Before reading his book, I have read many of John Michael Greer s posts on his blog Like the blog the Archdruid Report the book provides many insights about the contemporary world Unfortunately, the book for its many virtues has a number of flaws as well Although the work deserves to be read by those interested in how our culture operates, its predictions seem increasingly misplaced.Greer s major economic fallacy is his belief in a variant theory of labor valuation Many economic thinkers perhaps foremost Marx believed that the true value of a thing comes from the labor of the person working upon it This way of understanding value competes with the Austrian theory of subjective value The Austrian approach understand a thing s value based on its apparent subjective utility to the owner A many with hundreds of pairs of sneakers values each pair less than the money he asks for them What does this have to do with Peak Oil and economic decline Everything.Mr Greer makes the mistakes of valuing petroleum on the labor it substitutes for instead of on the subjective use each person might or might not have for it Also, Mr Greer does not value oil in a stable currency like gold The price of oil in gold swings wildly but tends to return to its historic norm of 2.5 grams a barrel This misunderstanding of oil pervades this work reducing much of Greer s analysis.Still, Greer is worth reading because his basic point is true we will eventually run out of oil and we might not be able to replace it with another form of energy From this perspective, Greer brilliantly critiques the common ways that we understand the future the myth of progress and the fear of apocalypse Accordingly, his book is really a meta argument about how to understand the predicament of mass culture and mass consumption eventually, the mass part will end When that end occurs, Greer predicts a series of collapses and recoveries that will reduce technological and population levels.Although I do not agree with many of Greer s predictions, I think he gives a great conception of the world that we live in a world of scarcity Unless another source of cheap energy is discovered, our society will sooner or later hit the rock of expensive energy The adjustment to that world is not likely to be pleasant but, as Greer points out, it won t be the end of the world either If a long descent is in the cards for human achievement, then Greer has done us a great service with his work If it is not, he has done us at least the good of helping us to think clearly about what we currently have. The central thesis in Greer s book is the inevitable end of fossil fuels and the resulting decline of our current oil based economy Instead of the Age of Progress we will and have been entering The Long Descent He makes the interesting observation that we face a predicament rather than a problem to be solved a problem calls for a solution the only question is whether a solution can be found and made to work and, once this is done, the problem is solved A predicament by contrast, has no solution Faced with a predicament, people come up with responses Those responses may succeed, they may fail, or they may fall somewhere in between, but none of them solves the predicament, in the sense that none of them makes it go away Death is a predicament You cannot solve that problem Peak oil is also a predicament There is only so much and then it will be gone How we manage the effects of this diminishing resource is the crux of the book Predicting the future is obviously something of a fool s errand, but I think Greer has identified some pretty good insights One of the biggest is realizing our political system is not only not going to help us get out of our predicament, it will prevent us from taking steps that may alleviate unnecessary suffering Drill baby, drill is obviously an utterly stupid response to Hubbert s Curve But it is a predictable response from a political party that is wholly beholden to its donors And yes, the Democratic Party is also owned by its donors to a lesser degree I have some issues with some of his points, like how gold and silver and weapons are not as helpful as learning a new trade like brewing beer I m grossly paraphrasing, but my point stands I don t think you can rule out a cataclysmic collapse either It may be a Long Descent , but it might also be a pretty damn short one too No one can know the future, but taking a variety of steps to inculcate one s family from the inevitable and painful contractions facing us is just good sense And this book offers some really well reasoned, and common sense ideas to ponder. READ KINDLE ♿ The Long Descent: A User's Guide to the End of the Industrial Age ♼ SeattleOil The Internet Writings Of John Michael Greer Beyond Any Doubt The Greatest Peak Oil Historian In The English Language Have Finally Made Their Way Into Print Greer Fans Will Recognize Many Of The Book S Passages From Previous Essays, But Will Be Delighted To See Them Fleshed Out Here With Additional Examples And Analysis The Long Descent Is One Of The Most Highly Anticipated Peak Oil Books Of The Year, And It Lives Up To Every Ounce Of Hype Greer Is A Captivating, Brilliantly Inventive Writer With A Deep Knowledge Of History, An Impressive Amount Of Mechanical Savvy, A Flair For Storytelling And A Gift For Drawing Art Analogies His New Book Presents An Astonishing View Of Our Society S Past, Present And Future Trajectory One That Is Unmatched In Its Breadth And Depth Reviewed By Frank KaminskiWired The Long Descent Is A Welcome Antidote To The Armageddonism That Often Accompanies Peak Oil Discussions The Decline Of A Civilization Is Rarely Anything Like So Sudden For Those Who Live Through It Writes Greer, Encouragingly It S A Much Slower And Complex Transformation Than The Sudden Catastrophes Imagined By Many Soical Critics Today The Changes That Will Follow The Decline Of World Petroleum Production Are Likely To Be Sweeping And Global, Greer Concludes, But From The Perspective Of Those Who Live Through Them These Changes Are Much Likely To Take Gradual And Local Forms Reviewed By Bruce SterlingAmericans Are Expressing Deep Concern About US Dependence On Petroleum, Rising Energy Prices, And The Threat Of Climate Change Unlike The Energy Crisis Of The S, However, There Is A Lurking Fear That Now The Times Are Different And The Crisis May Not Easily Be ResolvedThe Long Descent Examines The Basis Of Such Fear Through Three Core Themes Industrial Society Is Following The Same Well Worn Path That Has Led Other Civilizations Into Decline, A Path Involving A Much Slower And Complex Transformation Than The Sudden Catastrophes Imagined By So Many Social Critics Today The Roots Of The Crisis Lie In The Cultural Stories That Shape The Way We Understand The World Since Problems Cannot Be Solved With The Same Thinking That Created Them, These Ways Of Thinking Need To Be Replaced With Others Better Suited To The Needs Of Our Time It Is Too Late For Massive Programs For Top Down Change The Change Must Come From IndividualsHope Exists In Actions That Range From Taking Up A Handicraft Or Adopting An Obsolete Technology, Through Planting An Organic Vegetable Garden, Taking Charge Of Your Own Health Care Or Spirituality, And Building CommunityFocusing Eloquently On Constructive Adaptation To Massive Change, This Book Will Have Wide AppealJohn Michael Greer Is A Certified Master Conserver, Organic Gardener, And Scholar Of Ecological History The Current Grand Archdruid Of The Ancient Order Of Druids In America AODA , His Widely Cited Blog, The Archdruid Report Thearchdruidreport Deals With Peak Oil, Among Other Issues He Lives In Ashland, Oregon Red Bottom Matrimony: Three Short Stories But Will Be Delighted To See Them Fleshed Out Here With Additional Examples And Analysis The Long Descent Is One Of The Most Highly Anticipated Peak Oil Books Of The Year BORN IN VENGEANCE And It Lives Up To Every Ounce Of Hype Greer Is A Captivating Geschwister des Wassers: Roman Brilliantly Inventive Writer With A Deep Knowledge Of History Laura Blundy An Impressive Amount Of Mechanical Savvy Operation Atonement A Flair For Storytelling And A Gift For Drawing Art Analogies His New Book Presents An Astonishing View Of Our Society S Past Toner i natten Present And Future Trajectory One That Is Unmatched In Its Breadth And Depth Reviewed By Frank KaminskiWired The Long Descent Is A Welcome Antidote To The Armageddonism That Often Accompanies Peak Oil Discussions The Decline Of A Civilization Is Rarely Anything Like So Sudden For Those Who Live Through It Writes Greer The Chronicles of Conan, Volume 13: Whispering Shadows and Other Stories Encouragingly It S A Much Slower And Complex Transformation Than The Sudden Catastrophes Imagined By Many Soical Critics Today The Changes That Will Follow The Decline Of World Petroleum Production Are Likely To Be Sweeping And Global Australias Flying Doctors Greer Concludes Bliss County - Der Traum in WeiÃŸ But From The Perspective Of Those Who Live Through Them These Changes Are Much Likely To Take Gradual And Local Forms Reviewed By Bruce SterlingAmericans Are Expressing Deep Concern About US Dependence On Petroleum Web of the City Rising Energy Prices Hydrodynamic Stability And The Threat Of Climate Change Unlike The Energy Crisis Of The S Reefer Madness However Casca Collectors Series V There Is A Lurking Fear That Now The Times Are Different And The Crisis May Not Easily Be ResolvedThe Long Descent Examines The Basis Of Such Fear Through Three Core Themes Industrial Society Is Following The Same Well Worn Path That Has Led Other Civilizations Into Decline Die Wicca-Religion. Theologie, Rituale, Ethik A Path Involving A Much Slower And Complex Transformation Than The Sudden Catastrophes Imagined By So Many Social Critics Today The Roots Of The Crisis Lie In The Cultural Stories That Shape The Way We Understand The World Since Problems Cannot Be Solved With The Same Thinking That Created Them Snips, Snails, and Dragon Tales These Ways Of Thinking Need To Be Replaced With Others Better Suited To The Needs Of Our Time It Is Too Late For Massive Programs For Top Down Change The Change Must Come From IndividualsHope Exists In Actions That Range From Taking Up A Handicraft Or Adopting An Obsolete Technology Wieland and Memoirs of Carwin the Biloquist Through Planting An Organic Vegetable Garden The Courtship of Izzy McCree Taking Charge Of Your Own Health Care Or Spirituality Stay Close to Me And Building CommunityFocusing Eloquently On Constructive Adaptation To Massive Change Disciples of Cthulhu This Book Will Have Wide AppealJohn Michael Greer Is A Certified Master Conserver Never Gonna Leave This Bed (Stiles is dumb, but Dereks dumber, Organic Gardener Never Gonna Leave This Bed And Scholar Of Ecological History The Current Grand Archdruid Of The Ancient Order Of Druids In America AODA BlackAcre, Volume One: An Errand Into the Wilderness His Widely Cited Blog Irish Gold The Archdruid Report Thearchdruidreport Deals With Peak Oil Der Steppenwolf Among Other Issues He Lives In Ashland Koroshiya Ichi (Japanese Edition) Oregon Lots of good stuff in this book, but it took me a long time to finish, given that Greer s non fiction writing style tends to put me to sleep after a couple paragraphs As a regular reader of his blog, The Archdruid Report, I d seen most of this information before, but there were lots of new things I d never seen him discuss in the blog, things that, had he brought them up there, might have prevented several disagreements he s had with readers in the comments section of his blog.At the end of the book is an appendix I would very much liked to have studied longer, but I had borrowed the book from the library and it was already a month overdue The appendix covered the mathematical formulas by which one can determine the sustainability of a given society and the point at which it will collapse.Greer s academic background is in the History of Ideas, and this really comes through in the book, as he discusses not just the rise of our technology, but the changes in our way of thinking and how this has landed us in our present predicament In a nutshell, his assertion is this The natural state of humankind for most of the period of human existence was that of a solar economy, that is, we lived on what the sun and Earth provided year by year We grew food and ate it We burned what fuel we could cut We wore clothes that we took the time to make from materials we gathered ourselves Living this way, there are built in caps on how much we can consume Empires rose and fell in a pretty reliable cycle, and technology, too, developed and was lost.This is how things were until we discovered a way to power machines with fossil fuels, and the Industrial Revolution began For 300 years, we burned up not 300 years worth of energy, but millions of years worth of fossilized energy Now that we ve pretty well burned it up, we ve got to go back to life as usual.There are some problems, though One is that very few of us know how to live without modern, oil powered contrivances Many soon to be necessary skills and technologies have been lost or are on the brink A bigger problem, though, as Greer sees it, is the Myth of Progress Rather than seeing the Industrial Age as a blip in our history where we found a big stash of concentrated energy, we ve deceived ourselves into thinking that our modern lifestyle is the result of our natural improvement as a species That is, we think we re smarter than our ancestors, clever, innovative, efficient, etc., and that s why we re so much affluent and enjoy so many luxuries and conveniences The natural progression of this line of thinking is that we expect things to continue in this fashion one day, we ll explore the stars, colonizing distant planets and enjoying as yet unimagined wonders of technology Greer s message It ain t gonna happen The party s over.The good news, if you want to look at it as such, is that this will all happen so gradually that most people living through it won t really be aware of its happening There will be occasional downward lurches like wars and famines and such, but for the most part, you can expect your grandchildren to be living like your grandparents, and all along the way we ll be told by our leaders that things are getting better.In a nutshell, this is great material, but pretty damned dry If you re passionate about the subject, you ll get through the book and be glad you did If you re not, you may just get the feeling he s beating a dead horse about something you aren t that interested in in the first place. Don t let the fact that Greer is an archdruid keep you from being blown out of the water by his cogent analysis of where we are and where we might be headed as peak oil, ecocide, and global climate disruption cause massive civilizational disturbances over the next few years and decades To the point on a every level a must read for every breathing adult. I think John Michael Greer is one of our perceptive thinkers He is a deep critic of the conventional order But what I like most about his work is that he keeps his balance between being a rosy eyed optimist who thinks renewable energy and localization will be nirvana, and a pessimist who sees no hope in the future he somehow seems to steer a middle course that may not be ideal, but should be livable if we can act soon enough and with enough wisdom This book is a good example of his writing, but his blog and his other books are all worthy. The Long Descent makes a very valuable point that deserves wider consideration that presently there are two main narratives of the future, endless economic growth and material accumulation vs apocalyptic collapse, chaos, and die off Both are mythic stories of a sort, linked to and influenced by religious traditions Neither forms a realistic or helpful assessment of what is actually likely to happen in years to come Greer systematically critiques these unrealistically optimistic and pessimistically survivalist positions very effectively.Greer concentrates his discussion almost exclusively on peak oil, pointing out that other sources of energy, renewable and otherwise, rely on oil as a key support, for instance to the manufacture of power station machinery, the mining of coal, and the transport of gas In some ways, the arguments he puts forward would be strengthened by coverage of climate change It is mentioned as an aggravating factor to energy shortages, but in my view not given the weight it deserves in his theory of collapse On the other hand, I think that the extremes of weather that climate change brings weaken any predictions of the future, however circumspect It s also fair to say that peak oil and climate change are closely linked issues, and a lot of Greer s points apply just as well to both.As well as applying a theoretical approach, known as catabolic collapse, to the present, Greer sets out practical things that people can do now to prepare for the Long Descent into a future of expensive energy These chapters reinforced something I have thought a lot about that America is screwed in a future of peak oil and rapid climate change The built environment, economy, society, and culture is wholly dependent upon cheap oil Climate change will likely bring drought to its agricultural areas and terrible storms to its densely populated cities Moreover, the populace possesses 300 million guns It seems legitimate to tend towards a apocalyptic vision of the future if you re in the US, frankly Reading this book reminded me how lucky I am to live in Europe.In addition to the sparse references to climate change, I felt this book was lacking consideration of the ways in which a catabolic collapse in the developed world of the 21st century would differ from that of, say, the Roman Empire or the Mayans Greer considers a variety of such historical parallels, without discussing the unique aspects of life today For instance, could the internet survive peak oil and for how long I am genuinely curious about this Also, surely we should be looking to the developing world for lessons upon how to live in a less resource intensive manner Cuba, for instance, manages to keep its populace amazingly healthy despite being very poor in financial and resource terms I like it when books make me think of further questions to research elsewhere, however, and this book is only 240 pages long so cannot cover vast amounts of ground There is much to be said for writers that acknowledge peak oil and climate change are not information deficit problems in other words, if the public politicians knew the true facts costs they would act rationally to deal with both Academic work, especially in quantitative fields, has a foolish tendency to assume this Rather, peak oil and climate change are predicaments that will inevitably arrive sooner or later, which cannot be adequately addressed without shifting the infinite growth and progress mythos to something pragmatic Greer understands this well He s also a druid, but I don t hold it against him. An enjoyable, thoughtful, and ultimately hopeful look at the downside of M King Hubbert s peak oil curve I highly recommend this book to anyone who thinks that, in the words of peak oil pundit Richard Heinberg, the party s over I also highly recommend it to those who are still in doubt Greer makes a compelling case that our belief in technoscience as savior is just that, a belief, and that as atheists have noted for the last century or , simply believing something does not necessarily make it so Better to be prepared for hard times and not have them arrive, than to face hard times unprepared Now that the supply of petroleum is beginning to falter, the question before us is not how to keep burning something else at the same pace, or how to find some other way to power a civilization of a sort that can only survive by burning extravagant amounts of energy, but how to scale back our expectations and our technology enough to make them work within the limits of the same renewable resources our ancestors had four hundred years ago p 59 The religion of progress has maintained its hold for the last three centuries because it has delivered on its promises, filling our lives with technological marvels wondrous enough to distract us from the cost to our world, our communities, and ourselves p.70 First Steps Toward Sustainability pp 152 156 1 Replace your incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents.2 Retrofit your home for energy conservation.3 Cut back on your gasoline consumption.4 Plant an organic vegetable garden.5 Compost your food waste.6 Take up a handicraft.7 Adopt an obsolete technology.8 Take charge of your own healthcare.9 Help build your local community.10 Explore your spirituality.Those people who can use their own hands and minds to make tools, grow food, brew beer, treat illnesses, generate modest amounts of electricity from sun and wind, and the like, will have a major survival advantage over those who can t Those communities that focus their efforts on helping members achieve skills like these, and pass them on to others, will become the seedbeds of the sustainable societies of the future Whatever they preserve and develop will not need to be laboriously reinvented by their descendants p 190 Plus the book has an exhaustive bibliography for further reading and research This is definitely a must read. First book I ve read by a druid and a very interesting book it is Greer is an out of the box thinker faced with a choice between two alternatives, he automatically looks for a third And into the critical debate over how industrial civilization will respond to ecological overshoot peak oil, peak soil, resource shortages, overpopulation, and so on , which is dominated by a vigorously contested struggle between Cornucopians, who think that science and technology will find a way for economic growth and progress to continue ad infinitum, and Doomers who think that Cormac McCarthy s Road is perhaps optimistic, he injects a very plausible third alternative gradual stepwise decline.Intellectually his forefathers are the historians of civilizations such as Spengler, Toynbee, Tainter, and Diamond , whose primary interest has been to explain why civilizations rise and fall What Greer adds to the picture is his assertion that despite our wonderful science and technology our modern industrial civilization will be no different, because it has an Achilles heel the continued availability of adequate supplies of cheap fossil fuels and this is coming to an end if you don t believe this, you haven t been paying attention.Greer does a good job of explaining such key concepts as net energy, overshoot, problems vs predicaments, and the roles of myth and political interest in our collective inability to see and respond to our Achilles heel, while pointing out the implausibilities of the arguments of both the Cornucopians and the Doomers He is less good on explaining the role that global warming will play, but since it basically reinforces his other arguments this is not a major flaw He has certainly convinced me that a gradual decline punctuated by crises is the most likely scenario although I remain optimistic about the ability of science and technology to arrest and then reverse this decline at some point prior to a reversion to a medieval pastoral lifestyle But in his prescriptions as to what we should do to prepare for gradual decline he goes astray.His problems, I believe, are twofold First, I think that he has spent too much time around Doomers despite his explicit rejection of their theses, his thinking has become coloured by their worldview and as a result he loses sight of the implications of his own ideas Second, despite advocating a focus on preparing to survive the intermittent periods of crisis during the decline, his own focus is too long term Both of these problems are visible in his recommendation that we should learn basic skills such as soap making and herbal medicine as a way to prepare for the decline While we may eventually get to the point where every community will be or less self sufficient, Greer s own timeline of 150 years or so of decline means that none of us alive today will see the endpoint In the interim global supply chains will almost certainly break down, but regional integration and consequent advantages of specialization and economies of scale will still apply there will continue to be soap factories and medical clinics for a long time yet Learning how to make soap in your kitchen and to perform simple surgery in your woodshed will not be particularly useful in this case.Still, the book is very well worth reading Greer is an excellent writer and a first rate analyst he cuts through to the heart of very complex issues and creates clarity and understanding with a modicum of fuss But at the end of the book, although you ll understand the problems our civilization faces well, you won t have a clear and useful plan for what to do about them, or what you can personally do to prepare for the Long Descent. Little of this, I suspect, will be new to anyone familiar with the brief explosion of literature on peak oil and transition movements since the 1970s, but this is nevertheless an excellent updated introduction to the genre, as well as the reality we are already facing in various forms It has some warts both factual and conceptual , but these are minor blemishes on what is generally a well balanced and thoughtful exploration of imminent de industrialisation in the face of depleting resources, chiefly petroleum I say well balanced because everything in Greer s book flows from the view that complex societies do not implode instantly from resource overstretch Historically it has tended to take several centuries at a time, to the point that it is actually impossible for any one generation or individual living in it to even grasp the sheer scale of the ongoing process see Tainter 1988 and others.Once one has accepted this premise, and as well the implications for how much suffering this is still likely to involve on a personal and societal level, Greer s suggested ways to cushion this slow decline are correspondingly sensible and reasonable We can still make choices within decline, but those choices may become increasingly narrow and painful, depending on how our elites and local societies navigate the early stages of the transition To speak of peak oil having been pushed back by several decades because of the commercialisation of shale deposits, tar sands, heavy oils etc, is less a sign for optimism than a failure to recognise that industrial societies are burning through the dregs of dense liquid energy carriers These could be instead helping us to retool our overbuilt, overstretched and dysfunctional infrastructures into systems that will actually endure than a few decades without a constant need for fossil fuel inputs This involves not just reorienting transport and distribution systems for food and shelter provision, but weaning entire systems of public health, energy and sanitation provision off fossil fuels, and reintroducing and learning older, intermediate technologies that will make sense in such a world The longer these processes are delayed, the sharper the decline will be, and the lives will be lost enroute.One has to be in the right sort of space to read this I had been looking for a work that summarily discussed both the impacts of peak oil and the tools we would need to weather de industrialisation This has both To be frank, I am not sure what else there is left to read in this regard, except to get on with things really, and start re learning the basic but complex thus labour and time intensive skills needed for use in re localised economies If this involves reading a book of sorts, so be it But most of it will be hands on work from here on.This is a keeper, and it has the potential to be epiphanic.
- The Long Descent: A User's Guide to the End of the Industrial Age
- John Michael Greer
- 09 March 2018 John Michael Greer