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

4.25 of 5 stars 4.25  ·  rating details  ·  343 ratings  ·  47 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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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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Guy
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
Zora
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
Andersreads
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
Pbowen
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...more
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
Stephen Hren
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.
Thom Foolery
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
Ian
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
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
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
'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
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
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
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
Adrian
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
Dav
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
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
Lynne
Dec 06, 2013 Lynne rated it 5 of 5 stars
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 are 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 dir...more
Iangagn
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
Megan
There's definitely plenty of overlapping material in this book with many of Greer's posts from the past year at his blog: http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/. But it was great to have his level thinking as applied to peak oil and the history of environmental and social changes all gathered in one place. He argues for the need to take action to build communities that can more easily transition through peak oil (and other upcoming resource 'peaks'), while breaking down many of the cultural myt...more
Bob
A book about peak oil and the possible future(s) resulting. Some ideas in here worth reading if you are interested in this kind of thing. Greer approaches things from a little different angle than many writers, based on his sort of quasi-mystical druid religion I would reckon -- he talks a lot about the stories or myths we (cultures) have and tell ourselves to make sense of the world. He manages to pull this off quite well, without making you think he is some guy who lives in the woods looking f...more
Laylah
Intelligent, unnerving, bleak and compassionate.
Ericstiens
The best book I've read yet on the unwinding of industrial civilization -- skillfully weaves a third way in between the two dominant narratives of infinite progress or immanent apocalypse with gentle reminders along the way that we aren't the first civilization to collapse while still offering a serious and sober meditation on what the end of abundant cheap energy will mean for both the industrialized and non-industrialized world. If you want a taste of his writing style, check out http://thearc...more
Willowwind
I rather want to beat my children over the head with this book and say "You'd better start thinking about this." An excellent discussion of system collapse, how we got to where we are and why Americans are by and large looking the other way. Full of practical suggestions for lifestyle changes as well as theory. Greer drives home how dependent industrial society is on fossil fuels for which there are currently no viable substitutes and poses some good speculations as to what will happen when the...more
Michael
Though I read the book in under a day, there is a lot of meat here to think and reflect upon.

Rather than facing unlimited "progress" we also aren't going to (according to the author's thesis) collapse and burn in a single spectacular apocalyptic demise. Instead we should expect more of a bumpy decline.

Theological implications from an LDS perspective are interesting to contemplate, especially in light with the cycles of history & prophecies regarding our age in the Book of Mormon.
Christopher Fisher
Thoroughly enjoyed this guide to the other side of Hubbert's peak. You'd think a book about societal collapse might be a bit of a drag, to say the least. But Greer likes to look at the big picture and puts the end of the oil age into a larger, historical perspective. I was interested in what a post industrial society might look like, and the path we may follow to get there and Greer goes into great detail in both of those areas. We're an adaptable species, it'll be okay, he seems to be saying.
Liz
Jul 27, 2011 Liz rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who want to survive peak oil
Because of both my interests in Pagan spirituality and in permaculture with concerns about a future without cheap oil, I decided I should read at least on book on the topic of life after peak oil. It was not as tedious to read as I expected, and much less doom and gloom than other book on the same topic. He also gives some practical advice on survival, none of which is easy by any stretch of the imagination. But as we all know, life doesn't have to be easy to be well lived.
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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.
More about John Michael Greer...
Druidry Handbook: Spiritual Practice Rooted in the Living Earth The Ecotechnic Future: Envisioning a Post-Peak World Monsters: An Investigator's Guide to Magical Beings The New Encyclopedia of the Occult A World Full of Gods: An Inquiry Into Polytheism

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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.” 11 likes
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