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The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century [Paperback]

James Howard Kunstler
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (307 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 2, 2006
A controversial hit that sparked debate among businessmen, environmentalists, and bloggers, The Long Emergency by James Howard Kunstler is an eye-opening look at the unprecedented challenges we face in the years ahead, as oil runs out and the global systems built on it are forced to change radically.

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Editorial Reviews

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)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

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
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; 1St Edition edition (March 2, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802142494
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802142498
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (307 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #254,334 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews
415 of 438 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
This is a brilliant piece of work, indeed so compelling that after glancing at it over morning coffee I set aside a work day and simply read the book. I take away one star because there is no index, no bibliography, and the author is very poor about crediting his sources. On page 163, for example, his observations about 300 Chinese cities being water-stressed, and about the Aral Sea disappearing, appear to have come directly from Marq de Villier's superb book on Water: The Fate of Our Most Precious Resource but without attribution. This should have been footnoted.

Having said that, I consider the book itself, despite its run-on Op-Ed character, to be a tour de force that is very logically put forward. Indeed, although I have seen allusions elsewhere, this is the first place that I have seen such a thorough denunciation of how cheap oil underlies everything else including suburbia and Wal-Mart cf. Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price. I am also quite impressed by the author's logical discourse on how communities have sacrificed their future coherence and sustainability for the sake of a few dollars savings on Wal-Mart products.

There is a great deal in the book that is covered more ably and in more detail by the other 600+ books I have reviewed at Amazon, and indeed, replicates much of what I write about in
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175 of 189 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and eye-opening, but too dire October 29, 2005
Format:Hardcover
Here is the argument that novelist James Howard Kunstler presents in this most engaging narrative:

(1) We have a "one-time endowment of concentrated, stored solar energy"--i.e., oil.

(2) At this point in history, give or take a few years, most of that stored solar energy will be gone. ("Peak oil" is upon us.)

(3) The unprecedented growth of our society is predicated upon cheap energy and needs a continued supply of it to maintain itself.

(4) That growth consists largely of a gigantic highway and road superstructure with massive suburban developments in places that cannot sustain their populations without cheap oil ("nobody walks in L.A.")

(5) This land use structure is particularly and exclusively designed for the machines of cheap oil, cars, 18-wheelers, SUVs, etc., which will become too expensive to run as the oil patch rapidly depletes.

(6) There is no substitute for oil--not coal, not nuclear power, not solar cells, not wind power, not hydroelectric power, not hydrogen fuel cells, not cold fusion, not corn oil--nothing will be adequate. The idea that human ingenuity will come up some sort of alternative fuel at the price we are paying today is just a pipe dream.

(7) Our government has its head in the sand.

Kunstler augments his argument with these major points:

One, regardless of what energy source we might dream will replace oil, we will have to build the structures--nuclear plants, hydrogen fuel "stations," solar panels the size of New Mexico in the aggregate, massive forests of wind mills, etc.--from an oil platform, at least to begin with. Note that we now use energy from oil to mine coal and to build wind propellers. We use energy from oil to build nuclear reactors.
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113 of 123 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Oil, Bad SF July 22, 2005
Format:Hardcover
I heard about this book on Treehugger, the (n)Utne Reader and other places, and eventually the library here managed to ILL a copy for me. It's about the role of cheap oil in our society, and about what the end of cheap oil will likely do to us.

Read this book.

The back cover is the scary image of a horse pulling a ruined car. The same image is the cover of Stirling's Dies the Fire, and I find it frankly impossible to believe that this is a coincidence. In any case, Kunstler seems to be fairly well known as a social commentator who hates suburbia and advocates a return to close-packed urban communities, a "Smart Growth" booster, in other words.

He begins with a reinterpretation of the twentieth century in terms of fossil fuel use, especially World War Two. As Murray and Millett agree in A War to be Won, I have added this idea to my lecture on WWII, which I recently delivered twice to summer students. He sees the 1973 embargo as the warning, which the US ignored (all except me; my whole life has been a bracing against the end of oil). Hubbert's Curve, which I'd heard of while I was still in Northern California, is a central issue in this book, with the peak predicted very soon, if it hasn't come already.

The Mainstream Media are talking more and more about the end of cheap oil, but no one is talking as starkly and unpleasantly as Kunstler. He then goes on to explain why several popular forms of "alternative" energy won't work. I wasn't sure that I believed all of what he said. I am not an engineer, but windmills (to generate electricity and pump enough water for stock) can be made without oil. Plastics can be made from fermented vegetable sludge; I ran a game once based on such a world.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
very good read - lots of good information..
Published 10 days ago by Alison G. Jones
5.0 out of 5 stars but this is an excellent starter course
I read this book originally in 2010, and it opened my eyes to what was going on in the world. Since it was written in 2005, you'll need other resources to fill you in on what's... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Jimmy Verona
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Bought as a gift.
Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Be confronted
Well written and very confronting. The end of our Oil economy is so overwhelming and bound to be unpleasant
Published 2 months ago by whoisbiggles
5.0 out of 5 stars The Long is not Long any longer!
Tells why the "Long" Emergency is not long any longer - ACT NOW!
Published 2 months ago by William D. Christ
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a very important book for anyone interested in ...
This is a very important book for anyone interested in understanding the strong possibility of a slow, lingering decline of civilization. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Filceraw
5.0 out of 5 stars Everyone should read this book to prepare for the years ...
Everyone should read this book to prepare for the years to come without oil, globalization and a very different society.
Published 5 months ago by Lizzy W.
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking read.
This book will make you think about how wasteful we are with the resources of our planet and how we should NOW start working toward other alternatives for energy. Read more
Published 6 months ago by romancegirl1963
2.0 out of 5 stars I love Kunstler's other books
A little too much history of the oil industry. I love Kunstler's other books, but I had to finally skip to the end to get James's typically wonderful writings.
Published 7 months ago by Paula Tuttle
5.0 out of 5 stars scary book read it again and again
Without question, this book is one of the most important books you will ever read. KUNSTLER is the truth. THIS book needs to be released as a movie.
Published 8 months ago by Kindle Customer
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More About the Author

James Howard Kunstler is probably best known as the author of "The Long Emergency" (The Atlantic Monthly Press 2005), and "The Geography of Nowhere" (Simon and Schuster, 1993). Two other non-fiction titles in that series are "Home From Nowhere" (Simon and Schuster, 1996), and "The City in Mind" (Simon and Schuster, 2002). He's also the author of many novels, including his tale of the post-oil American future, "World Made By Hand" (The Atlantic Monthly press, 2008). The sequel will be published in the fall of 2010. His shorter work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic Monthly, Metropolis, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and many other periodicals.

James Howard Kunstler was born in New York City in 1948. He attended New York's High School of Music and art and SUNY Brockport (BA, Theater, 1971). He was a reporter for the Boston Phoenix, the Albany Knickerbocker News, and later an editor with Rolling Stone Magazine. In 1975 he dropped out of corporate journalism to write books, and settled in Saratoga Spring, New York, where he has lived ever since.

Kunstler's popular blog, Clusterf**k Nation, is published every Monday morning at www.kunstler.com and his weekly podcast, The KunstlerCast, is refreshed every Thursday.

Kunstler is also a serious professional painter. His work may be seen at www.kunstler.com

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The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century
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Australia - misunderstood as so often
I think it was pretty trite, I much preferred Jarred Diamond's "Collapse", regarding the overall water quality problems of WA and other areas, as well as Kunstler, both men are broad-brushing in their approach to the folks down under and I would appreciate someone local that might have... Read More
Jan 14, 2008 by Joe |  See all 3 posts
Hi--Peak Oil is bunkum (test message)
When you say deep, what do you mean? I understand there is an oil window from about 7,500 feet to 1,500 feet, below which you get methane, if anything. Why not pay attention to M. King Hubbert and the geologists who are familiar with what's really in the ground? When it's gone is irrelevant. ... Read More
Apr 19, 2006 by Dante |  See all 14 posts
Welcome to the The Long Emergency forum
The following Senate and Congressional realplayer files may take a minute wait before stating to playing.

US Senate Committee Hearing on Peak Oil

1 Senator Richard G. Lugar Opening Remarks

http://media.globalpublicmedia.com/RAM/2005/11/lugar_opening_remarks.ram

2 James R.... Read More
Mar 23, 2007 by Scott |  See all 3 posts
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