Review: Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Declines

5 Star, Consciousness & Social IQ, Culture, Research, Economics, Environment (Problems), Environment (Solutions), Water, Energy, Oil, Scarcity
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Primer, Narrowly Focused, Provokes Reflection
October 16, 2009
Richard Heinberg

I was tempted to limit this book to four stars because it fails to properly recognize, among many others, Buckminster Fuller, e.g. his Critical Path and it provides only passing reference to such foundation works as Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update and Human Scale, but place it at five stars for two reasons: 1) excessive negativity by other reviewers; and 2) a superb primer for the public ready to get past Al Gore’s hysteria, the venom surrounding The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World, and connect in a very easy to read and understanding elementary counterpoint to The Resilient Earth: Science, Global Warming and the Fate of Humanity.

Another important reason for attending to this book and respecting its author, apart from him many prior works including the globally recognized The Party’s Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies, is the endorsement of two of the top ten (in our view) in this arena, Lester Brown (Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization (Substantially Revised)), and Bill McKibben (Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future).

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Review: The Oil Depletion Protocol–A Plan to Avert Oil Wars, Terrorism and Economic Collapse

5 Star, Congress (Failure, Reform), Economics, Environment (Solutions), Executive (Partisan Failure, Reform), Future, Science & Politics of Science, Survival & Sustainment, True Cost & Toxicity, Values, Ethics, Sustainable Evolution, Water, Energy, Oil, Scarcity

Oil DepletionBottom Line Deadly Serious,

February 7, 2007

Richard Heinberg

All of the non-fiction reading that I have done supports this author’s presenation of both the consequences of doing nothing, and practical bottom line: a 3% reduction per year for the next ten to twenty years, of gross consumption (per capita is meaningless when the number of people are growing rapidly) of oil is the only way to transition gracefully.

Amazon visiters need to be aware that the oil industry, and Exxon in particularly, is applying considerable funds to pay for disinformation and misrepresentation. As Al Gore stated in his briefing to 10,000 Republicans in the Taco Bell Arena of Boise State University, the oil companies (less BP and Chevron) are adopting the precise strategy of the tobacco industry, seeking to turn facts into “theories” that are “in dispute.”

Reality is not in dispute. What is in dispute is the ethics of the Exxon CEO, among others, who choose to lie to the American people and others and take credit for improving gas mileage when what is really needed is a massive turning away from the use of both oil and water.

This book is a great companion to “Peak Oil Survival,” and discusses at the macro levels the implications of oil depletion.

I also like this book because at the back I found a page that informed me that the publisher, New Society Publishers, is both committed to books helpful to society, but that its use of recycled paper as a directly measureable benefit in saving 25 trees, 2,281 gallons of solid waste, 2,512 gallons of water, 3,276 kilowatt hours of electricity, 4,150 lbs of greenhouse gases, 18 lbs of HAPs, VOCs, and AOX combined, and 6 cubic yards of landfill space.

WOW. See my growing list on “true cost” information. Above is the “true cost” for books that do NOT use recycled paper.

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Review: The Party’s Over–Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies (Paperback)

5 Star, Capitalism (Good & Bad), Complexity & Catastrophe, Environment (Problems), Water, Energy, Oil, Scarcity

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5.0 out of 5 stars Historical, Contextual, Critical Reference,

December 12, 2005
Richard Heinberg
There are other books that I consider to be better at the over-all challenge of “connecting the dots” among cheap oil, drugs and drug money gladly laundered by U.S. banks, and war profiteering, but this book must be considered one of the finest underlying reference works that support the more speculative conclusions of others.

This book provides both a solid history of how we got to where we are and why we continually dismiss the known future consequences of not providing for energy conservation and alternative energy; and it also provides a very finely presented review of what the author calls the “banquet of consequences” across transporation, food and agriculture, heating and cooling, the environment, public health, information storage and transmission, and the over-all geopolitics of oil.

Had we all read this book, The Long Emergency, and Crossing the Rubicon prior to Dick Cheney’s taking us to war in Afghanistan and Iraq, we would have realized that invading and occupying those two countries is about the oil catastrophe and Wall Street’s need for drug money to provide liquidity (a point made in Rubicon, not in this book).

Cheap Oil has been the Fool’s Gold of this era. Unhappily, the fools (We the People) have ended up with our pocket’s picked, and Wall Street and a few very large immoral organizations have ended up with the Gold.

The party is indeed over. The only question that remains is: can we repossess the Commonwealth from those that have stolen it using profits from cheap oil?

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Review: Powerdown–Options and Actions for a Post-Carbon World (Paperback)

5 Star, Water, Energy, Oil, Scarcity

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5.0 out of 5 stars Common Sense, Speaking Truth, Valuable Exit Strategies,

October 30, 2005
Richard Heinberg
This is a thoughtfully devised book that is about more than just oil. It reads like an elegant personalized tutorial in which the author presents the big picture, the current condition, four competing options, and a recommendation for a personal exit strategy. This book is quite literally priceless if you pay attention to the lesson.

The author puts the end of cheap oil in the larger context of other depleting resources (water, ocean fisheries, agricultural resources such as topsoil); population growth; declining food production, global climate change and ecocide; unsustainable levels of US debt; and international political instability.

The author is severely critical of all politicians in general, and brutally scornful of the neo-conservatives that have captured the Bush-Cheney-Halliburton-Exxon Administration (Enron being an invisible partner now). He actually itemizes, rather effectively (a half page for each of the following), what Bush-Cheney have done in eight years that is against the interests of the Republic. According to the author and his sources, they have 1) Stolen an election; 2) placed convicted felons and human-rights violators in positions of power; 3) facilitated 9/11, blocking its prevention, as a means of justifying the war on Iraq and a consolidation of domestic police power; 4) Lied to the American people, the UN, and other publics about Iraq, a war of choice not need; 5) Undermined international law; 5) applied indiscriminate force against civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq, killing tens if not hundreds of thousands; and 6) subverted the US Constitution.

I take the above at face value–it is less of an angry diversion from the book’s theme, and more of a critical current assessment showing that in the face of these larger strategic shortfalls that face us, Bush-Cheney were exactly the WRONG way to go. I of course acknowledge that the American people chose to return them to office; hence we get the government we deserve.

Across the book the author takes great care to cite the work of others and point the reader to useful resources. On pages 94-95 he gives us the key seven needs in a powerdown scenario: 1) Stabilize human population; 2) Increase resource efficiency; 3) Shift economics from production to services (including full employment); 4) Reduce pollution; 5) Divert capital to food production (one might add, basic food production like beans, instead of frivolous food production like exotic mushrooms and out of season fruits); 6) Shift agriculture to a sustainable model; and 7) Improve the design of all hard goods to make them durable and repairable.

I am absolutely fascinated with and respectful of the author’s focus on Cuba as a model for a powerdown scenario. He does a tremendous job of showing how Cuba adjusted to the US embargoes and the collapse of their Soviet sponsor by going to organic agriculture, mass transit and use of bicycles and animals for much individual transport, and so on. It is be a compelling and fascinating turn of events if the Cuban organic full employment model ultimately triumphs over the immoral profligate US model of consumer capitalism and double deficits (debt and trade). Espero, con respeto, ese dia en el qual Cuba podra declarar su exito moral y nacional.

The other model that the author recommends is the Amish model, where there is a very high reliance on human labor and smart farming without tractors or pesticides.

The author debunks hydrogen as an alternative fuel, points out that hundreds of nuclear plans could be a 50 year solution, but that we will run out of uranium in several decades, and that solar and wind power are now very viable, but will be slow to scale. He emphasizes two aspects of any plausible positive scenario: 1) it will need deliberate commitments at the community level to re-engineer entire counties toward sustainable models, with locally produced food and limited energy demands, massive conservation of water; and 2) it will require considerable government intervention–large scale government intervention.

The author ends with a retrospective on the decline and fall of the Roman and Mayan civilizations. The latter experienced population growth, then tribal fights over scarce resources, a “surprise” drought with cataclysmic impact; and finally, a political leadership engrossed in short-term objectives and unwilling to focus on strategic planning for the long-term. This sounds all too familiar.

A final note that I really admired: the author emphasizes that in the future we will need to return to the employment of “primitive” technologies that are not dependent on fuel, and that there will be a need for a new order of monks or knowledge transmitters, who can re-teach entire generations, entire populations, how to powerdown while ramping up communal agriculture and self-sufficiency.

I will end by saying very candidly that my family is going to cash out of the Northern Virginia area. We are going to sell our home, my office building, and my business, and we are going to move to a community on a robust river in the mountains where communal self-sufficiency can be achieved. This is one of several books that have had a life-altering impact on my family. I do not trust our politicians to be responsible at the federal or state level. I am therefore moving us down to a county-level of personal integrity and interaction, where honor might be assured by a combination of kinship and mutual dependency. I cannot think of a more serious means of ending my review of this book than by stating how it has directed me.

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