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February 2006: The Long Emergency

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The Long Emergency, Surviving the Converging Catastrophes of the Twentieth Century
By James Howard Kunstler
Reviewed by Calvin Bey

This recently published book describes the current worldwide situation regarding the depletion of oil/gas/coal supplies, the changing global climate, and the environmental degradation of natural resources. A key issue in the book is the depletion of the worldwide supply of oil. As we approach the point of peak oil production (defined broadly as the point at which one-half of the total known oil reserves are gone), we will see oil shortages increasing and prices climbing. This will affect the price of almost everything, and especially industries that depend heavily on transportation.

Kunstler believes that living through these colliding catastrophes will drastically reduce what we call our standard of living: “Falling standards of living, loss of amenity, shrinking life expectancy, resource scarcity, political disorder, and military strife, will present a compelling new set of circumstances that will shatter many of our cherished beliefs.”

Kunstler is not optimistic that the currently available alternatives will bail us out of the oil shortage dilemma. He addresses every alternative energy source on an individual basis and in general concludes that they are not feasible.

The author devotes a large part of the book to describing what life will be like in “The Long Emergency” and suggests how we might prepare ourselves for making the best of it. Lifestyle and culture will be quite different from what we have today, and he makes the case that it could happen soon and abruptly. Those with abilities to grow their own food, especially with non-commercial fertilizers, and those with good survival skills will have the advantage. He also presents a case that Americans are not prepared for what is to come. He says we did not arrive at this point by conspiracy, but rather by “cultural inertia, supported by collective delusion, all nursed by comfort and a complacency mindset.”

This is a book that should be required reading for all leaders and informed citizens. It may just be part of the wakeup call we need.



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