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The Long Descent: A User's Guide to the End of the Industrial Age Paperback – September 1, 2008

4.2 out of 5 stars 48 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Americans are expressing deep concern about US dependence on petroleum, rising energy prices and the threat of climate change. Unlike the energy crisis of the 1970s, however, there is a lurking fear that, now, the times are different and the crisis may not easily be resolved.

The Long Descent examines the basis of such fear through three core themes:

  • Industrial society is following the same well-worn path that has led other civilizations into decline, a path involving a much slower and more complex transformation than the sudden catastrophes imagined by so many social critics today.
  • The roots of the crisis lie in the cultural stories that shape the way we understand the world. Since problems cannot be solved with the same thinking that created thyem, these ways of thinking need to be replaced with others better suited to the needs of our time.
  • It is too late for massive programs for top-down change; the change must come from individuals.

Hope exists in actions that range from taking up a handicraft or adopting an "obsolete" technology, through planting an organic vegetable garden, taking charge of your own health care or spirituality, and building community.

Focusing eloquently on constructive adaptation to massive change, this book will have wide appeal.

(2008-05-07)

About the Author

John Michael Greer is a certified Master Conserver, organic gardener and scholar of ecological history. His widely-cited blog, The Archdruid Report, deals with peak oil. He is the author of The Long Descent and lives in Ashland, Oregon.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: New Society Publishers; 1St Edition edition (September 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0865716099
  • ISBN-13: 978-0865716094
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #45,483 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Michael Gorsuch on August 10, 2008
Format: Paperback
From start to finish, this book is both practical and inspirational. He begins with a clear explanation of our energy predicament, and makes the novel claim that this is not a problem to solve - it is a situation that we must adapt to. Cheap, abundant energy is slowly becoming a thing of the past, and we must make the best of what we have.

The author does an excellent job of disarming two common responses to Peak Oil by bringing their myths to the surface: the myth of progress and the myth of apocalypse. The point is made that allowing one single narrative to rule over your identity is dangerous. Instead, we must look to history to see how past civilizations have fallen and understand that this is a natural process and that we are not exempt. Civilization does not collapse over night - it is better to recognize that it is a gradual stepping down that takes place over the course of a couple hundred years. It won't be great, but it doesn't have to be Armageddon either.

After making sure that the reader is clear on these essential points, Greer then proceeds to offer suggestions as to how we can begin preparing for the gradual downslope. As I think is proper, he makes it very clear that these changes have to originate from the individual. It is too late to expect a government solution to the problem, and only individuals and communities can take action now.

All in all, this is the best book I have read on this topic. It is a sober and sane take on where we certainly seem to be heading.
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Format: Paperback
John Michael Greer's new book, The Long Descent - A User's Guide to the End of the Industrial Age may very well be his most important literary contribution to date. While well known for his many books on ritual magic, esotericism, and neo-paganism, it is here, in The Long Descent that Greer not only reaches his largest audience to date, but also demonstrates his intellectual prowess to its fullest addressing the single most important predicament facing civilization to day, and does so, with amazing clarity and simplicity.

For those unfamiliar with the premise of Peak Oil and its impact on The Way of Life As We Know It, this book is a fine introduction, detailed, but not technical, easy to understand without being watered down. As environmental issues continue to attract the attention of more people, this is a fine book to give as an introduction to this critical topic. However, unlike many books on the subject, Greer is surprisingly upbeat about what each of us can do as individuals to make the bumpy ride through what he and others see as the inevitable decline of industrial societies easier. What is most impressive about Greer's suggestions is their common sense approach - if you adopt them and Peak Oil is a reality and the world goes down the slow (or quick) decline into an agrarian culture again you will be better off. If he is wrong, then you will not have wasted anything, and your life will be simpler, more enjoyable, and under your own control. Either way, you come out ahead.
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Format: Paperback
The Long Descent is a Short Ascent

For several years, I have been seeking a guidebook to our immanent future of less oil and therefore less wealth. Of the over one dozen books that I've studied, Greer's is the clearest.

His synthesis of peak oil, the demise of previous empires and the mythological narratives that shape our thoughts succeeds because he gets past simple linear extrapolations from the present into the future. The Long Descent ascends out of the morass of narratives that either promise a glorious future or, a looming apocalypse.

This less a practical guide to the future than an illumination of a path through a potentially darker age ahead. Occasionally, I have been so impressed by a book that I buy a second copy to give away. This time I have ordered four copies of the Long Descent.
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Greer's point of view that peak oil (along with other factors) will lead to a slow "stairstep" type of decline of civilization, rather than a sudden plunge from modern civilization to some kind of primitive anarchy is a welcome addition to the Peak Oil discussion. He presents a very good case for this scenario, and I think he is right on.

However, while he admits that there will be periods of 25 years or so where there is a "mini-collapse" of the status quo which will result in famine, political chaos, etc., he doesn't seem to really understand what that might be like. He scoffs at the idea that there may be armed bands of criminals roving the countryside, but at the same time argues that people living in the country will be targets of, well, armed bands of criminals. He admits that the food supply will probably be disrupted, yet he sneers at survivalists who advocate stockpiling food in preparation. It's true that you won't be able to make it through 25 years or so of disruption, but you'd be stupid not to prepare as best you can to cushion your descent. True, others may desire your stockpile, but perhaps you could, well, share, you know?

He laughs at people who stockpile gold, citing some Roman excavations of gold caches from the fall of the Roman Empire, but apparently doesn't realize that, while gold won't feed you in times of an outright famine, gold has been and probably always will be of value to humans. Sure there are unused caches of gold, but what you don't find is the stockpiles of gold of those people who were better prepared, made it through the down time, and had resources to buy land and rebuild after the crisis was past.

A number of suggestions for preparation for the coming catastrophe are completely laughable.
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