The long descent: a user’s guide to the end of the industrial age

The long descent: a user’s guide to the end of the industrial age
By John Michael Greer
New Society Publishers, 2008, paper, 260 pages, $ 18.95

Civilizations rise and fall, the Roman Empire, the Mayans, the British Colonial Empire, and now it’s our turn. Consider the author’s direct term, “a post-industrial society.” Yes, he wants life after our much-lauded high-tech industries shut down for lack of oil.

Petroleum geologist M. King Hubbert developed a formula to project when an oil field or country would reach its maximum production, a point that is now known as the Hubbert Peak. In 1956, Mr. Hubbert predicted that the US would reach its oil peak around 1970. He set the date exactly and despite continued exploration, offshore drilling, oil sands, etc., it has been difficult. down since then.

In 1970, Hubbert applied his formula to global production and his forecast pointed to the year 2000. Recent and more precise analyzes pin the apex between 2005 and 2010. Greer estimates that world oil production peaked in 2005 and we are already falling by Hubbert’s back. top.

It turns out that there is a fin de siecle science for civilizations and Greer shows the formulas and equations used by specialists in the field (fiends de siecle?). But they are unnecessary for the lay reader. The bottom line is that the world is inexorably running out of oil, on which our society is so utterly dependent, and we are already far behind in preparing for the consequences.

In fact, those who yell “Drill, baby, drill!” they actually sabotage the public interest, making the inevitable transition more difficult, abrupt, and economically traumatic. The author claims that to achieve a relatively painless transition to a post-oil economy we should have begun serious long-term planning decades ago, perhaps around the time President Carter installed solar panels on the roof of the White House.

The Long Descent presents our dilemma in such clear and concise terms, and Greer’s research is so thorough, that the reader has no doubts about the impending crisis. Like a mouse in a glass jar, the mind scratches in vain to find the fault in its presentation. The metaphor he uses to explain our denial, our refusal to accept the impending collapse of our high-tech lifestyle, is the Asian monkey trap. The monkey can be saved by dropping the food he has caught in the pumpkin trap, but he does not and is doomed. Likewise, we cannot stop relying on oil. If we could, we would have a chance to save our economy, at least part of our comfortable lifestyle, but we don’t.

The revealing analogy Greer provides for the decline in the oil depletion curve establishes that life on the negative side will approximate life an equal number of years before the peak. Example: around 1905, a hundred years before 2005, transportation was mainly done by horse-drawn carriages and coal locomotives. So it will be in 2105.

In Chapter 5, “Tool for Transition,” Greer offers suggestions on how to prepare for the long descent and life in an oil-free society. (Think craft skills like blacksmithing and brewing.) This penetrating and haunting wake-up call should be a must read for all high school and college students today. Forewarned is worth two.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top