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

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Overview


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

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Overview


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.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
According to this fervent jeremiad, the best has already been. Frequent New York Times contributor James Howard Kunstler maintains that the Age of Oil is steadily dripping to a close, exposing the world to perils that we are ill prepared to counter. The Long Emergency dismisses scenarios of emergent alternative energy sources and ticks off a list of harrowing impending disasters. A riveting, controversial wake-up call.
From the Publisher

“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

“This is a frightening and important book.” —Time Out Chicago

“If you give a damn, you should read this book.” —Colin Tudge, The Independent

“What sets The Long Emergency apart…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. Kunstler is such a compelling and sometimes eloquent writer that the book is hard to put down.” –American Scientist

“[A] popular blueprint for surviving the end of oil.” —Paul Greenberg, The New York Times Book Review

“Funny, irreverent, and blunt.” –The Globe and Mail

“An especial strength of this book is its break with some of the more pernicious strands in the contemporary left, specifically the left’s kneejerk rejection of America acting militarily in its national interest. . . . There are hints of Malthus here, and of Oswald Spangler’s Decline of the West as well. Mr. Kunstler’s book is a jeremiad, driven by authorial presence. Pithy, entertaining descriptions of historical phenomena like the Soviet Union . . . enliven the text, allowing the veteran commentator to expound on themes that might read leaden by a less facile wordsmith. . . . The book succeeds as an accessible primer to a looming crisis that could end the American way of life.” —A.G. Gancarski, Washington Times

“Kunstler is an amusing and engaging observer and polemicist, and the terrain he surveys is unforgiving and perilous.” —Robert Birnbaum, The Morning News

“Novelist and journalist James Howard Kunstler is the leading popular voice of peak oil, the theory that says we have gone through more than half the world’s supply of this much-needed resource. Kunstler’s regular Monday morning posts foretell a world beset by oil shortages, which he believes will lead to everything from financial shenanigans (sound familiar?) to food riots, not to mention attacks on the wealthy, abandoned suburban housing developments and a forced return to small-town living.” —Helaine Olen, Portfolio

“Kunstler displays a kind of macabre wit about the unpleasantness and strife that await us all. . . . His assertions have a neat way of doubling back to anticipate your critiques. 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

“Kunstler is America’s version of an Old Testament prophet, a stinging social critic who warns of dark days ahead if we do not change the way we live.” —Brian Kaller, Pulse

“Kunstler’s book was shockingly readable and engaging….He covers a vast array of topics…I felt like I’d taken a crash course on Big Oil, Global Warming, and Geopolitics just to name a few.”—Romi Lassally, Huffington Post

“James Howard Kunstler’s The Long Emergency may be destined to become the Dante’s Inferno of the twenty-first century. It graphically depicts the horrific punishments that lie ahead for Americans for more than a century of sinful consumption and sprawling communities, fueled by the profligate use of cheap oil and gas. Its 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

“If you give a damn, you should read this book.” —Colin Tudge, The Independent (UK)

“Kunstler concentrates on the continuing environmental instability and the political consequences of the fuel cessation in equal bouts and this makes for a well rounded argument.” —Buzz (UK)

“In the annals of doomsday literature . . . The Long Emergency is destined to become the new standard. . . . Demands frank consideration of what up to now has been unthinkable: that the ascendancy of the human race might have been a temporary phenomenon. . . . This case has been made before, but here it is made powerfully and articulately, with no apology and no hint of reprieve. . . . The Long Emergency represents a ‘wake-up call’ in the same sense that a hand grenade tossed through your bedroom window might serve as an alarm clock. The book is stark and frightening. Read it soon.” —Jim Charlier, Daily Camera

“A shrewd and engaging social commentator.” —Sierra Atlantic

“Adds a relentless, scary, and entertaining voice to the rising alarm about life after the cheap oil is gone. . . . The internal logic of the argument is persuasive, and one reads . . . the book with white knuckles.” —Bryant Urstadt, technologyreview.com

“Authoritative and eye-opening. His predictions for the future make for a page-turning ‘Brave New World.’” —T-D (London)

“James Howard Kunstler has given us, with his usual engaging wit and verve, a new kind of post-apocalypse scenario. Instead of the nuclear or ice-age wasteland of our earlier imaginings, he has depicted with detailed extrapolation the civilization of the United States after the oil runs out and a great economic collapse occurs. It is a strangely arcadian vision, like the agrarian America that Jefferson, Calhoun, and the Southern Agrarians dreamed of. But Kunstler has fleshed it out with delightful quirky insights and provided our science fiction writers with a fresh mise-en-scene.” —Frederick Turner, author of The New World and The Culture of Hope

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: 9780802142498
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/2/2006
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 379,257
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.00 (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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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • 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 November 13, 2007

    Thought Provoking

    This book lays out scenarios of the future that I wish everyone considered. I think it is a widely accepted fact that there is a finite amount of oil on the Earth, and we should anticipate and prepare for a point where this supply fails to meet the demand. This book explores this issue of oil depletion, and tries to paint what a future without abundant oil might look like. Along the way you might pick up a few ideas about what you can do to prepare for such a future.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 21, 2006

    An Embarrassment

    Others have characterized this book as an overwrought jeremiad. Sad, but true. The text is almost guaranteed to impose a 'Chicken Little' patina on concerns about peak oil and/or global warning. It could not be more strident or self-righteous if it were coauthored Limbaugh and O'Reilly. It is surprisingly hard to give a faithful characterization of a rant - rants tend to be uneven. For example, there are pages of useful text describing methods used to study climate history (ice cores from Greenland). Then comes a statement that the last 100,000 years has been a climatic rollercoaster. You might think that this would provoke a statement of how difficult it is to forecast weather reliably, and the further difficulty of getting a robust read humanity's contribution to that variation. But no, we are simply treated to a statement that greenhouse gases will make everything 'worse'. The author repeatedly embarrasses himself with technical discussions that wind up unconnected to the conclusion he wants to draw. It is 'lawyerly', in the sense that 'winning the argument' is all-important while 'mechanisms' are mere trivialities. There are lots of problems with this book and other reviews do a good job of identifying them. If you think (as I do) that geological constraints on oil production might have serious repercussions for our economy then there are much better sources for information (see 'titles enjoyed', below). I don't think that people need to waste energy on this, an SUV of a jeremiad.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 19, 2013

    I don't understand why people still cling to Julian Simon as a r

    I don't understand why people still cling to Julian Simon as a refutation of limits. We live in a real and finite world. I was deeply affected by Kunstler's analysis of what will NOT be able to replace oil. I hear people talking blithely about hydrogen fuel cells. Used to feel like it might be a solution but no more.

    Several people have objected to this book  because it's pessimistic and dark. I would use the words &quot;realistic&quot; and &quot;plausible.&quot; Just because we can't imagine the consequences of less to no oil doesn't mean that it can't happen.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 19, 2012

    Anonymous

    A bleak outlook indeed. At 65 I may be blessed and miss the worst, but wonder about my children and grandchildren. Hope they hang on to our acreage when we are gone.

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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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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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