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The Long Emergency: Surviving the Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  3,052 ratings  ·  327 reviews
A controversial hit that sparked debate among businessmen, environmentalists, and bloggers, The Long Emergency by James Howard Kunstler is an eye-opening look at the unprecedented challenges we face in the years ahead, as oil runs out and the global systems built on it are forced to change radically.
Paperback, 324 pages
Published March 2nd 2006 by Grove Press (first published 2003)
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Jul 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
Kunstler is like that super-intelligent, yet vitriolic friend whose opinions you totally jibe with but find yourself apologizing to others after he's totally ripped them a new one at the cocktail party you hosted last saturday night.

Yeah, he's kind of bitter. But then again, he's so right. His take on 20th century suburbia and the erosion of American culture is spot on.

And here? Well, he might be right. And if he is, we are all SO SCREWED (well at least everybody in the U.S. outside of Saratoga
Bruce Sanders
Sep 23, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone striving to avoid being struthious
The Long Emergency / by James Kunstler -- If Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat is the ultimate argument for the reality and virtues of globalization then James Kunstler’s The Long Emergency provides the decisive counter-argument--as the world runs out of fossil fuels globalization is doomed. The main thrusts of Kunstler’s argument are as follows: oil and gas production have peaked and will soon begin to fall, our civilization is deeply dependent on that production, alternative energy sources c ...more
Oct 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing
The 5 stars you give to the Rolling Stones'"Exile on Main Street" are different from the 5 stars you give to the Tallis Scholars' recording of the 1605 Masses of William Byrd. This is a 5-star popularizer, not a 5-star science book. But the science is correct, and the writing is terrific. Scary, scary shit, and it's all true.
While I liked World Made by Hand, which is a fiction story based on this author's ideas for how the world is going to hell in a hand basket, I just can't take his ravings in a factual setting. Too many half-truths & outright idiocies in every section. I've tried to peck away at this book for years, but it's just not worth the space it takes up on my table.

With less fanaticism, it could be excellent. Kunstler has identified quite a few problems that I agree with, but he takes them to extremes, tu
Jan 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
After letting it simmer for a few weeks I think these are the basic irks that converge into JHK's doomed imagined 21st century future:

-Mismanaged resources.

-Misappropriated space.

-Abuse of energy and fossil fuels.

-Irresponsible use of money that results in major net losses for the economy.

-Plans for the future skewed by fantastical ideas in technology.

-Loss of community and its replacement with (energy-backed) novelty and convenience. (Like the attachment to auto-vehicles)

-And: too much ineffici
Jul 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Republicans, Cornucopians
This is not an optimistic book. But I don't view it as a pessimistic book either. It is simply a realistic explanation of where things stand and where, in all likelihood, we are headed.

Dramatic change is coming to the world, but especially to the people of the United States who remain steadfast in their denial that this modern, fossil-fuel dependent, suburban lifestyle is inherently unsustainable. Peak oil, which we are currently at (or perhaps slightly past), will be the main culprit for this
Mar 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Kunstler's central thesis in this very alarming book (see the title) is that peak oil will destroy civilization as we know it. If you don't know what peak oil is, google it and find out. If you believe it's a conspiracy of the left wing media, you're an idiot. Unfriend me. For reference, peak oil is in all likelihood happening right this very instant, maybe starting as early as 2003, but Kunstler emphasizes that it's impossible to be certain on the issue until we're sliding down the other side o ...more
Jan 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
the first chapter is worth five stars as a stand-alone invocation - and freer than any other part of his writing of verbal posturing.

i've heard the complaints about his style & self-regard & sure. But I've been reading clever men all my life - & this is one i'm grateful to for this passionate appreciation of the arc of entropy compounded by excess and ignorance. He's a good teacher as well - rooting his vision in just enough science for even someone like me to follow.

much of what humanity has do
Scott Lerch
Feb 09, 2007 rated it did not like it
Shelves: singularity
This booked sucked. It's basically the antithesis of Ray Kurzweil's The Singularity is Near, so instead of converging miracles of science, it’s the converging catastrophes of man. I originally read this in an attempt to balance out my views, but I overshot the mark. The whole book knocks down straw men of the emerging technologies that will solve our energy and environmental problems, and then goes on to preach about the inevitable disasters with fallacious arguments and no scientific data. It d ...more
Keith Akers
Feb 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
I read this book over a decade ago, but am just now adding it to Goodreads. This book is mostly about peak oil, but it could be generalized into a general "limits to growth" type argument. He completely ignores veganism, and I'd like to see a discussion of the biological limits to growth. But it is a good general exposition of "doomer" thinking in a plausible way, and any vegans who were interested could easily adapt this to his basic framework.

Kunstler is an excellent, if curmudgeonly, writer;
Wendy C
Jul 30, 2008 rated it it was ok
A humanity hating rant about the end of the world as we know it. Kunstler maintains that oil is running out (I'll give him that), and that the result of these declining oil supplies will be nothing short of wiping out most of the human race and starting over from scratch. He is very alarmist in predictions that he can't possibly have any basis for; por ejemplo, he predicts upcoming epidemics in which world leaders inoculate "the chosen ones" while letting everyone else die because the earth cann ...more
Kunstler's writing can be shrill, and sometimes he comes off as a bit of a jackass. But he has a sharp wit, and in this book he articulately makes the case for why we face a confluence of several crises in the coming years. This was the first doomsday peak oil book I read, and it made a big impression on me. If you are new to the subject, The Party's Over is a much better introduction. Sometimes Kunstler's predictions seem far-fetched (pirates? seriously?), and his arguments are less carefully b ...more
Alex Telander
Nov 02, 2007 rated it liked it
THE LONG EMERGENCY: SURVIVING THE CONVERGING CATASTROPHES OF THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY BY JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER: The Long Emergency is an eye-catching book with hits bright alarm-yellow cover and black and red title. It's a book about the future of the world, what's going to happen when we run out of oil, and what to do when this "Long Emergency" begins. The first part of the book goes into depth about when oil was discovered, how it was first used, when and how it was converted into the many pro ...more
May 25, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: environment
I finished this book at 3AM on a Saturday night. I finished it in three days, completely in urgency, reading not compelled by beauty as might typically be the case when I read so rabidly, but by a sense of need. Like most books about peak oil/global warming/water shortage/global upheaval, this one was deeply troubling. It is, after all, something of an end-times scenario, but written competently through to the logical conclusions of our short-sighted accoutrements of modern civilization. Writing ...more
May 06, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: energy
The thing that makes The Long Emergency so alarming is that its central idea is hard to deny. The worldwide rate of oil production will soon enough begin to drop; this will make oil expensive; and this will make business as usual impossible. Transportation and agriculture are just two of the systems that depend thoroughly on oil for their functioning, and to date none of the energy alternatives we have envisioned is well-placed to step into the gap. Readers will find plenty to take issue with, i ...more
Justin Quinn
Sep 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
This was a really interesting book. The part that lent it the most credibility were the comments about the coming housing crash just a few months before housing peaked. The one real oversight of the authors analysis is that he completely missed the coming of hydraulic fracturing as a method to obtain oil and natural gas. I would be really interested to see what the author thinks the effect of fraking will be. I personally think that adding fraking into the equation buys the time necessary to mak ...more
Nov 03, 2007 rated it it was ok
okay, so like -- there is a lot of good stuff in this book, stuff we all need to pay attention to. and kunstler is an entertaining writer. but then at the end of the book when he's writing about what might actually happen in the long emergency, he gets all essentialist on our asses and it sucks. like: people in the south will react like this, because of their inherent nature. people in the west will do this because it's in their blood or something. and so on. wtf. that all kinda ruined it for me ...more
Roland Bruno
Aug 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Books are powerful things. They can change you in ways that will affect you throughout your life. I can point to several books that have had a profound effect upon my belief systems and my interests. Tolkien was one such author. The Bible certainly made an impact upon me too. This book is another that has changed my outlook in ways that will certainly resonate for its remainder.
Aug 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
Okay, so you have to read this. Yes, you, person who is reading (or skimming or glancing at) my review. It is mandatory. However you will want to schedule regular hugs from solicitous people who buy you ice cream. I made the poor choice of reading this book while my boyfriend was several states away and could not provide these comforts.

Anyway, I am going to review this book before I read any of the other comments, so as to capture the experience of a relatively educated person who has a tenuous
Richard Reese
Mar 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
James Howard Kunstler wrote The Long Emergency, which describes the fossil fuel tsunami, and how it is likely to shape our way of life in the coming decades. Kunstler’s perspective is based on serious amounts of research. He describes the future that he expects to happen, not the kinder, gentler, more enlightened future that he wishes would happen. He lays the cards on the table, and predicts a tomorrow that is going to be more than a little challenging and unpleasant.

I’ve been reading promo ma
Mar 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Whew boy! After catching Kunstler on the radio, I bought his book, and read it with great fascination and mounting alarm. As a scenario for disaster, this book should please fans of fiction writers like J.G. Ballard. Only it is not fiction - Kunstler predicts the coming collapse of all human civilization, and he provides dark, witty descriptions of how this will come to pass. He makes a strong, compelling case, and I found myself fervently hoping that he is completely wrong. But we ignore this k ...more
Aug 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
“The Long Emergency”

by James Howard Kunstler

Book Review by Jay Gilbertson
Now how’s that for a down right peculiar title? It got your attention though, didn’t it? This book is actually an important guide to life after what is called ‘Peak Oil’ and, if you can reflect on the information beyond the author’s sometimes rather cranky moments, you’ll come away with some truly useful analysis.

Kunstler was one of the first to bring the idea of ‘Peak Oil’ to the public’s attention with this book, which w
Aug 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
Important book about the current changes taking place in the world and upcoming crises that are beginning to occur. I didn't read all of this, but here are a few quotes from what I read:

"If it happens that the human race doesn't make it, than the fact that we were here once will not be altered, that once upon a time we peopled this astonishing blue planet, and wondered intelligently at everything about it and the other things who lived here with us on it, and that we celebrated the beauty of it
Jun 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I usually hate the term "must-read" when applied to books, but in the case of this book the adjective applies. Anyone who expects to live for another 20 or more years should see and reflect on what is probably going to be our future.
James Howard Kunstler's 307-page gives Americans (and others in the world) a glimpse of the future that is full of scarcity, hardship, and probably strife. It's a future that seems all but inevitable given the growing depletion of fossil fuels (coal and petroleum)
Apr 07, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: environment
Even if one does not really believe in TEOTWAWKI, the author tries his best to write convincingly of its approaching reality. With the peak oil notion as its core, Kunstler supports his view by discounting various alternative energy options as unfeasible at replacing the one-off endowment that crude oil represents for humanity, throwing in the deleterious effects of climate change, epidemic diseases and such other calamities that will coincide with the main thrust of oil depletion. His very form ...more
Aug 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
This certainly isn't the feel good book of the year. It also isn't a survival manual. What Kunstler writes about is why the way we operate is doomed, how it will change, and how (in his opinion) we can deal with said change. It is MY opinion that Kunstler's is a view predicated on the perceived "correctness" of his own choices, and that's where his argument falls apart.

He's far too willing to throw babies out with bathwater and everyone else under the bus. Kustler sees no alternative to his own
A companion volume to The Long Descent; in some ways Kunstler is more apocalyptic than Greer, and I think the most balanced view lies between them. Whereas Greer is probably a bit too sanguine about how fossil fuel depletion will affect humanity, and doesn't pay much attention to other problems that will combine with it to make both worse, Kunstler fails to adequately reflect the truth that the consequences of these programs will spread their impact over time. I also didn't care for Kunstler's s ...more
Alice Chau-Ginguene
Aug 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The oil is running out. Fact.
No one wants to think about it, some people deny it.
(Read some of the one star comment here then you will see them - 'oil is not running out.' I mean, how? There isn't unlimited amount of the stuff. It WILL run out one day. You can hope it's not happening in your life time but sure as hell it WILL run out one day.)
I am glad that someone speculate a possibility what would happen and how our lives are going to be like post-fossil fuel.
The author's version of the fut
Sep 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: justbooks
The second part of Kunstler's tirade against oil that began in Geography of Nowhere, he completely lets loose in this book. It's amazing and refreshing that his outlook, although grim for the immediate future, is overall hopeful. He sees a better future for humanity after our liberation from fossil fuels. Brownie points for setting the post-oil utopia in Upstate NY! He also has one of the most unlikely, and accurate, pre-2008 recession predictions that the worldwide will bottom-out because of th ...more
Jack Binzer
Feb 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is terrifying. The fact of the matter is that until we (American citizens) get off of fossil fuels, our lifestyle is a ticking time bomb. Who knows what the future holds?
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James Howard Kunstler (born 1948) is an American author, social critic, and blogger who is perhaps best known for his book The Geography of Nowhere, a history of suburbia and urban development in the United States. He is prominently featured in the peak oil documentary, The End of Suburbia, widely circulated on the internet. In his most recent non-fiction book, The Long Emergency (2005), he argues ...more

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5 likes · 4 comments
“If it happens that the human race doesn't make it, then the fact that we were here once will not be altered, that once upon a time we peopled this astonishing blue planet, and wondered intelligently at everything about it and the other things who lived here with us on it, and that we celebrated the beauty of it in music and art, architecture, literature, and dance, and that there were times when we approached something godlike in our abilities and aspirations. We emerged out of depthless mystery, and back into mystery we returned,and in the end the mystery is all there is.” 21 likes
“In effect, Americans threw away their communities in order to save a few dollars on hair dryers and plastic food storage tubs, never stopping to reflect on what they were destroying.” 0 likes
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