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The Long Emergency: Surviving the Converging Catastrophes of the 21st Century Paperback – 10 Aug 2006

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The Long Emergency: Surviving the Converging Catastrophes of the 21st Century + The Geography of Nowhere: Rise and Decline of America's Man-made Landscape + Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology, and the Fate of the Nation
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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Books; New edition edition (10 Aug. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1843544547
  • ISBN-13: 978-1843544548
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 2.6 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 256,748 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

"'If you give a damn you should read this book.' Colin Tudge, Independent 'A must-read book...' Johann Hari, Independent"

About the Author

JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER was born in New York City in 1948. He is the author of two non-fiction books, The Geography of Nowhere and Home From Nowhere, and nine novels. He has been a regular contributor to the New York Times Sunday Magazine and Op-Ed page, writing on environmental and economic issues.

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Carl Jung, one of the fathers of psychology, famously remarked that "people cannot stand too much reality." Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

88 of 92 people found the following review helpful By HLT on 22 April 2006
Format: Paperback
The main argument of this book is compelling: that as we reach several tipping points (only one of which is peak oil), industrial civilisation will face major, possibly terminal, challenges.

Kunstler presents a number of "converging" catastrophes, whose simultaneous arrival makes them all the more challenging.Examples: peak oil; climate change; disease epidemics; falling water tables in major food production areas. He makes persuasive arguments that each of these threats is major, and that there will be a sort of disastrous synergy whereby, while we might cope with bird flu outbreak given a functioning oil economy (=healthcare and pharmaceuticals), the converging nature of these catastrophes makes them all the more deadly.

One thing that bothers me about the analysis is that every outcome is a catastrophe: major population loss due to starvation or disease? Catastrophe! Excessive human population? Catastrophe! Less fossil fuel available to burn? Catastrophe! We find more fossil fuel and release the CO2? Catastrophe!

One way of looking at the analysis is that the human race has painted itself into a corner, and that we face catastrophe at every turn. Another is that Kunstler is only comfortable when predicting doom. My feeling is that the real situation is somewhere inbetween. We clearly face problems (all of which stem from overpopulation, or what Kunstler calls exceeding the planet's carrying capacity), but his argument is based on the idea that, unless provided with ever-increasing oil supplies, industrial civilisation has basically had it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Graeme on 19 Nov. 2007
Format: Paperback
In my view JHK has made a good stab at joining the dots and giving serious thought to the implications of peak oil and how society may have to rearrange itself in the years ahead. I find it hard to disagree with his views on the follies of America's sprawling suburbia with its culture of extreme car dependency. And its trashing of local economies by big corporate box stores. All of which is likely to be in big trouble when oil supplies start declining. I also found his view that America (and indeed the world) would have to move in the direction of localised economies, to be quite a reasonable conclusion.

I also broadly agree with his conclusion that no forms of 'alternative energy' sources such as wind power or solar panels are likely to be sufficient to maintain our current economy or way of life in the way we have come to know it. His account of how finance has evolved and how it came to be in the state it's in, was particularly well written.

On the negative side. I found the section on geopolitics to be one of the weaker points of the book. This is clearly not his area of expertise. It to my mind reflected the world view of the mainstream US media, and relied on stereotypes of Arabs as all being jihadist anti-western terrorists. I also found his views on American southerners to be well somewhat negative and stereotyped to put it politely.

Some of the book was decidedly speculative. Some speculations were quite plausible and some some less so. The idea that the western US coast would be attacked by asian pirates was somewhat odd.

Overall a very interesting read. But I would warn anyone who is prone to depression to avoid it. It's not exactly a book that will leave you uplifted.
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107 of 117 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 3 Nov. 2005
Format: Paperback
Basically just a few points to make to explain why I think this book is much less useful than similar books on the subject
First, although the title and topic imply global coverage it is entirely US centric in it's outlook. There is almost no consideration of what people in the rest of the world can expect
Second, again compared to other titles it has almost no hard facts and figures and projections. You are left with little in the way of usable data
Thats it basically. An important topic covered well up to a point but I would say you are better informed by other books on this topic
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72 of 80 people found the following review helpful By mokka on 4 Feb. 2006
Format: Hardcover
What this book tells us is basically this: in a near future, the whole planet will face a pretty serious crisis, as fossil fuels become ever more scarce, i.e., difficult (and expensive) to extract. Since this resource is absolutely crucial to the functioning of all industrial societies (it is the basis of oil and natural gas, but also of fertilizers and pesticides, plastics and pharmaceuticals), this means that we are about to see “the end of the world as we know it”. What follows is, according to Kunstler, a period of global armed conflicts, possibly widespread anarchy, proliferating endemic diseases, shortage of water and food (not to speak of electricity and heating), and certainly lots of violence and killings – combined with great climatic changes due to global warming. And, of course, no more driving around.
This upcoming situation he calls “the long emergency”. His book is supposed to warn us about this unavoidable catastrophe, in the hope of preventing a complete collapse of “civilization” by starting NOW (though it is pretty late) to turn to alternative, more sustainable, modes of living that are less dependent on gas and oil, around-the-globe transportation, industrial production of food, etc. Kunstler urges his readers to become “local” again, focus on forms of agriculture that do not rely on big machinery and large quantities of fertilizers, and forget about cars, shopping malls and drive-in fast-food joints, suburban homes and mega-cities.
One can surmise another Cassandra call here.
The author makes a tremendously important point by acknowledging and revealing this “emergency” and its consequences. The future is not a pretty sight, and in many ways Kunstler effectively shows that.
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