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114 of 117 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quite Possibly the Most Lucid Treatise on Peak Oil
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...
Published on August 10, 2008 by Michael Gorsuch

versus
44 of 47 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Worthwhile Addition to Peak Oil Literature
Greer makes a convincing (and unemotional) case that peak oil will lead to a phased industrial decline rather than a sudden "fall off a cliff". His orientation is one of getting his readers to face the facts that 21st century life will have its peak oil-based challenges, and to engage in behavior that is constructive and adaptive to this new reality.

This is a...
Published on September 7, 2008 by paul_howard


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114 of 117 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quite Possibly the Most Lucid Treatise on Peak Oil, August 10, 2008
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This review is from: The Long Descent: A User's Guide to the End of the Industrial Age (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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55 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read for Everyone, August 29, 2008
This review is from: The Long Descent: A User's Guide to the End of the Industrial Age (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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47 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Long Descent is a short ascent, November 8, 2008
By 
Keith M. Webb (Banff, Alberta Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Long Descent: A User's Guide to the End of the Industrial Age (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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44 of 47 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Worthwhile Addition to Peak Oil Literature, September 7, 2008
By 
paul_howard "paul_howard" (San Ramon, CA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Long Descent: A User's Guide to the End of the Industrial Age (Paperback)
Greer makes a convincing (and unemotional) case that peak oil will lead to a phased industrial decline rather than a sudden "fall off a cliff". His orientation is one of getting his readers to face the facts that 21st century life will have its peak oil-based challenges, and to engage in behavior that is constructive and adaptive to this new reality.

This is a welcome correction to the "sudden apocalypse" view that other peak oil literature has espoused for some time now. It forces readers to take responsibility for fashioning their lives as best they can under the circumstances instead of throwing up their hands in despair. The book also puts our current dilemma in perspective by citing a few highly relevant facts and statistics rather than a deluge of less incisive ones. And it makes the ultracritical point that Americans have apparently chosen empire over democracy, so will end up with neither. All to the good -- in evaluating the book, that is.

What the book does not do is live up to its billing as a "user's guide to the end of the industrial age". The text is much more philosophical and historical than practical, and practical advice given does not extend very far. Also missing are frank treatment, or even much mention, of potential calamities such as oil wars among nuclear powers, global warming's coming phases, and human die-off as food demand exceeds supply. The more definitive literature covering those topics comes from Klare, Kunstler and Gelbspan.
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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some good insights; little practical value, September 22, 2009
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This review is from: The Long Descent: A User's Guide to the End of the Industrial Age (Paperback)
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. Number 1 on the list: Change your lightbulbs from incandescent to compact fluorescent. First, I can pretty much guarantee that everyone reading this book already has. Second, I don't believe this is going to help much in either averting or preparing for collapse. Other suggestions were conserving energy in various forms; also a no-brainer. What would be a more helpful suggestion in reducing your impact on the planet and preparing for the economic crisis might be, oh, switching to a vegetarian diet. About half of the list did make sense, and I will definitely be looking for classes to increase my knowledge of medicine and first aid. Most of the suggestions were common-sense things that anyone who believes in Peak Oil is already doing.

He spends pages discussing how some part from automobiles (catalytic converters or alternators or something) can be used to trickle-charge a battery (no word on where those will continue to come from; their lifespan is probably not indefinite) so you can run your fridge, yet he says not a word there about alternate low tech solutions to food preservation such as canning, drying, pickling, smoking, and digging a root cellar.

He spends more pages beating up the idea of creating a science "bible" that would contain all the scientific knowledge we have acquired to date because - get this - the most important scientific discovery is the scientific method itself. So the book idea is completely worthless because people would worship the book. Hey, here's an idea: how about INCLUDING AN EXPLANATION OF THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD IN THE BOOK!!!!!! Sheesh.

Much of the discussion is attacking the notion that there is only one of two stories we tell ourselves: the myth of progress or the myth of apocalypse. This is not true, of course, but the author gets to expend a great deal of verbiage on beating these straw men to death.

The section on spirituality was so ridiculous that I couldn't even make it through. I get the impression that the author has lived in liberal areas (like Ashland, Oregon) so long that he is completely out of touch with the Christian majority that runs things and is likely to try to establish a fascist theocracy during the first crisis. Druids and atheists are probably high on their hit list. Fundamentalism and its attendant science-deniers are responsible for a great deal of our current dilemma, and going in for more religion seems like a bizarre and unproductive idea, particularly in this context.

Bottom line: I recommend this as an addition to your Peak Oil reading list, but with many reservations. This book had so many problems I took to making notes in the margins out of pure annoyance. The author seems educated, intelligent and widely read, yet he draws strange conclusions from much of his knowledge.
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35 of 39 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The long and confusing read, December 5, 2009
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This review is from: The Long Descent: A User's Guide to the End of the Industrial Age (Paperback)
As I began reading this book I found it interesting how he drew on the past civilizations that have come and gone to show that it is a myth that our current unsustainable civilization will not in time suffer the same fate. Therein I diverge not from his three suppositions and beliefs that we are not headed towards cataclysmic demise or run for the hills and hide out but a third alternative, the return to a near agrarian society somewhat reminiscent of the 1900. He makes a strong claim throughout the book that this is the only way we will go when energy becomes costly and scare. I think a lot of thoughtful people would say there are a number of other ways to see the future.

In general I found the book repetitive and rambly. He said the same thing over and over again and most of his ideas seem divorced from the fact that the world, unlike when former civilizations ended, contains 4 billion people headed for 6 billion and we have already taken most of the natural resources that former civilizations, prior to the industrial age, did not have the technology to exploit or use once they got them out of the ground. The sheer number of people and the diminishing resources to include not only oil but fresh drinking water will bring about the changes faster than any other resource scarcity. I agree with him that we have got a lot of the iron and steel already above ground, say in Dubia!

Sometimes to listen to his list of things to do now before the pending end of oil seem very simplistic and would hardly serve even a small percentage of the people in the world, many of whom are already farmers. His belief that we will be making our own tools and riding bikes, growing our own food is similar to a total collapse of technology and the fall into the way people lived 200 years ago. Our current culture could not wrap their minds around this even if they were willing to try. In excluding the possibility for other alternatives such as innovation and taking some technologies to the next level, he is guilty of the same myopic thinking as the catastrophic and the circle the wagon endings.

I finally said enough about 70% of the way through the book as he had already said what he need to say in the first few chapters. Having spent my entire career as an engineer and working in the environmental and sustainable development areas for many years, I feel he lacks the hands on knowledge of living and working in the real world. There is a serious degree of detachment from what is and what is possible other than forging our own tools. I am a gardener and I know my tools will last another 50 years if I take care of them. Don't feel I need a black smith.

Key to moving past the peak oil period resides in several factors that he did not mention in the whole book. Our home is our basic place of shelter. Over the coming years we are going to have to make them not only more energy efficient with weather stripping but through a reduction in size, ceiling height, and orientation to the south for the heat of the sun in the winter. We will have to move out of the SUV culture and I am unclear as to what it is going to take for Americans to get over this. Every time we approach the cost of gasoline that the rest of the industrial world pays our government finds a way to bring the cost down and back into our big cars we go. It is more than just moving to the inner city where you work or ride a bicycle, it is about changing a culture that has grown up basically in the last 30 years feeling a sense of entitlement to all the natural resources we want
.
I could say much more from my own work experience but I feel that those that gave this book less than a stellar rating have already covered most of the subjects. One last thing, this man is clearly afraid and all his suggestions for survival sound very much like run for the hills! I did garner from his many references to making beer that he does allow for some of the finer things in life!
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A long descent? I'm not convinced., April 1, 2011
By 
Bob Nolin (Bethel Park, PA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Long Descent: A User's Guide to the End of the Industrial Age (Paperback)
*** May 2012 update: For a non-apocalyptical, optimistic look at the future, I highly recommend Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think. Greer would hate it, I suppose, since it describes how technology is the key to our survival and flourishing as a species. The sustainable future may be a lot closer than he imagines. Give it a read. It may just blow your mind. Or rock your world, depending on how old you are. : ) It certainly made me change my mind. What a relief to let go of the doom and gloom!

In a nutshell, the premise of "The Long Descent" is that, as we move away from Hubbert's Peak and fossil fuel production begins to dwindle, the Industrial Age will gradually unravel, leaving humanity where it was about 200 years ago. The "gradual" part is the key point Greer is trying to make here. As supplies contract, he argues, we'll scale back. Prices then go down, and we begin to use more...resources run low and prices spike...so we scale back again, over and over until we are finally, hundreds of years from now, de-Industrialized. We will then rebuild society in a sustainable fashion, once the fossil fuel party is over.

Greer's argument (that our slide down from the Peak will be bumpy but not Armageddon) is not well-supported. He points to how we dealt with rationing during WWII, how Cuba survived the loss of Russia's support, and so forth. He also points to how great civilizations of the past came to an end: usually when the resources ran out (slave labor, water, food), resulting in a decline of several centuries. No Armageddons in the historical record, therefore we won't face one either. If Greer ends up wrong and there is a cataclysm, it may be due to the myriad of disasters which are lurking in the near future. Peak Oil is just one of them. Water shortages. Overpopulation. Draught caused by global warming. Sea levels rising due to the same. Unprecedented weather disasters (ditto). Financial meltdown (not hard to imagine given recent events -- which occurred, to be fair, after this book was written). Civilizations of the past had much simpler circumstances, so how they ended has little bearing on our situation. There has never been a global economy like we have now. There is no precedent. To borrow Greer's metaphor, if the Mayans were a person falling out of a plane at 10,000 feet, we are falling from high Earth orbit, without a heat shield, let alone a parachute. Greer underplays the extreme and unprecedented interconnectedness of global society, giving a cursory nod to possible wars, some bad weather, meh, nothing we can't deal with. Another point of view is that the current world economy is basically a house of cards, and the least gust of wind could topple the whole thing.

Another point made by Greer is that most of us tend to either believe "The End is Near" or that "Technology will Save Us." As we run out of oil, either all hell will break loose or we'll find some new source of energy and carry on as before. Those are the only two possibilities we as a society are considering. The third possibility, that it will be a case of things falling apart here and there and adapting to the changes (a combination of the two extreme positions, in other words) is what he calls The Long Descent. I'd argue that many of us are not ardent Armageddonists or Progress-ists. We know that an adjustment is coming, and we hope it won't be too awful. We know things can't continue on like this much longer. So I don't think we're all as naive or blind as Mr. Greer thinks.

Most of the book is Greer's thoughts on how society has gone wrong, how we've misused this once in planetary-lifetime boon (fossil fuels), and so on. He rambles on about how screwy our beliefs can be, he criticizes Christianity and Buddhism, couch potato-ism, and on and on. Some of it is interesting, some of it I just plain disagree with, but I wonder what most of it is doing in a book ostensibly about the aftermath of Peak Oil. I guess Greer is hoping to wake us up so we make intelligent choices in the coming bumpy days. I get that. But his smug, wiser-than-thou tone really grates after a while.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Will It End with a Bang or a Whimper?, October 7, 2010
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This review is from: The Long Descent: A User's Guide to the End of the Industrial Age (Paperback)
The bubble of the fossil-fueled global economy will be history in less than a century, but will it pop with a bang or deflate with a whimper? "Archdruid" Greer makes a good case for a whimper scenario, citing the fall of past civilizations. He's talking a kind of staircase descent of the economy over a century or two, as crises lead to "demand destruction", allowing partial recoveries to follow, until there is a another crisis or until the economy has shrunk to the "carrying capacity" of the environment. It could end with total collapse, as with the Mayan's or Romans, or partial collapse, as with a series of Chinese empires.

Greer forsees us eventually returning to an agragrian society since renewables have relatively low net energy. That is, the sun and earth have already done most of the work for us with high grade fossil fuels. Renewables will only replace a small fraction of the fossil fuel bonanza, and more energy efficiency won't be anywhere enough to cover the difference.

However Greer does not acknowledge that these assertions come with a great deal of uncertainty. For example, a 2006 meta-analysis of over 40 empirical studies of net energy from wind power came up with an average of ratio of 25, albeit with extremely wide variation [...] This far exceeds the ratio of 5 to 10 commonly cited for coal and even the ratio for much non-conventional oil production. Moreover wind, hydro, and solar typically produce electricity. Electric motors are far more efficient than internal combustion engines with all their waste heat, and technology that operates on electricity is still undergoing rapid development.

Another major factor to consider is the vast amount of waste in current first world economies compared to real needs. The US could reduce its material throughput and energy usage by a factor of 4. Europe is already half way there. This would mean giving up a vast array of luxuries for the well-to-do and a bloated military budget while refocusing the savings on building infrastructure for a fossil-fuel from world. Greer is right that this won't be easy - US politics are still deeply embedded in the era of greed and growth. But the US is taking some baby steps in the right direction, and the politics will change when the power elite are finally forced to face the "predicament" of economic decline.

Of course greed could prevail, leading to war and other nasty stuff, but a "soft landing" is also possible. Though Greer rightly skewers backwoods survivalism, he asks us to prepare for 19th century-type farm community survivalism, as if no modern infrastructure would be left after the long descent. Yet at this point it would be far more productive to pursue a program of radical reduction in the usage of non-renewable resources and restoration of renewables to see if we can develop a sustainable human enterprise which, though vastly scaled back, would retain the most critical quality-of-life components of the modern world.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Catabolic collapse, December 19, 2012
This review is from: The Long Descent: A User's Guide to the End of the Industrial Age (Paperback)
As a recovering cornucopian, I consider "The Long Descent" to be one of the best books I've ever read. The author, John Michael Greer, is quite a character and has also penned books on ritual magic, UFOs and monsters. He is currently heading a Neo-Druid group and apparently lives in the Appalachians.

"The Long Descent" is a book about our present ecological crisis. It's one of those rare books that really speak for themselves. It includes chapters on our present predicament, the future decline and fall of modern civilization, what we can do to adapt, and various philosophical issues.

[PEAK OIL]

Greer says surprisingly little about climate change, perhaps because he believes that our situation is dire enough even if we assume that climate change is less dramatic than most scientists predict. The main problem is that modern civilization is unsustainable, being almost entirely dependent on cheap oil, gas, coal and uranium. These non-renewable resources are running out, oil in particular. Greer believes that "peak oil" was reached already around 2005.

During the 1970's, Western civilization did take important steps towards sustainability. These gains were eradicated almost overnight when new oil fields were discovered in Alaska and the North Sea around 1980. By deliberately flooding the markets with new oil, British and American interests made the oil prices crash, effectively forcing all "Green" initiatives into bankruptcy (ironically, nuclear energy was also badly hit by the oil bonanza). After 30 lost years of uncontrolled oil-dependency, peak oil has finally arrived, finding our society more or less unprepared for the consequences.

Greer doesn't believe that oil can be replaced. Coal, gas and uranium are being exploited at a breakneck speed. Renewable energy sources can't make up for the future losses of energy when oil becomes scarcer. Indeed, many renewables are dependent on the oil economy: crops destined to become biofuel need pesticides made of oil, solar cells are manufactured in industrial plants out of material transported from mines - all of which takes oil to function, and so on. (Of course, nuclear power plants are also dependent on oil, since they can't be built outside an oil-powered economy. Same thing with geo-engineering, for those who believe that can save us from climate change.) Greer's point is that once oil is gone, a large part of the energy propping up our way of life will be gone, too - forever. The idea that we can save our high standard of living by some alternative energy is a mirage.

[GRADUAL DECLINE, PROGRESS OR APOCALYPSE]

Despite the above, Greer doesn't believe in a grand, apocalyptic collapse of Civilization. Rather, his perspective is one of "catabolic collapse", a gradual decline that may take several centuries. The decline will be chaotic, violent and tragic, but it will not be "the end of the world" in any doomsday sense. Indeed, the long descent might even be interspersed with periods of relative stability (although at a lower level than before the crisis). Ironically, the prices of the remaining oil will fluctuate as before, with oil sometimes becoming *cheaper* due to the inability of customers to pay higher prices. The periods of relatively cheap oil will be misinterpreted by many people that the crisis is over, but the descent is impossible to stop. Greer predicts that our civilization will be gone by 2200.

Of course, "descent" is a relative terms, and so is "collapse". Greer uses post-Communist Russia as an example of what could happen in the rest of the world. Most people, certainly most Russians, would see the sad spectacle under Yeltsin as a major collapse! Greer's point, however, is that Russia as a nation-state survived the collapse and later managed to stabilize itself under Putin. However, the long term trend is still negative, such as the country's declining population.

Greer wages a kind of two-front war in his book, against both the typical Western idea of unlimited, eternal Progress and the myth of apocalypse. He points out that both these notions are deeply rooted in the Western psyche. The myth of apocalypse comes from Christianity, more specifically premillennialist Christianity. In the modern world, it's often secularized. The myth of progress arguably also comes from Christianity, perhaps via postmillennialism, and has also been secularized by the moderns. The two myths can even be combined, as they have been in Marxism, where a progressive evolution of society culminates in a violent, revolutionary "apocalypse" and ends with a communist "millennium". (The similarities between Communism and religion are striking, and often border on parody - I mean, Lenin's mausoleum?)

To Greer, there is no "progress" in human history before the discovery that oil can be used to power machines. Only fossil fuel energy made it possible to construct the industrial world, not "progress" or "ingenuity" per se. The steam engine and other machines were invented already during antiquity. Humans have always been inquisitive, ingenuous creatures but on a planet with no oil, we wouldn't get pass an 18th century situation. Some limits really are absolute. However, the believers in a swift apocalypse are also in for a good whipping. So far, all apocalyptic prophecies have been proven wrong. World history has its ups and downs, obviously, but nothing similar to an "apocalypse". This is a criticism of both traditional Christianity and of various secular or New Age-related doomsday scenarios: survivalism, Y2K and (I suppose) 2012. Since Greer lives in the mountains and believes our civilization will inevitably end, it's quite interesting that he so sharply criticize survivalism, lifeboat communities, and similar notions. (I admit that my doomer side thinks he may be too optimistic!)

Greer's attack on conspiracy theory is also worth a few comments. He regards conspiracy thinking as another way of remaining in denial concerning our present predicament. In a paradoxical way, conspiracy theories are both arguments for utter passivity, and at the same time arguments for potential unlimited power. Since the conspirators (Illuminati, alien lizards or whatever) are so strong, there is nothing I can do, I don't have to change, and the most important thing is simply to expose the conspiracy (perhaps on the web). On the other hand, since the conspirators are all-powerful, that means the world can be controlled - if we get rid of them, *we* can be in complete control. Greer mentions that David Icke's followers regard the material world with all its annoying limits as an illusion created by the conspirators. An even better example would be Steven Greer (no relation to the author), who claims that benign aliens will soon land and give us all the free energy we need, if we can only bypass the conspirators... In this form, conspiracy theory is a warped form of cornucopianism.

[RESILIENT COMMUNITIES, REALPOLITIK AND RELIGION]

What are John Michael Greer's solutions to our present predicament? On one level, he doesn't offer any - a predicament, by his definition, *can't* be solved. It can only be endured. On another level, I suppose Greer's proposals could be seen as "solutions". It all depends on what you expect from a solution! Greer's bottom line is to build resilient, local, decentralized communities with their own businesses, employment opportunities, perhaps even money. Centralized insurance agencies will be replaced by something similar to old-time Freemasons or Odd Fellows, whose members took care of each other in times of need. Says the author: "A community needs local organization. A community needs a core of people who know how to do without fossil fuel inputs. A community needs to be able to meet basic human requirements". The ideal size of such a community seems to be a medium-sized town surrounded by farmland. Large cities will gradually become unsustainable in the post-peak future, while small survivalist enclaves are too tempting targets for roaming bandits. While this sounds like a livable "utopia", Greer is coldly realistic on many other points: poverty, blackouts, epidemics and social instability will increase. In the countryside, so will brigandage. Many of the present nation-states will eventually disappear. While the author prefers U.S.-style democracy (the kind in the constitution), he believes that authoritarian regimes will become more common in the future, since no wing of the establishment will be able to provide "pork" for the electorate. (Greer regards liberal democracy as a compromise between different special interest groups, a compromise made possible only by abundant resources.)

Since the author is a Neo-Druid, he devotes an entire chapter of "The Long Descent" to spirituality. Greer suspects that both wings of Protestantism will disappear during the crises ahead, since both liberals and conservatives/fundamentalists have tied themselves too hard to "the world of history and political affairs" (i.e. the present state of affairs). Catholicism will also be in for a rough ride, since its superstructure needs abundant resources to thrive. However, a more frugal and monastic form of Catholicism might even become the dominant religion of the future. Buddhism is worth watching as well, and there might also be some wild cards. Humbly, the author doesn't believe that his own Neo-Druid tradition will become a major player in the future!

[FINAL WORDS]

I can't say I *liked* what I read in "The Long Descent". I feel quite comfortable wrapped inside the Swedish welfare state, thank you. At the same time, it's difficult to argue against its conclusions (I tried for a couple of years, believe me). If anything, JMG might be a bit too optimistic. In his scenario, there might still be a fortified, communitarian town with an enlightened Buddhist leadership and functioning sewage system somewhere where we could take shelter from the Huns. In Maryland, perhaps? But what would *really* happen if the Western world (and the Chinese middle classes) would suddenly fall down to 1991 Russian levels, with the rest of the world becoming something akin to Dante's Inferno?

Who knows.

Still, "The Long Descent" deserves all its five stars. And yes, in a sense, this book really did save my mind from catabolic collapse. But that, dear friends, is another story entirely... ;-)
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More than Just Peak Oil: A Glimpse into the Future, October 26, 2008
By 
Christopher Warnock (Iowa City, IA, United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Long Descent: A User's Guide to the End of the Industrial Age (Paperback)
While John Michael Greer's "The Long Descent" does indeed do an excellent job of explaining the concept of peak oil, i.e. that the world's production of fossil fuels has, or is about to begin declining, Greer goes far beyond the usual, mostly technological and scientific approaches. In fact, Greer clearly and convincingly explains that peak oil and the dependence on cheap fossils fuels is not a problem, ie, there is no "solution", but rather a predicament that simply must be accepted and dealt with.

Greer brilliantly exposes the true roots of the dilemma of modern industrial civilization which lie in culture and social organization. Greer is even able to step back from the modern materialistic/scientific world view in order to understand the deep historical dynamics that now bedevil contemporary civilization.

Greer's writing is always logical, clear and straightforward, giving a very lucid explanation of an area that is often difficult to think about due to our shared and usually unconscious cultural assumptions. Through the use of concrete data, historical analogies and simple logic, Greer's exposition of the causes, results and subsequent effects of the combination of the materialistic worldview of the Enlightenment and cheap fossil fuels is coherent and compelling.

Greer's views have had both an intellectual and practical effect on me personally. He has changed my thinking on likely course of the future for contemporary civilization. I even moved to a small city in the Midwest from a huge Eastern conurbation based on his writings! While I agree that the end of industrial civilization cannot be solved, Greer does offer extremely useful guidance for personal and community action to assist in ameliorating the inevitable difficulties of "the Long Descent"
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The Long Descent: A User's Guide to the End of the Industrial Age
The Long Descent: A User's Guide to the End of the Industrial Age by John Michael Greer (Paperback - September 1, 2008)
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