The Collapse of Civilization, Part 4:
Five More Good Books
on the Collapse of
Just in the last year there has been an explosion of books and
interest relevant to the subject of the collapse of civilization,
focusing mostly (but not exclusively) on "peak oil" and energy concerns. So click
on these links to get reviews of the following books:
The Empty Tank: Oil, Gas, Hot
Air, and The Coming Global Financial Catastrophe.
Jeremy Leggett. New York: Random House, 2005. 239 pages.
The Collapsing Bubble: Growth
and Fossil Energy. Lindsey
Grant. Santa Ana: Seven Locks Press, 2005. 74 pages.
A Short History of
Ronald Wright. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers,
The End of Fossil Energy and
the Last Chance for Sustainability. John G. Howe.
Wateford, Maine: McIntire Publishing Services, 2005 (second
High Noon For Natural Gas:
The New Energy Crisis. Julian Darley. Vermont: Chelsea
Green Publishing Company, 2004.
The situation is very serious, but I am being
a bit tongue in cheek when I talk about the collapse of civilization.
For civilization itself to collapse, I think we would have to
revert to a state of humanity which was prior to the invention of
writing and settled cities. The most plausible scenarios for this would
be some sort of nuclear war, a universal or nearly-universal and deadly disease, or
some other similar catastrophe. Of course we should worry about
these scenarios, but avoiding them does not seem to require fundamental
changes in everyday life.
By contrast, the collapse of this civilization is considerably
more problematic, and probably does require a fundamental change
to everyday life. And that’s what
these five new books are concerned with. All of them were published
this year (in 2005) except for Darley’s book published in 2004. I
recommend all of them, though each has different strengths.
However, don’t treat this series as an exhaustive bibliography just yet
— the most significant omission at this point would be that of Richard
Heinberg’s two books, The Party’s Over and Powerdown. The
Party’s Over is now commonly cited as a "classic" book
(and it’s not that old) — it was one of the first to clearly explain
the problem of "peak oil" to a general audience. I hope to go
back and re-read these two books and report separately on them at some
time in the future, but for now I will just say that Heinberg’s books
are also important and essential for any student of "peak oil"
or the future (if any) of our civilization.
December 22, 2005
1: Collapse -- Coming Soon to a Civilization Near You!
A review of books by Jared Diamond, J. R. McNeill, and Joseph Tainter,
on the collapse of civilizations and the current state of our own.
Part 2: Reviews of Better Off and The Long Emergency
Reviews of two books by James Kunstler and Eric Brende which offer alternative visions of possible
Part 3: Is Peak Oil
Here?, reviews of books by Ken Deffeys and Matt Simmons on peak oil.
Part 4: Five More Good Books
on the Collapse of Civilization! Reviews of books by Jeremy
Legget, Lindsey Grant, Ronald Wright, John Howe, and Julian Darley.
Part 5: Decline and Fall,
a review of Are We Rome?
Part 6: Peak Oil at
the Movies, a review of A Crude Awakening, Crude Impact, and What
a Way to Go.