagine how outlandish the liquidation of European Jewry might have seemed to civilized Berliners in 1913. Yet it happened." No bites? All right, it's because we're about to run out of oil, and there's nothing to replace oil. Now we're getting somewhere-except, oil economists such as Kenneth Deffeyes (Beyond Oil, p. 31) have remarked, the peak in world oil production is probably happening right now, and it will take some time to bleed the pump dry, by which point alternative technologies may have been employed to carry at least some of the load. That presupposes a shared view that the oil-based economy is on the way to profound change and that we're all in big trouble; but we're a delusional bunch, Kunstler avows, content to ugly up and pollute our world so long as we are able "to quickly escape the vicinity in cars luxuriously appointed with the finest digital stereo sound, air-conditioning,and cup holders for iced beverages." Aha. It's the fault of the ice-chewers in this age of global warming. But look at the bright side, Kunstler urges: At least when the air conditioners fail, the mega-churches will have to close down, a death blow to Republican civilization. Cant-filled and overwrought: a crying-wolf approach to real but largely addressable issues, long on jeremiads but absent of remedies.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780871138880
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 4/28/2005
  • Pages: 307
  • Product dimensions: 6.18 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.08 (d)

Meet the Author

James Kunstler
James Howard Kunstler is the author of eight novels. He has worked as a newspaper reporter and an editor for Rolling Stone, and is a frequent contributor to The New York Times Sunday Magazine. He lives in upstate New York.
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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 won't 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
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2006

    'The End Is Near' (again)

    Save your money and time. Buy something useful or informative instead of this turkey. Some people never learn. These authors are petroleum geologists, so I'd guess it is only a pose to sell books. They MUST know that the coming peak in world oil production has been forecast for 'next year' almost every year for a century. At some point, oil WILL be more expensive to produce than its rival liquid fuels and the world will start to change fuels. That's happened before with other fuels, such as the wood to coal change that started the Industrial Revolution. A change has led to a better fuel and more energy before, but these authors claim that THIS TIME it means doom. This book is a lot of whining and 'doom and gloom' with no suggested way out. It isn't true that we face disaster, but even if it was this book wouldn't help.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2005

    Our Squandered Future

    This is an exceptional, highly readable synthesis of economics, history and geopolitics involving oil depletion, environmental destruction and overpopulation and the likely impact these calamities will have on our future. The current fantasy of alternate energy sources is comprehensively covered, as is the uniqueness and irreplaceability of fossil fuels. My conclusion after reading this book is that we have hopelessly squandered these precious fuels, condemning future generations to a very difficult future filled with much hardship.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 13, 2005

    The Long Rant

    ¿The Long Emergency¿ is long on hyperbole and short on references. You will not find a lot of intellectual heavy lifting here, but lots of apocalyptic ranting and raving by the author. The central tenet of the book is summed up nicely in a Scientific American article from March of 1998 (available on the internet) titled ¿The End of Cheap Oil¿ by Colin J. Campbell and Jean H. Laherrere. This article is thirteen pages and will spare the reader a couple hundred extra pages of pessimistic conjecture and antisocial harangues. Colin Campbell and Jean Laherrere are former oil exploration geologists turned consultants who, applying theorems of M. King Hubbert to world oil reserves, conclude that world oil production will peak soon and then slowly decline. I suggest cutting to the chase and skipping ¿The Long Emergency¿.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2005

    A Great Wakeup Call for the American People

    Wow, this book really opened my eyes. I live in suburbia, and experience first hand the fossil fuel dependent economy. Our nations resources are so misallocated, its not even funny. Globalism has destroyed our small towns and agriculture, and when the oil runs out to fuel globalism, we are screwed. If you are concerned for the future of our nation, this book is for you.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2005

    Surviving?

    The ideal that we are running short and the demand is going to cost us is not a pipe dream. What Mr. Kunstler is forcasting is going to happen and he is putting it into every day words that every one should understand. He may be missing a few components of the results, but the truth is going to hurt when it starts.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2005

    The times they are a-changing

    Torrents of pertinent information are presented in exciting, quotable language. Everyone should read this book. An absolute must-read for present and prospective suburbanites.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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