James Howard Kunstler “Long Emergency”

ISBN 1-84354-453-9. Published by Grove Atlantic in 2005. I read this book in January and February 2007. Despite the blurb on the book this is not intended for a universal readership. When they use the word “we” they, of course, mean the citizens of the United States of America. This is a parochial Book for a parochial people. However (unusually for me) I don’t hold this against the author, it is only the blurb of the Publishing House. The Publisher made other mistakes. Kunstler wrote three versions of his book and submitted it all jammed together. The publisher should edit this down into one book. They didn’t, rendering it too long and repetitive. Kunstler’s knowledge of the people of the Middle East and Europe is poor. He has obviously never been to these places and his manner borders upon xenophobic. Likewise his attitude towards young blacks and black culture is racist. In fact he is a perfect white middle class product of up-state New York. He has read the New York Times for his entire life and his whole world is constructed around the world-myth it propagates. The irony of the author owning two homes passes with no comment despite the sarcasm in which he treats his other SUV-loving Americans. If you want to read the twisted logic of the neo-con reason for war in Iraq then read this book. This is meant to be a book about the decline of western civilisation through the effects of climate change and the end of oil. Despite his obvious ignorance Kunstler accidentally manages to deliver on the title of the book. If someone had edited out the obvious hogwash then it might be more reasonable. As soon as he gets around to his main topic then it all works. It charts just how large parts of North America will descend into chaos, violence and disease in the next fifty years before it all reverts back to an agrarian existence. He seems to have an overtly rosy view of US gun culture and fails to see that civil war is a more likely outcome in a country saturated with guns. The ‘mad max’ scenario would play more true in the world he writes of. However, putting these criticisms to one side here is a perfectly good book about how western civilisation will transform into a post-oil existence. It is a reasonable lesson for Europeans too – particularly inhabitants of the United Kingdom who have gone the furthest in copying the US Suburban model minus the guns. This remains possibly the only book to chart this uncomfortable future but sadly it is so flawed that the message gets lost. Worth a read if you have the patience to study it properly.

About post-carbon-man

A passionate advocate of a peaceful transition to a sustainable political-economy, Mark hails from a working class farming background. Today he is a Company Director and Chairman of the Low Carbon Chilterns Co-operative. Whilst at University (Engineering Masters) he was active in Conservative Student politics but has had no affiliation since. He has travelled widely on business covering the USA, Europe, Middle East and Central Asian Republics. In 2007 Mark founded Post-Carbon-Living and a year later co-founded Transition Town High Wycombe. He lives with is wife & daughter in a home they retrofitted to be carbon-neutral. Today he blogs about surviving politics on a shrinking planet and is passionate in his rejection of Nationalism.