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Powerdown: Options and Actions for a Post-Carbon World Paperback – September 1, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

Review

If the US continues with current policies, the next decades will be marked by war, economic collapse, and environmental catastrophe. Resource depletion and population pressures are about to catch up with us, and no one is prepared. The political élites, especially in the US, are incapable of dealing with the situation, and have in mind a punishing game of .Last One Standing..

The alternative is .Powerdown,. a strategy that will require tremendous effort and economic sacrifice in order to reduce per-capita resource usage in wealthy countries, develop alternative energy sources, distribute resources more equitably, and reduce the human population humanely but systematically over time. While civil society organizations push for a mild version of this, the vast majority of the world's people are in the dark, not understanding the challenges ahead, nor the options realistically available.

Powerdown speaks frankly to these dilemmas. Avoiding cynicism and despair, it begins with an overview of the likely impacts of oil and natural gas depletion and then outlines four options for industrial societies during the next decades:

  • Last One Standing: the path of competition for remaining resources;
  • Powerdown: the path of cooperation, conservation, and sharing;
  • Waiting for a Magic Elixir: wishful thinking, false hopes, and denial;
  • Building Lifeboats: the path of community solidarity and preservation.

Finally, the book explores how three important groups within global society-the power élites, the opposition to the élites (the antiwar and anti-globalization movements, et al: the .Other Superpower.), and ordinary people-are likely to respond to these four options. Timely, accessible and eloquent, Powerdown is crucial reading for our times.

Listen to an interview with Richard Heinberg from WRPI.

(2004-04-20)

About the Author

Richard Heinberg is widely acknowledged as one of the world's foremost Peak Oil educators. A journalist, educator, editor, lecturer, and a Core Faculty member of New College of California where he teaches a program on "Culture, Ecology and Sustainable Community, he is the author of six previous books including The Party's Over and Powerdown.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: New Society Publishers (September 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0865715106
  • ISBN-13: 978-0865715103
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,058,445 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Richard Heinberg is the author of eleven books including:

Snake Oil: How Fracking's False Promise of Plenty Imperils Our Future (2013)
The End of Growth: Adapting to our New Economic Reality (2011)
Blackout: Coal, Climate, and the Last Energy Crisis (2009)
Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Declines (2007)
The Oil Depletion Protocol: A Plan to Avert Oil Wars, Terrorism and Economic Collapse (2006)
Powerdown: Options and Actions for a Post-Carbon World (2004)
The Party's Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies (2003)

He is Senior Fellow-in-Residence of the Institute and is widely regarded as one of the world's foremost Peak Oil educators. He has authored scores of essays and articles that have appeared in such journals as Nature, The Ecologist, The American Prospect, Public Policy Research, Quarterly Review, Z Magazine, Resurgence, The Futurist, European Business Review, Earth Island Journal, Yes!, Pacific Ecologist, and The Sun; and on web sites such as Alternet.org, EnergyBulletin.net, TheOilDrum.com, ProjectCensored.com, and Counterpunch.com.

He has appeared in many film and television documentaries, including Leonardo DiCaprio's 11th Hour, and is a recipient of the M. King Hubbert Award for Excellence in Energy Education.

More information about Richard can be found on his website: richardheinberg.com

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

181 of 195 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Spoering on October 11, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is Richard Heinberg's second book on the oil depletion problem, his first was THE PARTY'S OVER, you probably should read that book before this one, to get an overview of the enormous problem facing us in the near future. In this latest volume Heinberg writes much more about the underlying politics of the depletion scenario, and it is'nt a pretty one. At one time, when it was said that the war in Iraq was really about oil I did'nt believe it, or perhaps it was one of the minor side issues of the war. But Heinberg makes a case for it. After Bush declared "mission accomplished" (a laugh) his group only allowed primarily American companies, with a few allied companies, to work in Iraq. And it does'nt take much imagination to see that, as the Iraqi oil infrastructure is repaired (attempted), American oil companies will get most of the work. In a global free market economy the highest bidder would get Iraqi oil, but in a severe oil shortage Uncle Sam may declare: that since we "fixed" the system in Iraq the USA gets the oil...Iraqis are'nt stupid, they see this as a real possibility, that is perhaps one reason they sabotage oil pipelines continuously. As Heinberg writes, Bush and his followers are incompetent, with their belligerent foreign policy, but Heinberg does give Bush credit for recognizing the looming oil depletion problem on our horizon. Heinberg writes in detail of all of this, saying that instead of using the war to solve this problem we should instead be cooperating with other countries and spending the vast sums of money we are wasting on the war on alternate energy sources.Read more ›
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74 of 78 people found the following review helpful By Robert David STEELE Vivas HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on October 30, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a thoughtfully devised book that is about more than just oil. It reads like an elegant personalized tutorial in which the author presents the big picture, the current condition, four competing options, and a recommendation for a personal exit strategy. This book is quite literally priceless if you pay attention to the lesson.

The author puts the end of cheap oil in the larger context of other depleting resources (water, ocean fisheries, agricultural resources such as topsoil); population growth; declining food production, global climate change and ecocide; unsustainable levels of US debt; and international political instability.

The author is severely critical of all politicians in general, and brutally scornful of the neo-conservatives that have captured the Bush-Cheney-Halliburton-Exxon Administration (Enron being an invisible partner now). He actually itemizes, rather effectively (a half page for each of the following), what Bush-Cheney have done in eight years that is against the interests of the Republic. According to the author and his sources, they have 1) Stolen an election; 2) placed convicted felons and human-rights violators in positions of power; 3) facilitated 9/11, blocking its prevention, as a means of justifying the war on Iraq and a consolidation of domestic police power; 4) Lied to the American people, the UN, and other publics about Iraq, a war of choice not need; 5) Undermined international law; 5) applied indiscriminate force against civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq, killing tens if not hundreds of thousands; and 6) subverted the US Constitution.
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45 of 48 people found the following review helpful By J. B. Campbell on August 23, 2004
Format: Paperback
I've been following the peak oil debate for several years and generally agree with most of its proponents. Still, I've remained on the fence about exactly how to deal with it. Powerdown moved me off the fence.

I think what makes this book special is that the author frames peak oil within the context of a larger issue, namely, the problem and effects of overpopulation. By addressing peak oil in that manner, he's able to draw together other developing threats, showing their interrelationship and, by extension, offering a clearer and more comprehensive perspective on our relationship to the world.

Despite the troubling nature of the subject matter, it's an invigorating read. That's due to good writing and the author's clear explanations of the various subjects he weaves together. Primarily, though, he shows that despite the immediacy of our situation, hope remains. And even if we fail collectively, the proactive individual need not suffer as well.

Although the book's opening argument is simple and straightforward - through unchecked growth we've pushed humanity and the planet to the breaking point - it covers more than just overpopulation and resource depletion, e.g., politics, culture, economics, and ecology. We're facing breakdown in each of these areas. Peak oil is simply leading the charge.

Coming to terms with the convergence of these crises will define humanity's turning point from adolescence to maturity. Powerdown tells us how we got here and why - and most importantly, what our options are. Once we have a clear understanding of the broader issues underlying peak oil, we can see it's not just another doomsday prediction, nor is it the singular threat to our continued growth. It is an opportunity, if we allow it to be. It is the harbinger of our next evolutionary leap.
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