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Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Declines Hardcover – October 16, 2007

3.6 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In his latest, "Peak Oil" expert Heinberg (Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies) puts that theory in place alongside corresponding peaks in population, food production, climate stability and fresh water availability to paint a grim future of overlapping and accelerating global crises. For an introduction to Peak Oil, the idea that coming fossil fuel shortages will be sudden and drastic, readers should seek Heinberg's earlier works; this volume assumes familiarity and addresses the challenges a post-carbon world poses for a global community "as reliant on hydrocarbons as it is on water, sunlight, and soil." The worst-case scenario, "global economic meltdown" and a new round of resource wars, can only be avoided "by proactively reducing our reliance on oil, gas, and coal ahead of depletion and scarcity." This involves a vast, worldwide change to fossil fuel-free production that prizes handcrafted buildings and objects, durable and simple design, ease of reparability and material conservation. Although Heinberg attempts to inject some optimism, the intersection of peak oil and climate change-not to mention overpopulation, water scarcity, a clueless ruling class and a citizenry largely unaware of the problem's magnitude-is not a hopeful vantage point, and readers may not want to tackle this downer without other works on deck to provide plans for action.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


The 20th century saw unprecedented growth in population, energy consumption and food production. As the population shifted from rural to urban, human impacts on the environment increased dramatically.

The 21st century ushered in an era of declines, including:
  • Oil, natural gas and coal extraction
  • Yearly grain harvests
  • Climate stability
  • Economic growth
  • Fresh water
  • Minerals and ores, such as copper and platinum
To adapt to this profoundly different world, we must begin now to make radical changes to our attitudes, behaviors and expectations.

Now in paperback and featuring a foreword by James Howard Kunstler, Peak Everything addresses many of the cultural, psychological and practical changes we will have to make as nature dictates our new limits. This landmark work from Richard Heinberg, author of three of the most important books on Peak Oil, touches on vital aspects of the human condition at this unique moment in time.

A combination of wry commentary and sober forecasting on subjects as diverse as farming and industrial design, this book describes how to make the transition from The Age of Excess to the Era of Modesty with grace and satisfaction, while preserving the best of our collective achievements. Peak Everything is a must-read for individuals, business leaders and policy makers serious about effecting real change. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: New Society Publishers; 1st edition (October 16, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 086571598X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0865715981
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.8 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,732,865 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
When I sat down to read this book I thought I knew quite a bit about "Peak Oil" and "Peak Energy" and about several other areas where we are now bumping up against the limits to growth. And since I had not only read The Party's Over and Powerdown but a number of Richard Heinberg's essays that I'd come across at the Energy Bulletin site, I thought I was pretty familiar with his insights regarding both the nature of the mess we now find ourselves in and the options available to us. So it was a pleasant surprise to find new and interesting insights in every chapter of this book.

One of the strengths of the book in my view is that it comes at the subject from so many different angles. I was impressed again and again by the scope of Heinberg's knowledge and the way he put the pieces together to make sense of the great challenges that we are facing.

As he himself says, "None of this is easy to contemplate. . . . [T]he suggestion that we are at or near the peak of population and consumption levels for the entirety of human history and that it's all downhill from here is not likely to win votes, lead to a better job, or even make for pleasant dinner banter."

But the better you understand the true nature of a problem, the better able you are to deal with it, and this book is the best yet in my opinion to help one awaken to the full implications of this "century of decline".
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Format: Hardcover
Heinberg explains how fossil fuels, primarily oil, permeate every aspect of our modern culture - from agriculture to cities and a long-term perspective. In the age of almost 7 billion people demanding more and more of limited resources, the media, politicians and governments tend to only report short-term perspectives and ignore Heinberg's Five Axioms of Sustainability to the extent that these concepts are taboo to be spoken, discussed or thought:

1) Any society that continues to use critical resources unsustainably will collapse.
2) Population growth, and, or, growth in the rates of consumption of resources cannot be sustained.
3) To be sustainable, the use of renewable resources must proceed at a rate that is less than or equal to the rate of natural replenishment.
4) To be sustainable, the use of nonrenewable resources must proceed at a rate that is declining, and the rate of decline must be greater than or equal to the rate of depletion.
5) Sustainability requires substances introduced into the environment from human activities be minimized and tendered harmless to biosphere functions.

The psychology of peak oil and climate change discussion is like Kubler-Ross' "On Death and Dying." This all lands on the shoulders of "boomers" or the "me" generation. How do you stay optimistic and move forward when most have been conditioned to expect continuous greater wealth and lower cost? Questions and anger are answered by a "A Letter From the Future" - a look back from 2107 CE.

Many of us think, "If only I could be rational and think objectively in light of too much hyperbole and misinformation." I keep this book close at hand and constantly reread specific chapters.
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Format: Hardcover
It's a good book and a great title, but the title does not match the content.

Richard Heinberg is an excellent author, and I HIGHLY recommend that everyone read his (other) book "Party's Over" for a riveting & sobering understanding of peak oil! With that under our belts, many of us are now coming to recognize peak population, peak food, peak pollution, peak global temperature, peak fresh water, peak arable land, peak mineral resources, peak ocean fisheries, peak species diversity, peak uranium, peak weaponry, peak resource wars, peak wealth disparity, peak waste, peak life expectancy, etc. Peak Everything! That's what I THOUGHT this book would address.

Instead, he has cobbled together a collection of essays on aesthetics, psychology, language, and other aspects of peaking. Oh, it's okay stuff, but it's not at all what I expected nor hoped to read--and he warns of that in the first page of the introduction. The intro is sprinkled with charts showing peaks, but they're not really discussed in much detail.

This book is for those who already know a lot about peak everything and just can't stop reading about it. Discussions of Art Nouveau, Freud, and wild parrots were just too tangentially abstract for my expectations. I wanted hard facts and numbers for forceful arguments, proposed plans of action, and glimpses of hope in promising new breakthroughs.

It's hard to rate this fairly because it was so disappointing due to the misleading title. Chapters 8, 9, & 10 won me over to the fourth star. Chapter 8, "Bridging Peak Oil and Climate Change Action," was my long sought acknowledgement of the 800 pound gorilla: discussion of the two topics from a single perspective.

Please, Mr. Heinberg, now write the book on Peak Everything!

2012 UPDATE: Toss in "Peak Growth". Heinberg has now written a book worthy of the title Peak Everything, but it's title is The End of Growth. Great book! Read it instead of this one.
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Format: Hardcover
There is no more critical issue to the human family that the nearly simultaneous peaking of the resources that are necessary to the functioning of modern society. The production of conventional petroleum--the stuff we get our gasoline from--is at or near its peak right now. Henceforth, prices will go up and availability will go down.

At the same time we are getting repeated warnings that the atmosphere is `peaking' in the amount of greenhouse gases it can absorb without inducing climate change. The best information available indicates that other conventional sources of energy--natural gas, coal, and uranium--will all peak within the next 30 years. If this were a movie it would be real thriller; unfortunately we're talking about reality.

Richard Heinberg, author of `Peak Everything,' is one of the world's leading thinkers and writers on this rather earth-shaking issue of the peaking of the resources critical to our society as it is current configured. Heinberg has two other recent books that go into detail on the probable timing of these peaks (see `The Party's Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Society') and what our choices are in response to this emerging reality (see `Powerdown: Options and Actions for a Post-carbon World').

This book, `Peak Everything,' is a wide-ranging exploration of how we managed, physically and psychologically, to end up in this blind alley (the majority of the world's 6.5 billion people are now fed by our petroleum-based agricultural system), and what some of the most promising models are for viable human communities in the future. There is no more compelling subject than this and Heinberg offers some of the best thinking and best insights to be found in print.
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