From Publishers Weekly
The indictment of suburbia and the car culture that the author presented in The Geography of Nowhere turns apocalyptic in this vigorous, if overwrought, jeremiad. Kunstler notes signs that global oil production has peaked and will soon dwindle, and argues in an eye-opening, although not entirely convincing, analysis that alternative energy sources cannot fill the gap, especially in transportation. The result will be a Dark Age in which "the center does not hold" and "all bets are off about civilization's future." Absent cheap oil, auto-dependent suburbs and big cities will collapse, along with industry and mechanized agriculture; serfdom and horse-drawn carts will stage a comeback; hunger will cause massive "die-back"; otherwise "impotent" governments will engineer "designer viruses" to cull the surplus population; and Asian pirates will plunder California. Kunstler takes a grim satisfaction in this prospect, which promises to settle his many grudges against modernity. A "dazed and crippled America," he hopes, will regroup around walkable, human-scale towns; organic local economies of small farmers and tradesmen will replace an alienating corporate globalism; strong bonds of social solidarity will be reforged; and our heedless, childish culture of consumerism will be forced to grow up. Kunstler's critique of contemporary society is caustic and scintillating as usual, but his prognostications strain credibility. (May)
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Kunstler established a writing career criticizing American suburbia (e.g., The Geography of Nowhere, 1993), and his animosity against his bete noire does not abate here. It's a wide--casting, statistics-studded ramble through energy production and technologies, world economic and political history, and climatology that culminates in predictions that the suburbs are doomed. His assertions are always self--confident, sometimes immodestly so, as when he dismisses in toto any possibility that the market, or technologists, will rescue contemporary civilization from a world of declining oil production. Discerning an imminent future of protracted socioeconomic crisis, Kunstler foresees the progressive dilapidation of subdivisions and strip malls, the depopulation of the American Southwest, and, amid a world at war over oil, military invasions of the West Coast; when the convulsion subsides, Americans will live in smaller places and eat locally grown food. Credit Kunstler with an energetic argument, but whether he has achieved his stated goal--waking up an ostensibly somnolent public--via his relentless and alarmist pessimism remains to be seen. Gilbert Taylor
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