Monday, April 21, 2008

Surviving Converging Catastrophes

The Long Emergency by James Howard Kunstler (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2005) makes a spell-binding — and frightening — read.

He convincingly postulates that the enormous surge in human population to almost seven billion people has only been possible because of oil, which allowed humans to far exceed the Earth's carrying capacity.

Now that peak oil has been reached he bleakly predicts a breakdown of civilization. Because nothing, not solar, wind nor any other energy source, can replace the convenience, the versatility, the energy content of oil.

Less and less oil will be produced each year, as the population continues to grow robustly. Agricultural output will decrease, for the Green Revolution is based primarily on oil-based fertilizers and pesticides and oil-powered irrigation.

Society will retreat from globalization and become more localized. Diseases will spread rampantly to reduce the population to what Kunstler calls the "solar capacity" level.

The Long Emergency is fascinating, and very compellingly urges us to take action. Will we?

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