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The Long Descent: A User's Guide to the End of the Industrial Age Paperback – September 1, 2008
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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)
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Civilizations rise and fall – the Roman Empire, the Mayans, the British colonial empire – and now it’s our turn. Consider the author’s blunt term, “a post-industrial society. Read morePublished 15 months ago by John C. Stickler
Greer not only gives a clear-eyed look at our current and future energy and geopolitical situations, but he also gives us a sense of the culture and spirituality that will be... Read morePublished 17 months ago by Devon Porter
If you are new to Greer here is where you should start. JMG (as he is affectionately referred to on the comments section of his blog) is a thinker in the Peak Oil/End of Empire... Read morePublished 18 months ago by A. Valterra
Greer, as is common, presents an anthropocentric view of some aspects of what is happening to our civilization. Read morePublished 20 months ago by Denis Frith
Gee, why can't this self-proclaimed “Archdruid” – whatever *that* might be – get a grip, cheer up and realize that it's different this time? Read morePublished on March 21, 2014 by Ashtar Command
John Michael Greer is my new favorite author. I started reading this a couple days after starting another book, and quickly discovered that Greer is a superior author with a... Read morePublished on March 3, 2014 by Rick LeBeau
An important topic explored concisely. Greer's historical perspectives on current issues are well worth considering. Read morePublished on January 12, 2014 by Robert J Suchanek
This is a welcome book denouncing the more extreme but very common contradictory views that either technological progress will solve all problems or that environmental and social... Read morePublished on January 5, 2014 by Dr. Lionel
Anyone who follows Greer's blog will find this book a kind of summation of his extensive and well structured discussions online. Read morePublished on November 14, 2013 by Kamau5