With the era of cheap energy and easy credit now over, novelist and social critic Kunstler (The Witch of Hebron, 2010, etc.) delivers a cold slap to the fantasists who believe technology will save us.
Seven years after his much-discussed jeremiad The Long Emergency, the author returns to recount the evidence supporting his predictions about our radically altered future. The still-unfolding financial crisis kicked off in 2008, exploding populations, climate change (anthropocentric or not), peak oil, and the inadequacy of alternative methods to power societies are all cited as signs we’ve entered the zone where our customs and habits must change so as to avoid a complete breakdown. The dangerously stressed systems that underpin the society we’ve known since World War II—“agriculture, commerce, manufacturing, transport, finance, the oil-gas-coal industry, the electric grid”—are too large, too complex and too expensive to sustain any longer. Followers of Kunstler’s writings and attendees of his many lecture appearances will recognize the take-no-prisoners style, the harsh invective directed at familiar targets—cars, planes, skyscrapers, Wall Street, suburbia—and the pleas on behalf of walkable cities, trains and farms built to human scale. The added feature here is the scorn he directs at those who refuse to recognize the severity and dimensions of the crisis he describes. He trashes the “delusional groupthink” of Google executives who confuse energy with technology; he abuses industry leaders who promote so-called “clean” coal, shale oil and gas to extend our fossil fuel addiction; he chides self-described “greens” for wildly overestimating the readiness of alternatives or renewables to fill the breach; he lambastes both political parties for their irrelevance; and he berates futurists like Ray Kurzweil for their “techno-grandiosity,” for magical thinking, and for their steadfast refusal to accept that something that can’t go on forever won’t.
A sharp demand to disenthrall ourselves, to instead face the future with “practical skill and something like common sense.”