The Long Emergency: Surviving the Converging Catastrophes of the 21st Century

From one of our most exciting thinkers, the most prescient and engaging look at the problems we face since Alvin Toffler's Future Shock.

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.

The last two hundred years have seen the greatest explosion of progress and wealth in the history of mankind. But the oil age 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. As a result of artificially cheap fossil-fuel energy we have developed global models of industry, commerce, food production, and finance that will collapse. The Long Emergency tells us just what to expect after we pass the tipping point of global peak oil production and the honeymoon of affordable energy is over, preparing us for economic, political, and social changes of an unimaginable scale.

Are we laboring under a Jiminy Cricket syndrome when we tell ourselves that alternative means of energy are just a few years away? Even once they are developed, will they ever be able to sustain us in the way that fossil fuels once did? What will happen when our current plagues of global warming, epidemic disease, and overpopulation collide to exacerbate the end of the oil age? Will the new global economy be able to persevere, or will we be forced to revert to the more agrarian, localized economy we once knew? Could corporations like Wal-Mart and McDonald's, built on the premise of cheap transportation, become a thing of the past? Will the misguided experiment of suburbia — considered a birthright and a reality by millions of Americans — collapse when the car culture becomes obsolete?

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.

Warnings from The Long Emergency:

  • The oil age began in 1859 and peaked in 1970.
  • The oil endowment allowed us to use the stored energy of millions of years of sunlight. Unfortunately the fossilfuel honeymoon is almost over.
  • It has been estimated that without coal, oil, or natural gas, it would take several planets just like Earth to support the current number of humans living.
  • World oil discovery peaked in the 1960s. Since 1999, the discovery of large oil and gas fields has collapsed: sixteen in 2000, eight in 2001, three in 2002, and none in 2003.
  • There are half a billion cars and trucks currently in use around the world.
  • We will not be rescued by the wished-for hydrogen economy. Our daily enjoyment of oil and gas has given us the energy equivalent of three hundred slaves per person in the industrialized nations. No combination of alternative energies will permit us to continue living the way we do, or even close to it.
  • All the major systems that depend on oil, including manufacturing, trade, transportation, agriculture, and the financial markets that serve them, will begin to destabilize. The boundaries between politics, economics, and collective paranoia will dissolve.
Kunstler, J.H.
Atlantic Monthly Press

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