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Powerdown: Options and Actions for a Post-carbon Society [Paperback]

Richard Heinberg
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
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Book Description

23 July 2007
Resource depletion and population pressures are about to catch up with us, and no one is prepared. Oil is running out and, if the Western world continues with its current policies, the next decades will likely be marked by war, economic collapse, and environmental catastrophe. The political elites, especially in the US, have shown themselves to be unwilling to deal with the situation, and have in mind a punishing game of 'Last One Standing'. There are alternatives. A 'Powerdown' strategy, for example, would aim to reduce per-capita resource usage in wealthy countries, develop alternative energy sources, distribute resources more equitably, and reduce the human population humanely but systematically over time. It could save us, but will require tremendous effort and economic sacrifice."Powerdown" speaks frankly to these dilemmas. Avoiding cynicism and despair, it begins with an overview of the likely impacts of oil and natural gas depletion and then outlines four options for industrial societies during the next decades: Last One Standing: the path of competition for remaining resources; Powerdown: the path of cooperation, conservation, and sharing; Waiting for a Magic Elixir: wishful thinking, false hopes, and denial; and, Building Lifeboats: the path of community solidarity and preservation. Finally, the book explores how three important groups within global society - the power elites, the organized opposition to the elites (the 'activist' movements), and ordinary people - are likely to respond to these four options. Timely, accessible and eloquent, "Powerdown" is clarion call to urgent action.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Clairview Books; 2nd Revised edition edition (23 July 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1905570104
  • ISBN-13: 978-1905570102
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 15.6 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 166,324 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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About the Author

RICHARD HEINBERG has been writing about energy resources issues and the dynamics of cultural change for many years. A member of the core faculty at New College of California, he is an award-winning author of three previous books, including The Party's Over, Oil War and the Fate of Industrial Societies (2003). His Museletter was nominated for the Utne Reader's 'Best Alternative Newsletter' award in 1993. He lives in Santa Rosa, CA.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The main problem with this sort of book is that you won't buy it unless you're already concerned (and presumably at least somewhat familiar) with the issues. Having spent quite a bit of time on the various "peak oil" websites, I found my view confirmed rather than challenged. There's lots of interesting ideas and informative stuff here (I loved the little story about the disintegrating raft!) but the people who need to read it probably aren't going to. Maybe the best approach is to buy it, read it, and then pass it on.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful reading 28 Mar 2005
Without a doubt 'Peak Oil' is coming and it is going to hit everyone in a way we can't quite comprehend yet. Even if it is not yet spoken about as widely as global warming, it will have a much more tangible effect, sooner, and will make sustainable living all but compulsory.
Richard Heinberg, in this excellent follow up, lays out different ways we can approach 'Powerdown'. As someone who has been trying to tackle the question of how we conduct the energy/culture transition, this is invaluable reading and is highly recommended to everyone, especially those who are aware of the problem.
I run a campaign called PowerSwitch.org.uk, raising awareness and discussion of oil depletion and I would say this book is perfect reading to get you into thinking about solutions for yourself and society. It may be a little simplistic for some but for me it was the right material and at the right level. A must read! I only wish every poltician read this too.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A LONE VOICE IN THE WILDERNESS 19 Jan 2005
By A Customer
I read Heinberg's other book on oil depletion, The Party's Over, which was great. But this is even better, as it goes further and offers clear and sensible ideas and solutions to the forthcoming crisis.
Why do the media and most of the population have their head in the sand over this issue? Please read this book, and pass it on to your friends, family... and enemies. As a society we need to know about oil depletion, its implications, and what we can do to prepare for the future. This is the best exposition I have found on the subject - urgent, but also calm and controlled. Thanks Richard!
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61 of 66 people found the following review helpful
I like the idea of this book, I like the title, and I like the first 25% or so. The rest is not good, since this book simply dies after page 54, and so overall it is a bust. Starting with lofty and worthwhile goals, it degenerates into a diatribe against Bush, then goes on to dance around the issues. The author has inserted all this Bush stuff, but then avoids answering his own questions about "powerdown". Somehow, the author got off track while writing the book. The book has gained some fame, and in retrospect I suspect largely for the author's earlier works. I am disappointed to have to give this book just 3 stars, about what it really merits.
The opening sections are strong. He presents clear, logical, and entertaining arguments about our use of oil, the decline in discoveries, increasing demand in the US and China, etc. He presents graphs of new oil discoveries versus time, etc. All clear, but not new. Almost every thinking person knows that hydrocarbon reserves are finite and demand is increasing exponentially. Demand is on a collision course with supply. Our oil-coal-gas economy cannot be sustained, and even if we had infinite supplies, it would pollute the planet, and most know that CO2 leveles are rising every year. We knew this before we picked up the book. In any case, that is okay, it sets a foundation for a possible discussion that might follow. If they author had stayed the course and written the whole book as he did in this part, we would have a beautiful 5 star effort. Someone else picking up the book, and just reading this part, might conclude that it is a great 5 star book; it is not great; it is not even good; keep reading, he loses focus.
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