The Ecotechnic Future: Envisioning a Post-Peak World

The Ecotechnic Future: Envisioning a Post-Peak Worldby John Michael Greer
New Society Publishers, First Edition,  October 1, 2009.  Click to Buy this book!

To understand the need for such a book as The Ecotechnic Future an understanding of the concept of resource depletion is required, especially the concept of Peak Oil. This idea states that the amount of fossil fuels on the planet will reach a peak after which there will be a steady, irreplaceable decline in available, cheap energy. This has been addressed by many authors, dating back to the 1970s when M. King Hubbert first explained how the production of petroleum from a well typically follows a bell-shaped curve and extrapolated this idea to the planet as a whole. It is neither the author’s intention nor mine to go into the details of this concept here. There are many books available on the subject, including Matthew Simmon’s Twilight in the Desert, James Howard Kunstler’s Long Emergency, Richard Heinberg’s Peak Everything, and Dimitri Orlav’s Reinventing Collapse, just to name a few.

Drastically reduced resource availability has crushing ramifications for a world in which there has been an absolute population explosion in the centuries since cheap energy became available. The author argues that the abundant availability of fossil fuels has in large part enabled this growth. If we now have this stimulus taken from us, it seems obvious that it must lead to a drastic reduction in population, with the attendant social unrest, large migrations of people attempting to find sustainable living conditions, etc. If one accepts that resource depletion is a fact for the future world and that indeed a decline in civilization is imminent, then one naturally asks oneself: How can I plan for the future? This is the question that this book largely tries to answer.

The book is broken down into three parts. The first part, Orientations, discusses the history of resource depletion generally and how this has affected other civilizations in the past. The author then attempts to roughly predict, based on this historical evidence, what phases of decline we can expect. He foresees an end of our Age of Affluence followed by three subsequent stages: An Age of Scarcity Industrialism, followed by an Age of Salvage and finally the coming of the Ecotechnic Age.

The second part of the book, Resources, discusses a host of topics designed to help us prepare for the coming scarcity. In individual chapters on food, housing, work, energy, community, culture, and science, Greer makes suggestions on how we can meet our personal and communal needs during the collapse of systems that virtually all of us depend upon today. Many individuals who already try to live their lives with a small energy footprint will be familiar with his suggestions. It is interesting to note, that while not an anthroposophist, the author is familiar with Rudolf Steiner, and mentions Biodynamics as one of the approaches for sustainable food production in the future.

The final part of the book, Possibilities, discusses some of the less negative aspects of a period of decline. Many authors that discuss peak oil conclude that the future holds only doom and gloom for humanity. These authors maintain that it will be every man for himself and they advocate secluded mountain retreats with stockpiles of guns, ammo, backup energy sources, and food. The current author promotes solutions for the rest of us and believes that much good can come from individuals living together with a renewed sense of community in sustainable settings. This seems a much more natural approach and certainly one that would be more palatable to anthroposophists.

This book does not claim to have all the answers for the future or to be able to predict it with any precision. The author, however, does feel that much can be learned from an examination of history and its application to the future in terms of patterns, if not details. He advocates a willingness to look beyond mass media’s portrayal of reality in order to  try to understand what is happening in the world. For individuals willing to make the changes in their lives that will be necessary to adapt to changing circumstances in an age of depleted resources, this book can serve as an excellent starting point and reference.

For more information, visit the author’s blog, The Archdruid Report, I might also suggest any of the above mentioned books and especially the website The Automatic Earth (especially the articles by Nicole Foss, aka Stoneleigh) as one of the best resourcse for the understanding of resource depletion, as well as an explanation of how modern finance is involved in this process. The site has many, many articles (in the primer section) on how to position oneself to improve one’s odds of a fruitful life in the coming decades. There are many other great websites and resources available. The bibliography at the end of the book has more. — Review by Christopher Garrison

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