Some genuine factoids of interest, amidst excessive verbal froth. In the end, stripped down, it reinforces the standard technogrowth perspective on thSome genuine factoids of interest, amidst excessive verbal froth. In the end, stripped down, it reinforces the standard technogrowth perspective on the environmental crisis, but with rhetoric substituting for analysis. Was originally interested in reading her 'Natural History of the Senses', but now seriously reconsidering!...more
A somewhat useful introductory survey to peak oiler concerns. Style is easy to read but stilted - academese that has been rendered into a more journalA somewhat useful introductory survey to peak oiler concerns. Style is easy to read but stilted - academese that has been rendered into a more journalistic form, but in a rather wooden manner. The book's treatment of energy in history is, as is all too common in such books, very overdeterministic, but some points are well taken. The four futurist scenarios - optimistic technogrowth, virtual lives, resource wars, and liberal relocalisation seem useful markers, though I know the market is flooded with these and I haven't been keeping up to date.
There is actually remarkably little in terms of 'sociology' in this book - I had expected a less materialist angle and wanted to hear more about alternative ideas of economic organisation, religion, non-Western views, etc. In Urry's world, western-style liberal capitalism (albeit a more powered down, local, civil society-infused form) is the most desirable end game in town. Almost Fukuyama-ish in some ways. But the notion that greater economic participation (more people making Apps!!!) implies more participatory democracy is rather limiting in imagination. Why not start from the other way around instead?...more
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,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 more 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 more sense in such a world. The longer these processes are delayed, the sharper the decline will be, and the more 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....more
Mainly constructivist readings. The introductory chapter is particulary useful for drawing links from scratch between dimensions of sovereignty and nuMainly constructivist readings. The introductory chapter is particulary useful for drawing links from scratch between dimensions of sovereignty and numerous environmental issues, but Litfin's article in Mershon International Studies Review 1997, vol 41 pp. 167-204 is much more comprehensive on this topic....more