The Energy of Slaves: ...
Andrew Nikiforuk
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The Energy of Slaves: Oil and the New Servitude

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  66 ratings  ·  13 reviews
By the winner of the Rachel Carson Environment Book Award
Ancient civilizations relied on shackled human muscle. It took the energy of slaves to plant crops, clothe emperors, and build cities. Nineteenth-century slaveholders viewed critics as hostilely as oil companies and governments now regard environmentalists. Yet the abolition movement had an invisible ally: coal and...more
Unknown Binding, 272 pages
Published August 1st 2012 by Greystone Books
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H Wesselius
Initially, the Energy of Slaves comes across as a metaphor but it develops beyond that. Nikiforuk demonstrates the primacy of energy as the origins and basis of a civilization. In the same way, civilizations depended on slaves, animals, etc for energy we have now come to depend on fossil fuels. And in a similar way, our civilization has inherited similar problems -- lacking innovation, dependency on elites, etc. However, in comparison, fossils fuels exaggerate every effect slavery had to the poi...more
This book, along with The Long Descent which I also read recently, have really got my brain whirling as I think about a future with much less energy per capita. Neither book puts firm dates on when changes are coming, but both are confidant that a world with limited oil is coming and is going to make life a lot simpler and less comfortable. I would definitely recommend this book for anyone interested in oil and the future.
A great book by a renowned journalist. Excellent research and a compelling argument about how modern society is enslaved by oil. The argument is new and interesting and you're sure to learn some facts as a result of reading this dense book.
John C.
The Energy of Slaves - Oil and the New Servitude © 2012
By Andrew Nikiforuk (Canadian) – Non-Fiction

‘Earth’s new Master is an urban beast and its slaves are the world’s resources.’ Andrew Nikiforuk
We are brought along into facts, figures & unconventional ways of looking at how the egress of oil has forever altered humanity’s path.
For example; how could we maintain today’s standard of living without use of our precious utility of oil and its easily harnessed horsepower?
Up until a few centur...more
Vern Harrison
Very thought provoking. The rise of population coupled with energy consumption, as well as what lies ahead. The lat chapter about Japan I think is a preview. For society. I can't help but wider we do not put more focus on renewables given the EROI. Some alternatives are in fact compelling. Not the first book to introduce done of these ideas. I think "your world is about to become smaller" presents many similar ideas.
William A Bigelow
Who's the Slave

Nikiforuk's book reminds us of the troubles of slave owners, which we all have in a sense become. His is a compelling description of our predicament, with some subtle hints of what to do. It is a well written and well documented book.
This was a good read, but not a great read. Nikiforuk makes an interesting point, but I'm not sure that he leaves the reader with a conclusive summation of the problem we face. In several chapters there's a tendency to wander too much through the historical writings of others as evidence of past thinking on the topic of cheap energy consumption. I would have preferred more time spent on the type of case study he provides on Japan in the final chapter and how the demise of cheap energy will impac...more
It's pretty end-of-days kind of stuff, very depressing when you try and read it in 3 days.
An interesting but not entirely persuasive twist on the conventional wisdom about oil. This is a quick and easy historical look at past energy sources, although the author too heavily relies on the excellent work of one Vaclav Smil.

Jeff Rubin does a better job of underlining the necessity and infiltration of oil in the modern economy, while Vaclav Smil's books deserve to be read in the original.

Not bad, but not worth thirty dollars.
Just starting the book ... Slaves are not an energy source; they can be divided into energy accumulators and servants... They transform energy into work, and represent a certain amount of embodied energy -- and the social issues raised by slavery are a type of friction in the transformation of energy. I'm hoping to find a bridge in this book to the kind of historical investigations provided by Debt: The First 5,000 years.
extremely well researched & argued, but densely written (too much so for wider audience?), slavery metaphor not always convincing; oddly absent: contemporary outsourcing of de facto slavery to Chinese & third world factories.
Nikiforuk's presentation at Starfest was excellent - more optimistic than the book.
Nikiforuk's frame of linking fossil fuel use and servitude is excellent and bears repeating. It is is not sufficient for an entire book, though, so I I skimmed through most of it after the first chapter or two.
Crystal Kobe
Couldn't do it...... Just finished a textbook like book. Bad timing I suppose, but I won't be reading this one
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Andrew Nikiforuk is a leading investigative journalist who has written about education, economics, and the environment for the past two decades. His work has appeared in a variety of Canadian publications including The Walrus, Maclean's, Canadian Business, Report on Business, Chatelaine, Georgia Straight, Equinox and Harrowsmith.

He is the author of the critically acclaimed Empire of the Beetle and...more
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