Read The Long Emergency: Surviving the Converging Catastrophe of the 21st Century by James Howard Kunstler Free Online
Book Title: The Long Emergency: Surviving the Converging Catastrophe of the 21st Century|
The author of the book: James Howard Kunstler
Date of issue: July 1st 2006
ISBN 13: 9781843544548
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 489 KB
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Reader ratings: 7.8
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The Long Emergency / by James Kunstler -- If Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat is the ultimate argument for the reality and virtues of globalization then James Kunstler’s The Long Emergency provides the decisive counter-argument--as the world runs out of fossil fuels globalization is doomed. The main thrusts of Kunstler’s argument are as follows: oil and gas production have peaked and will soon begin to fall, our civilization is deeply dependent on that production, alternative energy sources cannot fully substitute for the shortfall, the oil age has allowed our world to become unsustainably overpopulated, and climate change and other types of environmental destruction will complicate the transition back to an appropriately populated sustainable world.
The book does an especially good job of explaining how deeply dependent the world economy is on oil and natural gas. For example, with regards to agriculture Kunstler writes, “To put it simply, Americans have been eating oil and natural gas for the past century, at an ever-accelerating pace.” He goes on to explain that to produce one calorie of grain American agriculture expends 16 calories of energy; to produce one calorie of meat we expend seventy calories of energy. Further, most of our pesticides and fertilizers are fossil fuel based and there are no obvious alternative substitutes. With regards to suburbia he explains how it is best understood as the “greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world” and how without cheap fossil fuels suburbs are completely unsustainable.
The weakest part of the book is his look at alternative energy sources. For some reason he ignores wave surge generation of electricity, but feels compelled to discuss ZPE energy generation (an unlikely scheme to produce energy from dark matter). Nevertheless, he does a good job of explaining why coal is not an adequate alternative to petroleum, why hydrogen is a pipe dream, and how wind, solar, and nuclear energy are dependent on the fossil fuel industry. Kunstler is probably too pessimistic with regards to alternative energy production. Nevertheless, to use an example from Friedman’s book; you can be sure that ordering a computer from Dell over the internet, having it assembled from parts manufactured all over the world in Malaysia, flying the PC to Tennessee, and then a week later having it delivered to your doorstep via Fedex is not a scenario that will likely be possible in 20 years. The energy costs will be prohibitive. The other thing you can be sure of is that the transition from 6.5 billion people to more like 2 billion people in a relatively short time is going to be a very nasty business.
Finally, there is another book to be considered with regards to Kunstler’s thesis, Ray Kurzweil’s The Age of Spiritual Machines. Kurzweil’s book argues for a transition to the singularity by the mid-21st century. The singularity can be defined as the point in time when artificial intelligences become thousands of times more intelligent than humans and in effect begin to run the world (many humans in fact will “download” their consciousnesses into the intelligent grid). At that point in time all understanding of how a posthuman dominated world will proceed becomes impossible. The question then becomes which view of the future will occur, Friedman’s vision of economic growth and globalization forever, Kunstler’s savage transition to a smaller population immersed in autonomous local economies, or Kurzweil’s posthuman future? Friedman’s position may hold in the short run, but in the medium term it becomes pollyannish. Kunstler’s future is pessimistic but plausible and may already have begun, Kurzweil’s position is optimistic but possible in the medium term but unless we literally destroy ourselves almost certain in the longer term. Regardless, humanity is in for a wild ride for the next thirty years.
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Read information about the authorJames Howard Kunstler (born 1948) is an American author, social critic, and blogger who is perhaps best known for his book The Geography of Nowhere, a history of suburbia and urban development in the United States. He is prominently featured in the peak oil documentary, The End of Suburbia, widely circulated on the internet. In his most recent non-fiction book, The Long Emergency (2005), he argues that declining oil production is likely to result in the end of industrialized society and force Americans to live in localized, agrarian communities.