THE LONG EMERGENCY by James Howard Kunstler

THE LONG EMERGENCY

Surviving the End of the Oil Age, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-first Century

KIRKUS REVIEW

Move over, Malthus. According to suburbia-hater Kunstler (Home from Nowhere, 1996, etc.), the world’s going to hell in a handbasket—and in about 15 minutes, too.

Aiming at the broadest side of the barn, Kunstler asserts that we’re living in “a much darker time than 1938, the eve of World War Two.” Why so? Well, for one, because the world’s population is vastly overextended—never mind that Julian Simon and Paul Ehrlich hashed that argument out a generation ago, with Malthusian arguments taking a beating in the bargain. All right, because there’s a superplague about to descend on the world, or maybe AIDS in mutated form, or a designer virus unleashed to rid a given polity of its surplus population, the elites having been inoculated beforehand. (“If this sounds too fantastic,” Kunstler helpfully adds, “imagine how outlandish the liquidation of European Jewry might have seemed to civilized Berliners in 1913. Yet it happened.” No bites? All right, it’s because we’re about to run out of oil, and there’s nothing to replace oil. Now we’re getting somewhere—except, oil economists such as Kenneth Deffeyes (Beyond Oil, p. 31) have remarked, the peak in world oil production is probably happening right now, and it will take some time to bleed the pump dry, by which point alternative technologies may have been employed to carry at least some of the load. That presupposes a shared view that the oil-based economy is on the way to profound change and that we’re all in big trouble; but we’re a delusional bunch, Kunstler avows, content to ugly up and pollute our world so long as we are able “to quickly escape the vicinity in cars luxuriously appointed with the finest digital stereo sound, air-conditioning, and cup holders for iced beverages.” Aha. It’s the fault of the ice-chewers in this age of global warming. But look at the bright side, Kunstler urges: At least when the air conditioners fail, the mega-churches will have to close down, a death blow to Republican civilization.

Cant-filled and overwrought: a crying-wolf approach to real but largely addressable issues, long on jeremiads but absent of remedies.

Pub Date: May 1st, 2005
ISBN: 0-87113-888-3
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2005




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