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Long Descent: A User's Guide to the End of the Industrial Age Paperback – 9 Jan 2008

4.8 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: New Society Publishers (9 Jan. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0865716099
  • ISBN-13: 978-0865716094
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 81,204 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

About the Author

John Michael Greer is a certified Master Conserver, organic gardener and scholar of ecological history. His widely-cited blog, The Archdruid Report, deals with peak oil. He is the author of The Long Descent and lives in Ashland, Oregon.


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John Michael Greer's the Long Descent is a very valuable addition to the Peak Oil literature. He brings a unique deep historical perspective, combined with an ecological perspective on human societies. He really does present the long view, thinking ahead not just decades but centuries into the future. He analyses the role two powerful narratives have on our view of what is facing us - the myth of progress and the myth of the acopalyse - and makes it clear how both of these are blocking us as individuals and as a society from facing up to the likely future of gradual decline into a post fossil fuel society. The book was published in 2008, before oil hit $147 a barrel and before the financial crash, but is remarkably prescient in predicting both of these as likely occurences. He paints a broad canvas but also gives some useful ideas on how we as individuals can adapt to a post-peak world, including rethinking our current work and if it will be viable in the coming years.
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As a recovering cornucopian, I consider "The Long Descent" to be one of the best books I've ever read. The author, John Michael Greer, is quite a character and has also penned books on ritual magic, UFOs and monsters. He is currently heading a Neo-Druid group and apparently lives in the Appalachians.

"The Long Descent" is a book about our present ecological crisis. It's one of those rare books that really speak for themselves. It includes chapters on our present predicament, the future decline and fall of modern civilization, what we can do to adapt, and various philosophical issues.

[PEAK OIL]

Greer says surprisingly little about climate change, perhaps because he believes that our situation is dire enough even if we assume that climate change is less dramatic than most scientists predict. The main problem is that modern civilization is unsustainable, being almost entirely dependent on cheap oil, gas, coal and uranium. These non-renewable resources are running out, oil in particular. Greer believes that "peak oil" was reached already around 2005.

During the 1970's, Western civilization did take important steps towards sustainability. These gains were eradicated almost overnight when new oil fields were discovered in Alaska and the North Sea around 1980. By deliberately flooding the markets with new oil, British and American interests made the oil prices crash, effectively forcing all "Green" initiatives into bankruptcy (ironically, nuclear energy was also badly hit by the oil bonanza). After 30 lost years of uncontrolled oil-dependency, peak oil has finally arrived, finding our society more or less unprepared for the consequences.

Greer doesn't believe that oil can be replaced. Coal, gas and uranium are being exploited at a breakneck speed.
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I was wary of Greer because of his connection with Druidry - memories of The Wicker Man don't recommend paganism of any hue, however 'enlightened'! Putting aside my reservations, I ploughed in and found page after page which needed to be annotated and stored for later pondering and discussion. His delineation between predicaments and problems was outstanding, prompting me to devise a post peak Jane Austen novel in reverse called Problems and Predicaments where a wealthy British woman has to sell all her goods in order to join a commune of permaculture farmers... The book looks at the spiritual problems of trying to wake people up to the coming decline, namely their thraldom to the myths of progress and science. I have tried to wake up my high school students to peak oil, but all they wanted to do was watch Matilda instead! Greer outlines a very different future to the technological one I grew up with in the early 60s - moon bases, space holidays, underwater cities. Where Greer differs from my own favourite curmudgeon, Jim Kunstler, is his explanation that societies take 250 years to decline and collapse, rather than the 'Road Warrior' vision where the oil runs out and the world turns into a nightmare of looting and Darwinistic struggles for survival. Greer uses the phrase 'catabolic' to describe where we are going - a study of how a society slowly eats itself up in the same way that a long distance runner will actually start to consume his own muscles without replacement nutrients. This catabolic process will be speeded up as we go past the peak of oil production - this may have already happened. What we face is a process of drawn out contraction and decline, where the chronically sick, the elderly, those with special needs, the lazy, the incompetent will be gradually weeded out from the gene pool.Read more ›
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A real eye opener that gives the reader a completly new perspective about the future of our civilization. If you think that things can only get better this book is a real wake-up call. A must read for anyone interested in the factors that contribute to the rise and fall of Empires especially the one we are currently living in.
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Brilliant - a very well written description of just how unsustainable our society is, and what we can expect to happen to it. But it isn't all doom and gloom, so despite drawing on the same evidence as other studies of our planet's ecological limits, the conclusion is positive. I found I raced through this book eagerly, and now want to re-read it but need to prise it away form other family members first.
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