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Customer Review

36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars NOT just another doom-monger book, 10 July 2008
This review is from: Reinventing Collapse: The Soviet Example and American Prospects (Paperback)
There are just too many books about peak oil and other imminent economic, social and ecological crises, which all seem the same. They go over familiar ground and display no new insight or real depth of thought. I'm tired of reading them. Too often the author is a recent convert to these views and lacks the authority or background to contribute anything new, concluding feebly that the reader should learn about gardening and drive a smaller car. Well, duh! as my kids would say.

What a refreshing change to read Orlov's quirky and thought-provoking book which takes the basic premise of looming crisis for granted, and gets straight into delivering his first-hand insight into the collapse of the Soviet economy in a fresh, non-mathematical way (there are no graphs or tables of data) and how most people survived it. Not only that, but all delivered with the wickedly dry wit of a native Russian, living in the USA, who is clearly tired of hearing Americans crowing that they won the Cold War.

To give an example from the introduction, Orlov mentions a survey of Americans which asked, "Will you be able to afford to retire?" (one third said no). Without stopping to go over familiar arguments, Orlov proceeds immediately to strip away the euphemisms and assumptions, and translate the question as "Will you survive when you are too old to work, if not, what are you doing about it?". From his Russian experience, he then adds "Here is a bad solution: get drunk a lot."

Although aimed squarely at an American audience, this book is just as valuable for Europeans, and I recommend it to anyone who realises that our high-consumption, supermarkets-and-jet-planes society cannot last much longer, and is interested in thinking right through what that really means. Orlov treats his readers as intelligent people who will reach their own conclusions, and do not need to be spoon-fed with fatuous recommendations. It's a treat.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 22 Aug 2010 01:31:42 BDT
Last edited by the author on 19 Apr 2011 10:39:47 BDT
Some two hundred years ago, the Reverend Malthus wrote the first of these 'harbingers of doom' type books. The 'Malthusian Crisis' is named after him, but although there have indeed been numerous famines between his times and our own, civilization did not collapse as he predicted. In fact the British population has increased massively since that time and our biggest problem today is overeating not starvation! Why? Because in any age, those attempting to predict the future can only base their judgements on the social/industrial realities around them and must obviously be unaware of future technological/scientific developments. As steam engines, railways, petrol engines, electricity, aircraft, organic fertilisers etc... did not exist in the good Reverend's times; he was unable to factor them in to his calculations. Hence he saw looming disaster when by the standards of his age, the future was amazingly bright.

Today's prophets of doom make this same mistake. Example:- Pres. Obama may feel America no longer has the industrial strength to lead humanity out into the Cosmos; but China, India and Japan all have plans to establish human colonies on the planet Mars within fifty years, regarding that planet just as Europe's buccaneers once regarded 'The New World'; a vast untapped treasurehouse awaiting those with the courage to claim and tame it.

The liberal/socialist 'doctrines' now gripping the Western World may well bankrupt us as their Soviet counterparts bankrupted the USSR, but despite egalitarian/welfare legislation, homosexual liberation, abortion, credit crunches etc..... mankind as a species today is as resourcefull, intelligent and determined as ever. We also have vastly greater opportunities open to us and I firmly believe that in future centuries our children will exploit power sources that we cannot envision, terra-form Mars, mine the asteroid belt, genetically increase our lifespan and voyage to distant stars; while looking back with amusement on our futile pesimistic attempts at 'prophecy'.

In reply to an earlier post on 31 Aug 2010 10:37:01 BDT
andygardener says:
nonsense. malthus was absolutely correct. how many cities of teeming millions do you think could really be supported without our fossil fueled mega-agricultural and food distribution system. take away fossil fuels from the equation, and we will be exposed as having overshot carrying capacity by 6 times. the only thing malthus did not foresee was fossil fuels - there is nothing wrong with his basic 'ecological limits' premise. fossil fuel is an irreplaceable one time gift of half a billion years worth of 'fossilized sunlight'. all 'renewable' energy systems are fossil fuel derivatives, and will collapse without massive energy and tech subsidy from the fossil fueled industrial system. its about time we recognized the fact of harsh ecological limits and did some major down sizing instead of listening to classical economists whose ideas derive from the pre scientific era.

you are repeating the common cornucopian fallacy of confusing technology for energy, when in fact technology is a derivative of energy. the industrial revolution was really the 'fossil fuel revolution'. it is this that has caused the rise of technological society and the 'age of exuberance' (human population boom). when fossil fuels are not available cheaply and in abundance our fragile civilization will unravel; then malthusian predictions of a collapse will be inevitable. theres no other way of solving this issue other than radical population control - the silver bullet which is staring everyone in the face. this isnt going to happen thanks to magical thinking idiots (economists and laymen) who dont understand what exponential growth means.

In reply to an earlier post on 1 Sep 2010 00:27:03 BDT
Last edited by the author on 19 Apr 2011 10:37:47 BDT
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Review Details



M. Lyster

Location: Oxford, UK

Top Reviewer Ranking: 8,523,133