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

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

4.7 3
by James Howard Kunstler
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

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.

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.

Editorial Reviews

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.
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.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781555846701
Publisher:
Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date:
12/01/2007
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
336
Sales rank:
136,992
File size:
2 MB

Meet the Author

James Howard Kunstler was born in New York City in 1948. He is the author of two non-fiction books, The Geography of Nowhere and Home From Nowhere, and nine novels including Maggie Darling, The Halloween Ball and An Embarrassment of Riches. He has been a regular contributor to the New York Times Sunday Magazine and Op-Ed page, where he has written on environmental and economic issues.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
tahoevalleylines More than 1 year ago
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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
desmodia More than 1 year ago
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 "realistic" and "plausible." Just because we can't imagine the consequences of less to no oil doesn't mean that it can't happen.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago