The Long Emergency

Discussion in 'General' started by chief302, Apr 27, 2008.

  1. chief302

    chief302 Well-Known Member

    I just finished reading 'The Long Emergency' by James Howard Kunstler. It is a frightening vision of post-cheap-oil America. The author makes his case for peak oil; how we got here and what happens next. Especially disheartening are his critiques of all current alternative fuels...I'm afraid it may not be as simple as conservation and new technology. According to the author, blind faith in new technology is misplaced and a wholesale change in lifestyle is nearly inevitable. The longer that we put it off, the more drastic is will be...

    I tend to have more faith in American ingenuity and the ability for mankind in general to overcome adversity. Kunstler at times seems to almost flippantly downplay all American accomplishments as mere byproducts of our abundant, cheap oil. He makes many very good points, however, and his view of the near future is extremely sobering, times it is just down right depressing.

    But you don't have to take my word for it, head down to your local library and find out for yourself...
  2. chief302

    chief302 Well-Known Member

    ...actually, if anyone has read it and can counter any of his assertions, I would appreciate really is depressing
  3. xcel

    xcel PZEV, there's nothing like it :) Staff Member

    Hi Chief:

    ___I have read about the book probably 20 times but have not read it myself. On my next trip to the Post Office, maybe I will walk the block and a half to the library and pick it up.

    ___Good Luck

  4. aca2983

    aca2983 Well-Known Member


    Kunstler is a bit much. His website used to be entertaining, but you get the sense that he's a raving whacko. Not that everything he says is completely wrong, I'm just not quite that pessimistic or cheering for a doomsday scenario like he seems to be.
  5. bomber991

    bomber991 Well-Known Member

    What the... isn't that from Reading Rainbow?

    Anyways, wasn't there some made-for-tv movie about peak oil happening? It came on like 3 or 4 years ago though I think. Yeah, back when I had a job so I never got to see it.

    I can't read books though, I lack the dedication. Somehow I can sit on my computer and read and read and read for 12 hours a day, but opening a book and reading it for an hour, and then repeating that for a week or two till the book is finished, near impossible for me.
  6. chief302

    chief302 Well-Known Member

    I agree it almost seems like he is relishing the thought of his vision of the future (he admits he's going to be rather old by the time the 's' really hits the fan)...I think that many people that seem to welcome a return to a pre-industrial age aren't really thinking it through all the would not pleasant at all. (although if we keep heading down the path we are on now we will all be killed by intelligent robots :)) I think his vision is an extreme worst case scenario (and he gets off on several tangents), but much of the book unfortunately makes a lot of sense.

    Butterfly in the sky...

    Yeah, I used to be quite the little reader as a youngster, but strayed away until recently. The library is quite an amazing resource even in today's high tech world. Gotta go get me some survivalist books... :)
  7. mparrish

    mparrish Rosie the Riveter Redux

    I have not read the book, but plan to.

    I don't personally think there is much distance between "WE ARE ALL GONNA DIE" and "We are all going to have to drastically reduce & monitor our energy consumption as if on a war time footing as we transition to alternatives while our global economy sputters during the transition".

    For many who like to easy life provided by cheap oil/coal/natgas, those two statements are one and the same.
  8. Vooch

    Vooch Well-Known Member

    I haven't read Kunstler's bok, but am familiar with the premise, since the ideas behind it were throughly being discussed 25 years ago when I was in grad school.

    Suffice to say, He is pretty much on the mark - the suburbs & ex-urbs are an abberation which depend on massive subsidies of cheap energy to sustain them - consider them future ghettos & ghost towns.

    Cities are where the lifeblood of civilisation has always been.

    We should welcome the demise of ex-urbs and suburbs.
  9. chief302

    chief302 Well-Known Member

    I don't know if I agree with 'Cities are where the lifeblood of civilisation has always been.'. Civilization began as some tribes of hunter/gathers transitioned to agriculture. Cities never came close to supporting populations of today's magnitude until modern sanitation. Even early industrialized cities relied on large influxes of migrating rural laborers to sustain themselves. While Kunstler cheers the death of the suburbs as well, I wonder how today's metropolises will sustain themselves. Bottom line, if we cannot continue to produce food in the same quantities as we do now, everyone is going to have to make some large scale diet changes...and many people will just not make it. I think America has a lot of wiggle room due to our excesses, but will we make the changes before it affects us?
  10. MyPart

    MyPart Well-Known Member

    Same here...wasn't much of a reader as a child and then through school. Now I work in front of a computer from 8-6+ and pretty much read from it constantly. I just don't feel the desire to pick up the printed word these days. I guess I prefer recycled electrons and pixels to recycled paper and ink... :)
  11. shkelley

    shkelley Member


    New poster Shaun Hatcher Kelley from the Big Square Thing aka "Wyoming" here. To get anywhere here requires quite a lot of gasoline, so I am quite interested in this forum. I also have a 6-year-old son. Just finished The Long Emergency by J.H. Kunstler. I don't want to believe what he says, but I suspect that there is a lot of truth in this book. I have been feeling the futility of Suburbia for years. This is why I deserted it decades ago. I think I may buy a team of sled dogs and a big travois :cool:*

  12. shkelley

    shkelley Member

    :eek:Holy Harshal McLuhan, Batman:eek:

    Just kidding, dood. That took some courage to admit. I wonderwhat the energy savings would be if we did away with TV as we know it?
  13. Shiba3420

    Shiba3420 Well-Known Member

    Really the better argument for collapse is the energy requirement for food stuffs. At the end of nomads and the beginning of farming, a person could barely produce enough food to keep themselves alive. Thats why a crop failure could cause mass deaths. As time went on, one person could produce more and more food. Until the days of mechination and fertilers, however it rarely exceeded 2 to 10 person's food by one farmer. People who could master this, could free up more people for research, history, art, war and other projects....i.e. modern civ. However, as people were able to produce more, it was usually by having more productive crops on a fixed amount of land (one person can only tend so much land). This tended to deplete the land. Crop rotation helped, but also tended to reduce the yield of an individual. In comes technology, fertilizers, and machines. Now suddenly one person can generate enough food for 100 to 1000 people. That a lot of people freed up from agriculture. Again, the problem is we have to mine lots of things to put back into the ground to replace the stuff the crops took out. There could well be a breaking point, where land won't be so easily replinished either because the energy becomes too expense to perform the process (doubt it), or because the material needed are not easily available (more likely). Then suddenly we have to go back to old school farming where an acre of land feeds one instead of ten. People will need to tend their crops carefully. A lot of people will need to start farming again. Maybe 25% of the population will need to be involved (consider that 25% are never available due to age (too young/old) or physical condition). Notice that cities go favor of local towns to provide the local farmers needs. Maybe we will still have large city centers where material are shipped out for an entire state, maybe not. Either way, cities loose a great deal of importance. And frankly they aren't needed. Most people working in a city are doing the jobs we can either do for ourselves (cooking/cleaning), don't need in the country (most police, drawing blanks on others), or don't require centralization (almost every while colar job out there). We can farm a few hours a day, go do our online why collar jobs, cook means in the background, and spend time with our families. Frankly, even this rather grim scenerio, isn't really all that grim. Most scenerios don't have to be if they are well thought out. To a certain degree, I'd love to see us all go more small town, agricultural, and family oriented.

    Frankly I doubt we will ever need it. Already we are seeing that protiens can be lab grown for a fraction of the energy of raising livestock (although at 100 to 1000 times the price, but that should come down). We can farm massive amounts of alge for food and fuel. While mass change may be needed, and that change doesn't sound good, it could be very gradual and much less painful than we think. The real danger is of us all digging our heels in and refusing to let go of the ways of our past. How many of us have grandparents who grew up on the farm and wished we could go back? A few of us did go back (not me) more for the romance than the reality. If we have to revert, the same may be true going the other way....gosh grandchild, you would have loved the big cities....

    I don't believe that humans, as a species, is good.
    I do believe that humans, as individuals, are good.
    I don't believe that humans, as individuals, know what is good for us a species.
    I do believe that humans, as individuals, think they know what is good for us a species.

    We are a strange collection of things. Like stones picked up from the dirt...some are ugly, some shine, and most look better when cleaned up.
  14. chief302

    chief302 Well-Known Member

    I agree that more people will have to contribute to agriculture. This can be accomplished in many ways...even in the cities and suburbs. I'm beginning to brush up on my gardening skills, just in case.
  15. lnmcmahan

    lnmcmahan Econoclast

    Duh!!! This is the great flaw in the American character. We think we can dig ourselves into a hole with consumptive living, then invent a technological miracle to spring us out!

    When it comes to fuel, blame big oil, when it comes to food blame Archer Daniels Midland, but WE have bought into the race to consume that brought us to where we are today!

  16. lnmcmahan

    lnmcmahan Econoclast

    Audiobooks, baby, audio books. Download them to your MP3 player, put it in your ear, hit play, and go about doing whatever you were doing. Whoever goes to the library anyway?!

  17. chief302

    chief302 Well-Known Member

    How about audiobooks from the library?
  18. chief302

    chief302 Well-Known Member

    I think there is plenty of blame to go around...without the nearly insatiable demand, the large corporate suppliers would have little influence...
  19. degnaw

    degnaw Well-Known Member

    I don't think suburbs will actually "die"- many of the single family homes might be split into apartments but I'd think that people who buy $700,000 homes should be able to afford gas, even if it's $50/gal or $50/gallon-of-gas-equivalent or something. That's only $12,500 a year, at 10,000mi/yr and 40mpg (rich people should be able to afford that, right?).
  20. mparrish

    mparrish Rosie the Riveter Redux

    I'm moving to Cincy............ :)

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