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The Long Descent: A User's Guide to the End of the Industrial Age

4.21  ·  Rating Details  ·  456 Ratings  ·  56 Reviews
SeattleOil.com— 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 mo ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published September 1st 2008 by New Society Publishers
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(showing 1-30 of 1,512)
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Zora
Jan 25, 2014 Zora rated it liked it
Good, if somewhat repetitive, until the last two chapters.

Thesis: Fossil fuels will be gone one day, and industrial civilization will collapse, not in the way Hollywood (or many a book you can find on goodreads) suggests, in an apocalyptic fall to tooth-and-nail fighting and cannibalism, but how all other major civilizations have fallen, in a slow stair-step manner, with minor recoveries slowing the fall as populations decline. Nor will technology save us. Solar panels take as much energy to ma
...more
unperspicacious
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, c ...more
Wayne
Apr 29, 2010 Wayne rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Guy
Dec 11, 2009 Guy rated it liked it
Shelves: socsci, culture, ecology
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 ...more
John Kaufmann
May 22, 2015 John Kaufmann rated it really liked it
Shelves: collapse, energy
I think John Michael Greer is one of our more 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 wri ...more
Stephen Hren
Dec 15, 2009 Stephen Hren rated it it was amazing
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.
Pbowen
Apr 13, 2014 Pbowen rated it it was ok
Shelves: peak-oil
Although the book is nicely written and easy to read, there is a large number of factual discrepancies.

From the very beginning, I was grossly disappointed how M.K.Hubbert's fundamental work has been mis-represented by the mathematically-incorrect and physically-impossible statements in J.M.Greer's book. I strongly doubt that the author has read and understood the original publication.

Just for the benefit of the readers, it is "Nuclear Energy and the Fossil Fuels," M. King Hubbert, Publication No
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John Schneider
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
...more
Adrian
May 21, 2012 Adrian rated it liked it
The central thesis of this book is valid and well argued; we’re running out of oil and need to tackle this with urgency so that we can go through a managed decline of industrial society. Civilisations fail but they rarely collapse overnight, so we can expect a ‘long descent’ rather than an implosion of apocalyptic proportions.

But the author does ramble. Anecdotal repetition eventually led to cliché which undermined the flow of the argument.

Nor am I entirely convinced, as Greer argues, that the
...more
Niki
Jan 15, 2016 Niki rated it liked it
Most of what's in this book isn't terribly new if you've read a few books on energy crisis, "collapse", and general-leftist/green activism. It would be a good introduction to people who haven't read much on the subject, as it tries to find a balanced way of explaining our civilization's future, which is somewhere between "sudden and total collapse" and "techno utopia where everyone gets what they want". It takes just a tiny bit of critical thinking to realize that, yes, humans are clever and wil ...more
Andersreads
Jul 21, 2014 Andersreads rated it really liked it
John Greer makes a convincing argument that since we have reached and passed Peak Oil, that over the next century the Industrial Age, which has depended on cheap oil, will come to an end as we know it, and be replaced by. . . . ? Well, that depends on what we do in the next 20 to 30 years. Do we sharply reduced our energy usage, do we adjust our lifestyles so we rely less on oil? One of his biggest arguments is that technology will not save us. What made oil so valuable was the high ratio of exp ...more
Michaela
Mar 15, 2015 Michaela rated it really liked it
It was startling to read the author’s prognostications that so much paralleled my own but were more optimistic in other ways. As a hook, he compares our society to that of the Mayan, which didn’t disappear overnight but over a century and a half due to overconsumption of a nonrenewable resource base (corn for them.) Sound familiar? The Mayan knew of alternative crops but did not pursue them and instead went to war to seize the corn of others. Apparently, on average it takes about 250 years for a ...more
Kate
May 16, 2012 Kate rated it liked it
A thoughtful, plausible theory of the trajectory of civilization as we know it. I would have preferred better documentation of his position, as much of it seems to be based on intuition, and comes across as a blind guess. Whether or not this is the case, the book was thought-provoking and well worth my time.
Matt
Mar 06, 2015 Matt rated it liked it
I'm hot and cold with this book. I like the author's pragmatic approach to explaining a collapse related to peak oil, based on how complex societies have collapsed in the past, but he often goes too deep into religion and faith, for my tastes. I understand that he wanted to give context to people's belief systems, and how they related to the perpetual-growth system we have in place how, but I think it could have been explained in a different, or more interesting way. Nonetheless, I'd recommend t ...more
Greg
Feb 11, 2015 Greg rated it really liked it
Shelves: peak-oil, community, 2015
There are two main strengths in this book:
1. The central arguments are explained concisely. The main argument that depletion of fossil fuel energy will force considerable adaptation in the developed world is difficult to argue.
2. The book covers considerable breadth of related topics, from strategies of adaptation to spirituality related to adaptation.

While the organization of the book was good, Greer loses some credibility through his sometimes poor use of examples and his tendency to gloss ov
...more
Dimitris Hall
Dec 13, 2014 Dimitris Hall rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kindle
I recently read two of Mr. Greer's books, The Long Descent and The Ecotechnic Future: Envisioning a Post-Peak World . This review is for both of them, as they made me feel and think more or less the same things. For your information, both share the same ideological and theoretical ideas, but they were different in some aspects: The Long Descent's explanation of what the myth of progress is how and why it came about I enjoyed more, while it was the practical information, tips, guidelines, the ...more
Jason
Jan 20, 2014 Jason rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: People preparing for an energy-poor future
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 more, simply believing something does not necessarily ma ...more
Ryan
Jun 23, 2013 Ryan rated it really liked it
Shelves: environment
The author makes a sensible case for the slow slide of our modern industrial society into decline due to the decline of fossil fuel availability. This is somehow refreshing, if the imminent regression of mankind can be described as such, by comparison to the usual apocalyptic dystopian future scenarios out there. Instead of overnight collapse and mass looting envisioned by so many, Greer compares our current trajectory to previous declines like the Roman and Mayan civilizations, which took a cou ...more
Nathan
Apr 06, 2013 Nathan rated it really liked it
Shelves: transition, criticism
Greer looks at the historical roots of the religion of progress, the mythic narrative of modernity, in order to reveal its operation in our collective denial of the imminent catabolic collapse of the industrial age as we reach the limits of fossil fuel-based growth. As always, his premise is that our current predicament is not historically unique and that we have valuable lessons to learn from the collapse of previous complex societies. We do not face apocalypse, but rather a long descent, with ...more
David Ellis
Mar 15, 2012 David Ellis rated it it was amazing
Each previous civilization has had its beginning, rise and fall. This engaging and clearly written book makes a powerful argument that (American Exceptionalism not withstanding) ours will be no exception.

The discovery of how to use inexpensive fossil fuels as portable and extremely concentrated energy sources made possible the extraordinary progress in technology and corresponding global population of the last couple of centuries. When, in the early 1970's, Americans reached a point were they co
...more
Anna
Dec 19, 2012 Anna rated it really liked it
'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 pessimi ...more
Rob Best
May 31, 2013 Rob Best rated it liked it
John Michael Greer presents an interesting account of one possible future of what can happen as what he dubs "the industrial age" comes to a close. He uses very good arguments up front to show that the availability of energy is declining and describe how we are heading to a change in our lifestyle. He then proceeds to dismiss the two prevailing theories of societal transformation--the doomsday theory and the myth of progress. In doing so, he posits an alternative that he describes as the middle ...more
J.E.R. Prince
Mar 15, 2012 J.E.R. Prince rated it it was amazing
Shelves: gainomicon
If you've been keeping up with the Archdruid's blog, this material will be very familiar. Even for dedicated readers, I can recommend this book as the blog covers so many threads (especially in the comments discussion) that the individual books present the material in a focused, footnoted, and refined way that the blog is not able to do.

This book covers the deindustrialisation of American (and by extension most first world countries') society and introduces a calm, nuanced and comprehensive set
...more
Eric
Apr 18, 2015 Eric rated it liked it
This book presents the view that deindustrialization of the world is now inevitable. We have reached peak oil right around now and no longer have the resources to build a world that will allow us to maintain anywhere close to our current level of lifestyle and energy consumption. He presents his case that over the next 100-200 years our society will go back to living like we did at the turn of the century. Greer says that it is the myth of progress, the new religion, which is leading us down thi ...more
James
This is one of the most carefully thought-through analyses of our civilization's future that I've come across, although I believe Greer may be underestimating some of the problems that are coming. His starting point is the fact that at the level of the U.S. and probably of the world, we have passed the point of peak oil extraction, meaning we will be able to get less out of the ground every year in the coming decades. Natural gas and uranium aren't far behind oil in that respect, and coal isn't ...more
Dav
Nov 18, 2008 Dav rated it liked it
I take a near-future Peak Oil scenario as a serious possibility. This book makes an excellent analogy that likens our multi-generational ride on the wave of cheap oil as the winning of a lottery. And like lottery winnings, this windfall is finite and we're fast approaching the end of our sky's-the-limit extravagant lifestyles and just like the sad tales we've heard of real life lottery winners, we've burned through all the resources without creating a sustainable standard of living. It's as if t ...more
Naomi Aud
Jul 23, 2014 Naomi Aud rated it liked it
I was going to give this book a try, it's putting me to sleep, that's for sure, I was never interested in petroleum oil, I gave this a try because I did find some interesting facts, next time I'm reading a review before I even start a book in the future. It's all about statistics and I'm not just into oil, no thanks. It's a bit sluggish and dry
Florin Pitea
Apr 28, 2015 Florin Pitea rated it really liked it
An educated and educative perspective of the oncoming decline of Western industrial societies triggered by the depletion of key factors such as fossil fuels. The book covers several areas, from causes of such a gradual decline to strategies meant to minimise the negative effects to the role spirituality may play in this process. Highly recommended.
Lynne
May 31, 2015 Lynne rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: all adults, high school and college students
People assume that "life after peak oil" will fall into either of two scenarios: technology will eventually prevail, or armaggedon is imminent.

Neither is likely. Greer explains eloquently why people embrace these two extremes. Using a world view of economics, sociology and psychology, he calmly lays out the more probable scenarios. To say that history repeats itself would miss the point. It's more a matter of life goes on, but never stays the same; and nothing ever continues in the same directi
...more
Iangagn
Feb 02, 2014 Iangagn rated it really liked it
John Michael Greer's "The Long Descent" does an excellent job at explaining modern civilization's biggest challenge: the decline in net energy availability. The author draws on many different sources, all of which are carefully detailed at the end of the book, and supplements his narrative with compelling examples.

If you have a nagging feeling that "something is wrong" and or that "things have to change," then this book will give you the whole story behind what it is exactly that is behind the
...more
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John Michael Greer is an author of over thirty books and the blogger behind The Archdruid Report. He also serves as Grand Archdruid of the Ancient Order of Druids in America. His work addresses a range of subjects, including peak oil and the future of industrial society. He lives in Cumberland, Maryland with his wife.
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“One the one hand, our economists treat human beings as rational actors making choices to maximize their own economic benefit. On the other hand, the same companies that hire those economists also pay for advertising campaigns that use the raw materials of myth and magic to encourage people to act against their own best interests, whether it's a matter of buying overpriced fizzy sugar water or the much more serious matter of continuing to support the unthinking pursuit of business as usual in the teeth of approaching disaster.” 13 likes
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