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James Howard Kunstler’s critically acclaimed and best-selling The Long Emergency, originally published in 2005, quickly became a grassroots hit, going into nine printings in hardcover. Kunstler’s shocking vision of our post-oil future caught the attention of environmentalists and business leaders alike, and stimulated widespread discussion about our dependence on fossil fu James Howard Kunstler’s critically acclaimed and best-selling The Long Emergency, originally published in 2005, quickly became a grassroots hit, going into nine printings in hardcover. Kunstler’s shocking vision of our post-oil future caught the attention of environmentalists and business leaders alike, and stimulated widespread discussion about our dependence on fossil fuels and our dysfunctional financial and government institutions. Kunstler has since been profiled in The New Yorker and invited to speak at TED. In Too Much Magic, Kunstler evaluates what has changed in the last seven years and shows us that, in a post-financial-crisis world, his ideas are more relevant than ever. "Too Much Magic" is what Kunstler sees in the bright visions of a future world dreamed up by optimistic souls who believe technology will solve all our problems. Their visions remind him of the flying cars and robot maids that were the dominant images of the future in the 1950s. Kunstler’s image of the future is much more sober. With vision, clarity of thought, and a pragmatic worldview, Kunstler argues that the time for magical thinking and hoping for miracles is over, and the time to begin preparing for the long emergency has begun.


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James Howard Kunstler’s critically acclaimed and best-selling The Long Emergency, originally published in 2005, quickly became a grassroots hit, going into nine printings in hardcover. Kunstler’s shocking vision of our post-oil future caught the attention of environmentalists and business leaders alike, and stimulated widespread discussion about our dependence on fossil fu James Howard Kunstler’s critically acclaimed and best-selling The Long Emergency, originally published in 2005, quickly became a grassroots hit, going into nine printings in hardcover. Kunstler’s shocking vision of our post-oil future caught the attention of environmentalists and business leaders alike, and stimulated widespread discussion about our dependence on fossil fuels and our dysfunctional financial and government institutions. Kunstler has since been profiled in The New Yorker and invited to speak at TED. In Too Much Magic, Kunstler evaluates what has changed in the last seven years and shows us that, in a post-financial-crisis world, his ideas are more relevant than ever. "Too Much Magic" is what Kunstler sees in the bright visions of a future world dreamed up by optimistic souls who believe technology will solve all our problems. Their visions remind him of the flying cars and robot maids that were the dominant images of the future in the 1950s. Kunstler’s image of the future is much more sober. With vision, clarity of thought, and a pragmatic worldview, Kunstler argues that the time for magical thinking and hoping for miracles is over, and the time to begin preparing for the long emergency has begun.

30 review for Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology, and the Fate of the Nation

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jennie

    This is a hard book to read. Kunstler is a gifted non-fiction writer, spinning compelling prose in the same vein as political writers such as Matt Taibbi and Michael Lewis. That's not what I mean. I mean that it's hard in that it says something so incredibly terrifying, that you desperately read between the lines trying to find a way to avoid coming to the same conclusions. But you can't. Kunstler argues that the modern era is coming to an end. That our car culture, suburbia, modern manufacturing, This is a hard book to read. Kunstler is a gifted non-fiction writer, spinning compelling prose in the same vein as political writers such as Matt Taibbi and Michael Lewis. That's not what I mean. I mean that it's hard in that it says something so incredibly terrifying, that you desperately read between the lines trying to find a way to avoid coming to the same conclusions. But you can't. Kunstler argues that the modern era is coming to an end. That our car culture, suburbia, modern manufacturing, and high-stakes financing are irrevocably on the decline. Why? Because peak oil has passed. Energy will never be as cheap as it was since the turn of the century. Because our modern way of living depends on not only cheap energy, but endless cheap energy. That everyone was betting on something that we should have known was impossible: endless upwards growth. Honestly, I hope that what Kunstler predicts will never come to pass--that we will wise up and break our dependency on cheap energy. But I've been watching our nihilist politics too long. I do fear that we have reached the plateau of modern civilization as it is presently understood, and that our current woes are because we bet on expansion when we got stagnation instead. What will happen when stagnation turns to decline as the oil wells dry up? Like Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It, we ignore Kunstler at our own peril.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Richard Reese

    Far, far away, on the misty frontiers of knowledge, dwells a small and widely scattered clan of clear thinkers who live with their eyes wide open, their minds always set to the “on” position, and their powers of reasoning cranked up to 10. They have an acute ability to instantly recognize the presence of balderdash and poppycock, even in parts per billion quantities. Even if the source is a slick-talking president, a gray-haired instructor, an industry expert, or a famous sexy celebrity, they kn Far, far away, on the misty frontiers of knowledge, dwells a small and widely scattered clan of clear thinkers who live with their eyes wide open, their minds always set to the “on” position, and their powers of reasoning cranked up to 10. They have an acute ability to instantly recognize the presence of balderdash and poppycock, even in parts per billion quantities. Even if the source is a slick-talking president, a gray-haired instructor, an industry expert, or a famous sexy celebrity, they know without a doubt when claptrap and twaddle are shamelessly being ejaculated. They can keep their eyes on the ball, even in the thick fog of a never-ending propaganda blitzkrieg. These isolated wizards refuse to drink the Kool-Aid and dream away their lives in the colorful cartoon fantasy world of consumer society. They aren’t giddy with childlike excitement about the latest new cars, shoes, cell phones, and hairdos. They have no throbbing hunger for RVs, McMansions, or jet skis. They don’t rot and soak into the couch cushions while sitting in front of flashing screaming TVs. Their minds are capable of voyaging to realms far beyond the dreary two-step death march of working and shopping. They often dwell on mountaintops, sitting beside a fire, horrified at the spectacular stupidity of the industrial civilization spread out below them —killing the oceans, killing the forests, killing the prairies, killing their children, killing everything they touch — all for no good reason! Nothing could be more befuddling and painful to watch! What could they be thinking? Why can’t they see what’s happening? James Howard Kunstler is one of those clear thinkers, and the twenty-first century is just driving him bonkers! It’s ridiculously easy for clear thinkers to comprehend the glaring, obvious truth, and they can’t understand why most of humankind seems to be incapable of doing this, too. Kunstler can see that consumer society remains on the worst possible path, and at every fork, they choose the bigger mistake. It’s immensely pathetic, to the degree that the tragedy develops a ticklish aroma of comedy, and Kunstler uses wit like a sharp whip. Consumers behave as if they are completely disconnected from almost every aspect of reality, spending their lives in an artificial world of pure whimsy. They are like excited children waiting for piles of fun presents from Santa Claus. They have a profound blind faith that science and technology will protect everyone with its boundless magic. Kunstler calls this the Jiminy Cricket Syndrome: “When you wish upon a star your dreams come true.” In his book, Too Much Magic, Kunstler hurls a super-sized bucket of ice water in a heroic attempt to rouse sleeping zombies into a state of consciousness. “By the time you read this, the empire in question may be a smoldering ruin.” He rips down the curtains and reveals the stinking, burning, fever-crazed world outside. Wake up! We’re speeding toward multiple catastrophes! “This entire book is about the manifold failures of all kinds of people to anticipate the changes we face.” Fossil energy is the foundation of our world economy. The global production of conventional oil peaked in 2006. By 2008, the price of oil had skyrocketed to $147 — big trouble. With regard to the miraculous new shale oil and shale gas fields, he’s convinced that most of the hope is based on industry hype, intended to attract dreamy investors and half-smart high-risk gamblers. All the magic in the world cannot replace fossil energy with alternative energy, or even come close. The end of the 90-year era of “Happy Motoring” is approaching, and we’re not far from the peak of suburban sprawl. American style suburbia was “the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world.” Suburbia has no future, but Americans haven’t grasped this yet. “I expect many suburbs will become slums, ruins, and salvage yards.” Southern California will turn into a ghost town. Shortly after oil hit $147, the housing bubble popped, the financial system collapsed, and trillions of dollars vaporized. The collapse is far from over, since banks still hold a huge number of worthless mortgages, pretending that they are assets — pretending that they are not the living dead. A shortage of capital means that perpetual economic growth is close to finished. This means that trillions of dollars of debt are never going to be repaid. This means that the party is over. This means that we’re moving into an age of contraction. Economic life is going to get much smaller, more local, and will use far less energy. Much of the labor force will be shifted toward the production of food. If we choose to acknowledge this, then we could make efforts to contract in an orderly manner. If we choose to bet everything on magic, the trip down will be more brutal, painful, and dumb. This is the core message of the book. Kunstler takes us on a tour of a number of problems that are major threats to our future, and a few lesser issues that he just enjoys kvetching about (like infantile young bozos who wear their baggie pants way too low). He laments that the overpopulation problem has been assigned to Mother Nature to fix, since we’re not capable of giving it serious thought. He grieves over our unwillingness to do anything to slow the advance of climate change. (Well, we’re totally eager to help in any way that doesn’t involve changing our lifestyle to the slightest degree.) He spews extra large doses of venom on the political system and the finance industry. George W. Bush was a memorable president. He involved us in two expensive wars for no good reason. He nearly succeeded in obliterating our economy. He made conservatives look like a clown act. Many believed that his shenanigans would drive the Republican Party into extinction. Nobody imagined that Barack Obama would grab the baton and simply maintain the same policies (his #1 campaign contributor was Goldman Sachs). Obama approved borrowing hundreds of billions of dollars for stimulus spending, mostly for highway projects and runway improvements, updating a transportation system that has no future. Tens of thousands of finance industry fraudsters are never going to wait in line at the guillotine, because the president completely refused to enforce existing laws. Obama will be remembered for “botched health care reform, a dumb energy policy, keeping two of the longest wars in our history going, and not reestablishing the rule of law in banking in the face of arrant misconduct.” He gives us Reality for Dummies, but not Solutions for Dummies. No amount of magic can undo climate change, painlessly shrink our population, make coal burning clean, or fix our economy. But today is an excellent day to open our eyes, and make an effort to comprehend our dire predicament. Today is an excellent day to take a good look, to see if there are less catastrophic places to crash land our airborne Titanic. At this point, it’s all about damage control, and trying very hard to learn as much as possible from our mistakes. It’s about clear thinking.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    This is a continuation of the socio-political prophecy of Kunstler's earlier book, THE LONG EMERGENCY. He foresaw a future in which America would face the end of cheap oil, with all the economic and political crises that would follow from that. This book's premise is that we are now in that long emergency, having hit the "Peak Oil" moment in 2006 (This is the long-predicted moment when oil production has reached its limit, and will begin to decline, regardless of demand. For an industrial world This is a continuation of the socio-political prophecy of Kunstler's earlier book, THE LONG EMERGENCY. He foresaw a future in which America would face the end of cheap oil, with all the economic and political crises that would follow from that. This book's premise is that we are now in that long emergency, having hit the "Peak Oil" moment in 2006 (This is the long-predicted moment when oil production has reached its limit, and will begin to decline, regardless of demand. For an industrial world founded on cheap oil, this is a catastrophe). Kunstler is funny and angry, and writes really well (he's published 10 or so novels, including two recent ones that take place in a world after the end of oil). He rages against the American suburbanization following WWII as "The most tragic misallocation of resources in the history of the world." In this book he makes two points about "Too much magic." First, we've been too successful with our technology that we developed in the age of cheap oil. Air flight, space travel, plentiful food, the electric grid, the internet--these are all miracles that we take for granted and are even bored with because we've had this surfeit of technology. But that technology was the product of energy, and the energy is running out. His second point about "too much magic" is that we have not faced the reality that fossil fuels were finite and that they allowed us to overpopulate the world, abuse nature and create overly complex systems of finance, politics and culture. Now the fossil fuels are disappearing and we are stuck in a desperate cycle of magical thinking, sure that some new technology is going to replace them and protect our way of life. We don't want to hear anything about economic and ecological contraction, it is so scary. This is definitely the kind of book that gets called a "Jeremiad" but that's a little dismisssive. Kunstler is mad because he cares, and because he knows how painful the new life of living with less will be for everyone. He doesn't spare anyone on the political spectrum, for we've all avoided facing the fact that our too-complex banking, business and political systems are letting us down. If you haven't read THE LONG EMERGENCY it might pay to read it first, or at least to get some info in your head about Peak Oil and its consequences. This book may depress you, but it could also help prepare you to face the fact, that the bill is coming due for this long, long party we've had in the age of cheap oil.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Glen Krisch

    Nothing new if you follow Kunstler.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Esmeralda Rupp-Spangle

    This is a wonderful follow up to The Long Emergency. I would say- you should absolutely read the Long Emergency first- this is *definitely* a follow up book- there's a lot less in the way of facts and figures and a lot more sort of grumpy philosophical musing and citing facts and figures that he laid out thoroughly in his previous work. It's a fantastic book, but should not stand alone; this really should be read only after you’ve finished The Long Emergency. Any way you cut it though, it's the This is a wonderful follow up to The Long Emergency. I would say- you should absolutely read the Long Emergency first- this is *definitely* a follow up book- there's a lot less in the way of facts and figures and a lot more sort of grumpy philosophical musing and citing facts and figures that he laid out thoroughly in his previous work. It's a fantastic book, but should not stand alone; this really should be read only after you’ve finished The Long Emergency. Any way you cut it though, it's the same despairing, cranky, caustic, abrasive, no nonsense, cut-and-dry, BS free Kuntsler that I know and love. He's Funny as hell, a very entertaining writer- which is really what makes such depressing literature so oddly delightful. I feel a sort of vague nihilistic satisfaction emanating from his work- especially this one. It's a kind of "See? I told you this was going to happen- but it's going to get a whole lot worse... here's how and why" Oddly, I find this undertone of smugness to be satisfying rather than obnoxious. I'm frankly sick of climate scientists and science writers being overly optimistic and spinning tales of an alt-energy paradise. It's not "almost" too late, it's super-duper completely too late. We're WAY beyond the point of no return- and I think Kunstler is one of only a handful of people who recognize (or are willing to acknowledge publicly- for which he takes a lot of grief) this deeply disturbing fact. It's part of what makes him so appealing to me. I now avoid books with titles like "Doom, and How We Can Avoid It" because that's nonsense. There's no avoiding it. This hesitance about their own terrifying conclusions a tactic that scientists use in abundance- a sort of skeptical caution about their own work- partially because constantly re-examining your data is just how science works, but partially because the world- specifically the powerful right wing lobbyists, politicians, and those who benefit most from keeping on as we are- has become so completely hostile to people who suggest this way of life is unsustainable that many climatologists (& the like) are terrorized by email inboxes full of threats and insults. (Clive Hamilton approaches the psychology of this brilliantly in Requiem for a Species) It's time the media brought our civilizations imminent collapse to center stage, but it's not going to happen. Ineffectual governments, dishonest or misguided political figures, apathetic, ignorant populations, and habit keep us stuck in this rut. JHK is one of a very small number of authors who are willing to approach this topic realistically- peppered of course with his characteristically harsh wit. I have a whole shelf full of climate change, peak resource, and other doom related literature: Richard Heinberg, Clive Hamilton, Mark Lynas, Fred Gutrl, James Hansen, Heidi Cullen, Peter Ward, Bill McKibben... but of all of this gloomy stuff, I really- truly ENJOY Kunstler the most. He's the funniest, and the most relatable. I would recommend his book to a friend before ANY of these others. He's definitely the only one of them who's made me LOL. Highly recommended, AFTER you read The Long Emergency.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Vincent

    I will be simple and to the point. If you are aware of Kunstler and his ideas then you probably do not need to bother with this one. There really isn't anything new although he does make a nice effort tying the vulgarities of peak oil with all of the recent financial shenanigans. His comments about a lack of future capital for oil/ng exploration and exploitation are thought provoking. If, however, you have never heard of Kunstler then I recommend this book as it will make you more aware of the p I will be simple and to the point. If you are aware of Kunstler and his ideas then you probably do not need to bother with this one. There really isn't anything new although he does make a nice effort tying the vulgarities of peak oil with all of the recent financial shenanigans. His comments about a lack of future capital for oil/ng exploration and exploitation are thought provoking. If, however, you have never heard of Kunstler then I recommend this book as it will make you more aware of the peak oil issue and how it just might plow over you with the force of a freight train if you decide to remain ignorant of its dire message.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Scifimoth

    A compelling presentation of the end of civilization (as we know it) due to the inevitable limits of a finite world. But is anyone listening?

  8. 5 out of 5

    Paula

    I'm sensitive to profane words, and so didn't appreciate Kunstler's too casual use of such words. Aside from that issue, I enjoyed his writing style. Sometimes you just want to hear someone express your most intense frustrations. Kunstler is a master at raving, and he has plenty to rave about. The environment and society both are terminally ill. The western lifestyle that is utterly dependent on cheap oil is the cause of that illness, and yet we keep carrying on with business like a bunch of add I'm sensitive to profane words, and so didn't appreciate Kunstler's too casual use of such words. Aside from that issue, I enjoyed his writing style. Sometimes you just want to hear someone express your most intense frustrations. Kunstler is a master at raving, and he has plenty to rave about. The environment and society both are terminally ill. The western lifestyle that is utterly dependent on cheap oil is the cause of that illness, and yet we keep carrying on with business like a bunch of addicts who can't kick the habit that's killing us. Wake up, America! Stop before it's too late! That being said, Kunstler is one of the doomsayers. At one point, he acknowledges that people often call him that. He denies it. He insists that he is a cheerful fellow with hope for the future, it's just for a future that will not be like the present. In spite of his resistance to the label, it is what he is. Yet, what he doesn't understand is that it isn't his knowledge about the trouble ahead that makes people insist that he is a doomsayer. It is his very vision, albeit somewhat hopeful, of the future that is at issue. He sees the future as--at best--some grim, dark, after-the-apocolypse, return to agrarian society. That is the doom that people are labeling him with. I believe in the coming crisis, as well all should. It could involve some real horrors like war, looting, collapse of government, and so forth. However, ultimately I believe humanity will get back up, dust itself off, and rebuild healthy communities. And I believe that much of the drama could be averted by preparing for it now. Communities are capable of filling in the gaps that the collapse will take away. Local food, water, energy and so forth will be the future. Whether we do something about it now, or go through the drama first is up to us.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jason

    I was very early in life inoculated against the triumphs of technology and imprinted instead with a respectful hypersensitivity for its implications.... [and] this conditioning has led me much later in life to take an extremely skeptical view of what is commonly regarded as "progress." By an odd coincidence, I have also found myself later in life in a society that is crumbling under the weight of its investments in technology (and tortured by the unintended consequences and diminishing returns o I was very early in life inoculated against the triumphs of technology and imprinted instead with a respectful hypersensitivity for its implications.... [and] this conditioning has led me much later in life to take an extremely skeptical view of what is commonly regarded as "progress." By an odd coincidence, I have also found myself later in life in a society that is crumbling under the weight of its investments in technology (and tortured by the unintended consequences and diminishing returns of these investments), not to mention the agony of its ongoing fantasies about a technological rescue from the very predicaments already spawned by the misuse of technology. (pp. 243-4) If you find yourself resonating with any of those sentiments, you may want to check out this collection of informed rants by the author of The Long Emergency and the "World Made By Hand" novels. Many of the topics will be familiar to readers of his blog—peak oil, peak finance, the cultural cul de sac of Happy Motoring, the bankruptcy of modern architecture and urban planning, the implications of climate change, the failure of contemporary party politics, the future of race relations in the US, and the sorry implications of the ubiquitous tattoo. He even has a chapter on Ray Kurzweil and the Singularity, which Kunstler sees (with some good reason) as a sort of religion. Not much of the information here is new, and I don't always agree with Kunstler, but the book is decently written and oftentimes pretty funny.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Carl

    Enjoyed this book from front cover to rear & found myself repeatedly wishing someone were handy so I could read a paragraph aloud to them. The author is knowledgable, authoritative, & writes elegantly with humor & clarity. First & foremost he is an energy expert with long term experience in the fossil fuel industry. He claims that the amazing achievements of the last 100 or so years were fueled by & depended entirely upon cheap, abundant energy & that that very energy was magic as it was unlike Enjoyed this book from front cover to rear & found myself repeatedly wishing someone were handy so I could read a paragraph aloud to them. The author is knowledgable, authoritative, & writes elegantly with humor & clarity. First & foremost he is an energy expert with long term experience in the fossil fuel industry. He claims that the amazing achievements of the last 100 or so years were fueled by & depended entirely upon cheap, abundant energy & that that very energy was magic as it was unlike anything in our previous history & unlike anything in our future. It should be added that he does not ignore the fact that this magic also brought about our current circumstances of climate disruption, extinction of species & overall resource depletion. He says we've become hooked on energy & just like addicts we expect our drug of choice to continue to be available. We're willing to accept different sources of energy but we expect not to be inconvenienced beyond what goes in the tank. BUT he says, sadly that our hopes cannot be satisfied. Alternative renewable energy sources will not be sufficient to replace fossil fuels & civilization as we know it will have to change, simplify, & become more localized. In his description of how the change might develop, he parallels the ground covered by Orlov but without providing the same ghastly details as Orlov. Kuntsler admits that he is not a survivalist. Besides the surface similarities to Orlov, Kuntsler covers some territory staked out by Wendell Berry in describing the possible charms of our coming simplified & localized lifestyles. This is a book with a ton of food for thought & should not be missed.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mike Moskos

    While the themes will be familiar to anyone who listens to Jim's weekly podcast or his reads Monday blog, the chance to get your hands on Jim's wonderful command of the English language alone makes the book worth a read. I don't think most Americans have any idea how much their lives will change in the coming years, no matter what magical thinking they have about their future. While the themes will be familiar to anyone who listens to Jim's weekly podcast or his reads Monday blog, the chance to get your hands on Jim's wonderful command of the English language alone makes the book worth a read. I don't think most Americans have any idea how much their lives will change in the coming years, no matter what magical thinking they have about their future.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

    Twelve years ago, at the urging of my sociology professor, I attended a lecture on Peak Oil and the Future of Suburbia, by a man I realized I’d been sitting very near to at lunch. Jim Kunstler gave me a lot of food for thought that night, though a friend of mine and I agreed that he sounded a bit like a crank. He’s…particularly wound up in Too Much Magic, which rehashes much of what he’s written about before, and adds on some rants that connect, generally, to this volume’s specific grievance: a Twelve years ago, at the urging of my sociology professor, I attended a lecture on Peak Oil and the Future of Suburbia, by a man I realized I’d been sitting very near to at lunch. Jim Kunstler gave me a lot of food for thought that night, though a friend of mine and I agreed that he sounded a bit like a crank. He’s…particularly wound up in Too Much Magic, which rehashes much of what he’s written about before, and adds on some rants that connect, generally, to this volume’s specific grievance: a tech-religion of wishful thinking, in which all of our problems can be resolved through more innovation and technology. Re-reading my response to that lecture in 2008 makes me realize how Kunstler has a steady, reliable train of thought; occasionally a new car is added, or some new graffiti appears along the side, but it’s the same engine and basic cargo. In The Geography of Nowhere, Kunstler delivered a full broadside against the distortion of American urbanism from big cities and small towns into an endless homogeneous mass full of cheap, fake houses and box stores with a fifteen year lifecycle. He argued that this promotion of sprawl was not only socially disastrous, but financially unsustainable, relying on cheap oil and an economy driven by expansion. In The Long Emergency, he repeated that argument, and argued that peak oil was imminent and that it would combine with climate instability to destroy global civilization as we know it. In Too Much Magic, written after the housing bubble pop and subsequent recession, Kunstler reviews his previous arguments and adds to them his interpretation of the housing bubble’s boom and bust, connecting the decades of cheap credit to his critique of suburban spawl. When I purchased this, it was with the thought that Kunstler had examined fracking, nuclear energy, and other technological solutions and was offering his review of them; instead, it’s largely an updated retread of Kunstler’s prior arguments, which this time emphasizes how often we ignore reality for our desires, wasting time and energy chasing distractions like the AI singularity. Fracking is addressed, but not nearly to the degree that it should have given Kunstler’s steady focus on peak oil; it’s a short chapter and adds no more than you might find from reading articles at his website. Other alternative energies are dispatched with the same haste. Considering how dramatically fracking has altered the energy landscape in the last ten years (turning the US to a net energy exporter), fracking bears serious consideration. How long of a window did it create for the petroleum economy, and what kind of consequences does that kind of development have for our geologic stability and water/soil health? I don’t know, but Kunstler’s quick write-off of it here was obviously well off the mark. In short, though I find Kunstler a stimulating and entertaining author, there’s not enough genuinely new content in Too Much Magic to bother with.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Gold Dust

    I agree with the author that it's unwise to try to correct problems created by technology with more technology. Not all technological progress is good. The planet and humans would be better off in terms of health if we went back to preindustrial times, with the addition of modern sanitation/hygiene. The book advocates for returning to trains because cars will become obsolete. But what will the trains run on? The author thinks the suburbs are doomed because they require cars, which won't be able t I agree with the author that it's unwise to try to correct problems created by technology with more technology. Not all technological progress is good. The planet and humans would be better off in terms of health if we went back to preindustrial times, with the addition of modern sanitation/hygiene. The book advocates for returning to trains because cars will become obsolete. But what will the trains run on? The author thinks the suburbs are doomed because they require cars, which won't be able to last forever since oil won't last forever. I still hold out hope for clean energy sources like solar though. Maybe we could invent cars that could run off of salt water, or human waste, or plastic garbage? I know that humans would be better off in terms of health if they had to get around using their own leg power, but I hate to think of humans being forced to live in an urban area just because they can't walk/ride very far. The book includes a good summary of the corrupt banks that caused the 2008 recession, and how it coincided with peak-oil. I learned that President Jimmy Carter installed solar panels on the White House roof, but Reagan took them off. Humanity has the capability to make our world sustainable but they choose not to! I learned about the OPEC countries. I notice that many of them are ones the US chooses to war with or otherwise interfere with (iran, iraq, libya, venezuela, etc.) The book says people won't be able to live in the southern states due to the uncomfortable climate without AC, but how are the northern states any better? They have hot summers too, with the addition of cold winters. And how are people going to heat their homes without electricity? Not many trees left to cut down for firewood. I think people are more likely to survive the heat than the cold without electricity. Temperatures below 32 probably mean death quicker than temps of 100. Overall, I recommend the book. The author forecasts a lot of doom and gloom, but he may be correct in his predictions. We would be wise to prepare for the worst, just in case it happens. I liked that he was mostly objective and made insightful points.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Luis

    This Book was a bit difficult to read and understand. The author thinks that the modern Era might be in decline due to those thinking that with technology everything can be fixed and also that oil might not be around for that long as we use it more now than ever. As a reader, I don’t usually read these kinds of books because of how difficult they might be to fully understand. This one seemed to be interesting as some of the things said in it are true. it also talks about how climate change is going t This Book was a bit difficult to read and understand. The author thinks that the modern Era might be in decline due to those thinking that with technology everything can be fixed and also that oil might not be around for that long as we use it more now than ever. As a reader, I don’t usually read these kinds of books because of how difficult they might be to fully understand. This one seemed to be interesting as some of the things said in it are true. it also talks about how climate change is going to change earth in the coming years and I believe this will not only affect us only but also the whole environment overall including our food resources. I agree with some of the things said in the book. This is a book that will catch the attention of people because it will make them think about our future and some of the things that might happen in the future due to climate change, our lifestyle, economy and also political parties. He talks about his ideas of the future and the things that we might be headed into. This book in a way brings the reality that we live in as our planet is changing as we use more oil and as our population will keep growing. It describes well on how we are currently living based on technology that we already have or the new ones that are introduced but that will not solve all of our problems that we might have in the future. Some of the different things discussed in this book describe very well how there might be some things that will change in the future, such as new technology but also new our lifestyles might change if our daily resources change in the future. I think this book might give a good idea or at least a prediction of the things that could happen in the future. Overall this is a book that is interesting because it talks about a reality that we live in or that we might live in the future that has to do with our economy, our population and resources that we use such as oil.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Charlene

    This is James Howard Kunstler: some witty observations, some reasonable assessments of certain aspects of modernity, a few good ideas, and a few wild misses. This book will definitely provide food for thought. That said, don't take any of it too seriously or you will soon find yourself living a solitary life in the piney woods, eating suspect berries and wild mushrooms, all while bathing only once a fortnight in rainwater collected from the roof of your hut. And if you're particularly incautious This is James Howard Kunstler: some witty observations, some reasonable assessments of certain aspects of modernity, a few good ideas, and a few wild misses. This book will definitely provide food for thought. That said, don't take any of it too seriously or you will soon find yourself living a solitary life in the piney woods, eating suspect berries and wild mushrooms, all while bathing only once a fortnight in rainwater collected from the roof of your hut. And if you're particularly incautious about the berries and the misanthropy, you might start sending combustible things to people with bad results for you and them. Short and sweet version: points out many failings of modern life but a bit too slanted toward the doom-porn genre to be entirely realistic.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Arthur

    It is strange how pessimism can be so refreshing. My greatest criticism directed towards books focused upon peak oil, sustainability, and 'collapse' in general is that they so often conclude with obnoxiously optimistic chapter's espousing the promise of a "better future". I suspect that many of these thinkers and authors secretly understand the bleak reality of their own conclusions, but they refuse to admit so due to some nebulous commitment to "hope". Kunstler doesn't deal in such magical thinki It is strange how pessimism can be so refreshing. My greatest criticism directed towards books focused upon peak oil, sustainability, and 'collapse' in general is that they so often conclude with obnoxiously optimistic chapter's espousing the promise of a "better future". I suspect that many of these thinkers and authors secretly understand the bleak reality of their own conclusions, but they refuse to admit so due to some nebulous commitment to "hope". Kunstler doesn't deal in such magical thinking, as the title of the book betrays. This work espouses a refreshingly realistic estimation of our future prospects in the face of some very serious, insolvable energy predicaments.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Joy

    I found this so real and so heavy on my heart. The energy that powers our world comes from the sun, the oil we pump represents millions of years of stored energy from the sun. We've burned through the majority of stored fuel in less than 120 years. Can democracy help us to manage the loss of free energy? How will society deal with food shortages, famine, disease, and fighting over resources? It's a doom and gloom read; it's very thought provoking. I found this so real and so heavy on my heart. The energy that powers our world comes from the sun, the oil we pump represents millions of years of stored energy from the sun. We've burned through the majority of stored fuel in less than 120 years. Can democracy help us to manage the loss of free energy? How will society deal with food shortages, famine, disease, and fighting over resources? It's a doom and gloom read; it's very thought provoking.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Tony

    Is you've not read "The Long Emergency," another of his books, you should probably start there. This book is intended as a companion/follow-up to that book. The basic thesis of this book is that, as things get more and more complex (computers, cars, supply chains, financial systems, etc.) there are diminishing returns associated with each jump in complexity. There's also a greater risk that the thing will fail completely and a lower probability that we can fix it when it does. The end result is s Is you've not read "The Long Emergency," another of his books, you should probably start there. This book is intended as a companion/follow-up to that book. The basic thesis of this book is that, as things get more and more complex (computers, cars, supply chains, financial systems, etc.) there are diminishing returns associated with each jump in complexity. There's also a greater risk that the thing will fail completely and a lower probability that we can fix it when it does. The end result is something out of "Idiocracy," where things are horribly broken and no one can fix them. While that movie depicts humanity becoming evermore stupid, this book makes a simpler statement: that things get too complex for people to comprehend. We just have to trust that they are working because, well, the alternative is that we're screwed. No one fully understands how they work so no one can fix them. Anecdotally, I can't argue with him. Autozone was recently, by one analyst, downgraded because they sell, primarily, to Do-It-Yourself types and, as automobiles become evermore complex, they have progressively fewer potential customers. I used to change my oil; since getting a hybrid, I take it to a qualified mechanic for EVERYTHING. I work in software development. Increasingly, applications consist of large numbers of libraries and frameworks, with all their attendant dependencies, and a small amount of hand-written "glue," tying it all together. Developers are, to a lesser degree, engineers and are, to an increasing degree, "sorcerers apprentices." They wield magic they do not comprehend. They have entire languages and frameworks to use just for getting the software to build. And, if you need to build it again six months later, it may not work because the libraries on which it is built have changed so much in the intervening months. Is nearly impossible to be a true software engineer, anymore, because new stuff is always being developed, old stuff is being updated. It would be a full-time job just keeping up with the changes. When are you supposed to actually get any work done? In short, I've witnessed this stuff firsthand. Kunstler proposes that we've become far too trusting that technology will just supply the answer for us. Petroleum fuels becoming too expensive? Biofuels to the rescue. You don't need to change your lifestyle; just substitute ethanol, biodiesel or some other fuel in its place and carry on. Can't keep making electricity from coal? Solar or wind or nuclear (or some combination) to the rescue. Charge up your Tesla from solar panels and carry on How energy intensive is the production of solar panels? Will we still be able to make them when cheap electricity from coal and natural gas is no longer available to run the refining and manufacturing processes? How about the aluminum, for the frame and body, and the batteries for the car? We're looking at the future as if we will still have cheap energy and transportation, assuming that technology will, magically, supply the answers. It always has. Right? We can't make that assumption. Stop for a moment. Let that last statement sink in. When you start to realize just how much of our modern lifestyle depends on cheap fossil fuels, and realize that we CAN NOT assume they will always be this affordable, and start to realize just how supply chains, prices, lifestyles and lives will change, the result is one of those "uncomfortable" things no one really wants to ponder. Much of the products and services we take for granted are only affordable if petroleum remains cheap. That will not happen. If we're going to switch to some other, drop-in, replacement, we should have that developed and be ramping it up already. This has not happened. And it's getting kinda late in the game for replacements to show themselves. Are we doomed? Those who have skills, useful to people in the vicinity, without needing a 1,000+ mile supply chain, will be fine. Those who are wielding the most magic, less likely to produce a tangible, necessary product, need to give some thought to developing hobbies which COULD result in a product useful to our neighbors. It won't matter if someone 2,000 miles away needs what we can make. Computer hardware is one of those things that will be used as long as it can, but won't be replaced because of the tremendous energy required. Also, even if you offer a price lower than anyone more local to the demand, transportation will have significant cost. Power delivery networks (largely computerized and depending on refined copper and rare-earth metals; all VERY energy-intensive) and large corporate hierarchies (which rely on centralized, computerized communications networks and cheap transportation) are in trouble, too. He's quite convinced that only that which is LOCALLY useful and LOCALLY replicable has a future. You'd like to dismiss him as some neo-Luddite crank. If you look at his evidence, though, that gets much harder to. I don't want to believe this is the reality of the future. I wield a lot of magic; by his standards I'm doomed. But, if this is the reality of the future, well, better to be prepared than surprised.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    A lot of stuff I have investigated on my own strung together. I don't disagree with a lot of what he said, but late in the book he goes on this "old man" rant that made my eyes roll hard. A lot of stuff I have investigated on my own strung together. I don't disagree with a lot of what he said, but late in the book he goes on this "old man" rant that made my eyes roll hard.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Dawn

    I don't agree with most of what he says in this book but some of it makes sense. Mostly this felt like a rant. I don't agree with most of what he says in this book but some of it makes sense. Mostly this felt like a rant.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    A warning of the long emergency that our society is heading into, this is a good book that is definitely worth reading, though it does have flaws. This is an update to his earlier book, The Long Emergency. Kunstler predicts a future of significant climate change and energy shortages which will result in major changes to the way we will have to live, including the abandonment of auto-oriented suburban sprawl, and the return to higher density urban living patterns and reduced energy consumption. I A warning of the long emergency that our society is heading into, this is a good book that is definitely worth reading, though it does have flaws. This is an update to his earlier book, The Long Emergency. Kunstler predicts a future of significant climate change and energy shortages which will result in major changes to the way we will have to live, including the abandonment of auto-oriented suburban sprawl, and the return to higher density urban living patterns and reduced energy consumption. In the best parts of the book, he lays out the history of the development of America's two political parties, and gives a great description of the financial crisis, and the many problems involved with it. The title of the book reflects Kunster's view that we are relying on "too much magic", that we put too much faith in the idea that technology can save us from the climate change, depletion of fossil fuels, and other problems. While he is most likely right about this, the problem is that he has too little faith in technology or the our ability to work out solutions to our problems. In the chapter on energy sources, he dismisses every possible solution (as he also did in The Long Emergency) as being unfeasible with no hope of being able to supply any amount of power to support any kind of civilized society. He seems to hold the view that American society will always demand, and be completely dependent on the ability to consume huge amounts of energy as we do today despite dwindling supplies, disregarding simple rules of economics; as energy prices rise, people will make efforts to cut back their consumption. Also, although it may be difficult and painful, people can learn to make lifestyle changes to reduce their consumption in the face of rising costs. He also seems to think that oil is soon to suddenly become almost completely unavailable, and that there is a high possibility that national systems of electrical distribution, telecommunications, and the internet are going to collapse in as soon as a decade, for reasons that are not explained. He goes so far as to predict that animals will once again be needed to work the farm fields of America, due to lack of fuel to run the tractors. Overly dire predictions such as these indicate that Kunstler does not always have a good understanding of our energy predicament. Though we are running out of oil, there will still be some oil available for a long time as supplies draw down, probably hundreds of years (it will be a long emergency). In the case of operation of farms, productivity from machines is so much higher than that of animals that they will continue to be used even if fuel becomes much more expensive. Kunstler acknowledges his particularly high skepticism of and disdain for technological advancement in the afterword of the book. For this reason his writing cannot help being influenced by this overly pessimistic view. I've devoted a lot of this review to criticism, however, despite the flaws in a few chapters, this is a worthwhile book. As noted above, much of the content is quite good and very well articulated. It has a powerful message that our nation continues to barrel into a severe crisis that much of society chooses not to address.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Randy

    However, there are no "solutions" to sustaining what is unsustainable. Kunstler suggests "intelligent responses" rather than solutions. But people insist on solutions and when it comes to energy look to technology as the way out. In most cases those solutions involve technology and Kunstler spends a lot of the book renewing his argument that 1) petroleum supplies are declining and, specifically, that export nations like Mexico with their own increasing demand for energy, will soon have to cease However, there are no "solutions" to sustaining what is unsustainable. Kunstler suggests "intelligent responses" rather than solutions. But people insist on solutions and when it comes to energy look to technology as the way out. In most cases those solutions involve technology and Kunstler spends a lot of the book renewing his argument that 1) petroleum supplies are declining and, specifically, that export nations like Mexico with their own increasing demand for energy, will soon have to cease exports. 2) that shale oil is no solution because of the high cost of retrieving the oil and the immeasurable environment damage caused by the fracking process, 3) shale gas for the same reasons as shale oil 4) likewise, solar, wind, hydroelectric, biodiesel, algae-powered hydrocarbon fuels, hydrogen fuel, nuclear fission, thorium fission, atomic fusion. We've had a lovely ride on the back of cheap, easy to retrieve petroleum-based fuels. "Unfortunately, the...expectation of most people in America is that all we have to do is switch from one energy system to another to keep everything going, and that the new replacement systems will appear magically as a result of the amazing synergies of creative innovation leading to new technologies." America imports more than two-thirds of our total fuel consumption. If we lose any part of this the affect will be dramatic and rapid. We are a complex society and history teaches that such societies have a hard time contracting. We are geared for growth. "In general, the only thing that complex societies have not been able to do is contract, to become smaller and less complex and do it in a programmatic way that reduces the pain of transition." Kunstler points out that we just can't face the idea of contraction. We deny it and defy it. "All we've done is mount a campaign to sustain the unsustainable, to attempt to reflate the money supply, to try and ramp back up an orgy of borrowing that was insane in the first place...to bail out failed companies and socialize their losses at the expense of the taxpayers, and to run up new public debts so extravagant that they will impoverish generations to come." Granted, it's hard to think about such things as not being able to get on the internet, not being able to drive to the store, not being able to fly across the ocean or talk on the telephone. We resist such talk. "People do what the can until they can't." It's human nature. Kunstler doesn't feel compelled to describe our future except to suggest that it has to be more local, less regional, less national and international. In his novels, one finds an almost feudal arrangement developing with strong leaders emerging in localities. These novels are worth reading to stimulate one's thinking about possibilities as is Too Much Magic to convince you that the game we've been playing is nearly over.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Cami

    4 stars for content, 2 stars for tone. By coincidence, I read this at the same time as Matt Ridley’s The Rational Optimist. In contrast to that book, Kunstler is mostly rational (at times his anger overtakes reason) but he is definitely not an optimist. Kunstler is proficient at identifying the problems of our time and the doom that could come to pass. But, unlike other authors and thinkers who describe challenges facing us, he doesn’t present solutions or hope. His grumpy old man attitude seems 4 stars for content, 2 stars for tone. By coincidence, I read this at the same time as Matt Ridley’s The Rational Optimist. In contrast to that book, Kunstler is mostly rational (at times his anger overtakes reason) but he is definitely not an optimist. Kunstler is proficient at identifying the problems of our time and the doom that could come to pass. But, unlike other authors and thinkers who describe challenges facing us, he doesn’t present solutions or hope. His grumpy old man attitude seems to delight in the potential collapse of the United States. Kunstler is undeniably intelligent and informed. I did find this prediction prescient: “By the early 2000s a lot of the office work that could be done by either men or women was also being outsourced to foreign lands or replaced by robots. Wall Street banks did not compensate for the demoralization of more than one generation of ordinary men who could not find a self-respecting place in the economy or support a family. The losses keep adding up in family dysfunction and social discontent. A lot of damage has remained hidden, as shameful things often do, or is channeled into angry extremist politics. It will express itself dynamically in the years ahead in ways that may not be so comfortable to for our society.” If you want a similar book with a lot more hope and actionable solutions, read That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back, The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves or The Infinite Resource: The Power of Ideas on a Finite Planet.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Diane Kistner

    I am reading this book as half the counties in the entire U.S. have been declared disaster areas due to drought, and my low-fixed-income DH and I are bracing for yet another round of increased prices of both food and ethanol-infused gasoline (and everything else that depends on those two essentials) because the almighty corn crop has failed. Every day, I watch in horror as the obstructionists in our government distract the poorly informed by ruminating over chimeras and specters (even to the poin I am reading this book as half the counties in the entire U.S. have been declared disaster areas due to drought, and my low-fixed-income DH and I are bracing for yet another round of increased prices of both food and ethanol-infused gasoline (and everything else that depends on those two essentials) because the almighty corn crop has failed. Every day, I watch in horror as the obstructionists in our government distract the poorly informed by ruminating over chimeras and specters (even to the point of undermining our national security) and railing against the evils of government even as they try to legislate intrusive and unconstitutional control of women, cities and towns, and the vote. Increasingly, we see taxpayers paying the huge salaries of representatives who will not act in our best interests; who waste time, obstruct progress and solutions, and do nothing but refuse to do the jobs they were elected to do while retrospectively "etch a sketching" reality. (We have REAL problems, darn it! As Kunstler argues along his own lines, we have to dispense with all this magical thinking and get real.) I was about 30 pages into this book when it started to occur to me how angry I am—and, with that, I felt my energy and desire to actually DO something about it rise. Yes, Kunstler is angry; he writes with an undercurrent of hostility that some have faulted him for. But I am enjoying reading this book. This is my first experience with Kunstler's work, so I don't know how this book compares to what other reviewers have said are better books. Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology, and the Fate of the Nation may be a hodgepodge compared to his other works, but I find I am enjoying reading it in small chunks. I learn, or am reminded of, something on practically every page. And it feels good to actually feel and recognize how angry I am about how far we have fallen.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

    Good things and bad things. Kunstler's criticism was by turns intriguing and woefully unfocused. Many sections of his book seemed like inappropriate and highly detailed tangents on subjects unrelated to his thesis. He often failed to cite sources for important conclusions used in his argument. His "warmed over stew" incorporated what seemed like identical sentences from his previous book "The Long Emergency." He spends too much of my magical time responding to public figures who view the world d Good things and bad things. Kunstler's criticism was by turns intriguing and woefully unfocused. Many sections of his book seemed like inappropriate and highly detailed tangents on subjects unrelated to his thesis. He often failed to cite sources for important conclusions used in his argument. His "warmed over stew" incorporated what seemed like identical sentences from his previous book "The Long Emergency." He spends too much of my magical time responding to public figures who view the world differently, and he gives his personal, politically minded gut reactions to things he sees in our culture and political system. I read this work because he is introducing to the insulated American public the idea of the necessary unraveling of our sprawling, cheap-oil reliant, mega-centralized American civilization once the oil gets too expensive to extract. I view many of his thoughts in this vein to be necessary considerations for me as I plan my life as a new adult. For this perspective alone, Kunstler's writings have changed my life, and I think more people should be informed about the oil issue in America. Personally, I don't mind his political crankiness as much as other people will; I'm often noncomittal about my own political views because it seems to me that both of the major camps have failed us and the environment; it is somewhat informative for me to read, with open-minded skepticism, another person's heartfelt opinions about American governance just to see what he thinks. Maybe an American government without corruption is impossible, who knows? For the sake of this publication, it seems to have been written in a hurry, and I doubt that it will reach those who need to read his important perspectives the most.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Robert Chapman

    My interest in oil and how it relates to the economy both now and in the future came to me by chance. I just happened to be in the book store when I saw The End of Growth and decided to add it to my reading pile. It really got me thinking and since then I have been finding myself reading more and more on the topic. Of all the books I have read about the impact of peak oil, none of have played the impact forward in such a clear and concise way as this book does. This book is a must read, containin My interest in oil and how it relates to the economy both now and in the future came to me by chance. I just happened to be in the book store when I saw The End of Growth and decided to add it to my reading pile. It really got me thinking and since then I have been finding myself reading more and more on the topic. Of all the books I have read about the impact of peak oil, none of have played the impact forward in such a clear and concise way as this book does. This book is a must read, containing vital truths about the changes to come. When the impact of peak oil is truly felt, society will be forced to change how it functions at the most fundamental levels. Consider what happens when gas is not readily available to mass transport goods long distances, we will be forced to sustain ourselves in a much more local context. When fuel is not readily available industry will slow down. When industry slows down the available capital dries up. When capital dries up innovation is stunted by lack of investment. This cycle will starve efforts to achieve alternate energy sources. Even if alternate energy sources are harnessed, nothing would allow for the same consumption rates that fossil fuels do now. One statement the author made really stuck with me - compex societies get bigger and more compex, they are not good at compacting. Compacting, or changing how we live, is exactly what must happen if we are to slow the onset of the impacts of peak oil. The message this book conveys is somewhat bleak and depressing, but that doesn't mean that you should not take it in and consider it against your big picture.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Du

    I love that Kunstler tells it like it is, and is clear in his beliefs and feelings. He doesn't mince words, in his books, in his podcast, or in email or verbal communications I've had with him. This book offers no new ideas, rather it clarifies his thoughts and continues his concerns about our culture's lack of grasping reality when it comes to financial and energy scenarios. This book is incredibly well written, and is easily digestible. Easy to digest does not mean easy to accept. The topics a I love that Kunstler tells it like it is, and is clear in his beliefs and feelings. He doesn't mince words, in his books, in his podcast, or in email or verbal communications I've had with him. This book offers no new ideas, rather it clarifies his thoughts and continues his concerns about our culture's lack of grasping reality when it comes to financial and energy scenarios. This book is incredibly well written, and is easily digestible. Easy to digest does not mean easy to accept. The topics and words are hard hitting and easily could be declared pessimistic or doomsday. I see them as real and aware of reality. The ideas and descriptions are logically presented and thought out. Kunstler summarizes history and reality in a clear and text book way, with tinges of humor and bite. Some might be annoyed to read a 250 page book about our energy reality and not have some solutions or options suggested. I believe that the point of the book is not to posit ways out, but to get people to confront the mess we are in. Kunstler is our Paul Revere calling out the obvious. He never claims to be Washington leading the army to liberate us. He recognizes that no matter what people will offer ideas that prolong the inevitable and that in the end we all will do what is needed (this is not to say what is needed is more of the same "hope for the best with technology"), and what we are able to do. The book is crazy and about disaster, but frankly it is also reflective of life and what we are facing regarding financial malfeasance and energy entropy.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    I love the writings of James Howard Kunstler, especially his Monday morning blog update - Clusterfuck Nation. I have read all his non-fiction. In fact, "Home From Nowhere" and then "The Geography of Nowhere" led me down the path to a career change by returning to graduate school for a Master's Degree in City Planning. That is a "whole 'nother story." I obtained this copy to read through Inter-Library Loan and would purchase a copy if I saw one at a used book store. Back to "Too Much Magic." Noth I love the writings of James Howard Kunstler, especially his Monday morning blog update - Clusterfuck Nation. I have read all his non-fiction. In fact, "Home From Nowhere" and then "The Geography of Nowhere" led me down the path to a career change by returning to graduate school for a Master's Degree in City Planning. That is a "whole 'nother story." I obtained this copy to read through Inter-Library Loan and would purchase a copy if I saw one at a used book store. Back to "Too Much Magic." Nothing new here, I have heard/read it all before. Kunstler writes with a sort of "I am so incredulous at our continuing stupidity and fecklessness of our leaders" to the point that one feel his frustration jumping out of the page as you read. He feels there are things we could change about our addition to modernity, vis a vis, cheap oil, and that is the crux of the matter. Change is hard, and the change will alter everything and having lived a generation or two like this and invested heavily, mighty heavily, one can see why there is no change. As he says, Suburbia(American Lifestyle) is the largest misallocation of resources in the history of the world. Strong stuff, and it all wishful thinking. The belief is that we can keep it all operating by just adding another layer of technology to already complex technology. So have a nice day. It is an easy and quick read focusing on financial malfeasance on Wall Street, feckless party politics and peak oil with the overriding impact of climate change. It could have benefited from better proofreading.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Richard Thompson

    I'm not sure why I decided that I needed to read this book. It was pretty obvious after the first few pages that it was going to cover a lot of the same ground that Kunstler covered in THE LONG EMERGENCY — we are running out of oil and other cheap sources of energy, there are way to many people and way to may cars on the face of the Earth, we rely on technologies and social and financial systems that are way to complex to sustain, and the crunch is coming sooner than later. His arguments all mak I'm not sure why I decided that I needed to read this book. It was pretty obvious after the first few pages that it was going to cover a lot of the same ground that Kunstler covered in THE LONG EMERGENCY — we are running out of oil and other cheap sources of energy, there are way to many people and way to may cars on the face of the Earth, we rely on technologies and social and financial systems that are way to complex to sustain, and the crunch is coming sooner than later. His arguments all make sense to me, but the whole scenario is pretty depressing. Knowing that, though, I felt compelled to keep reading. Kunstler devoted a good portion of the book taking Ray Kurzweil to task for his techno-Pollyanna yearning for the Singularity in which human consciousness will be merged with machine consciousness and all will be well. (Thinking about later about what Kurzweil's seemingly willful denial of the fact that building and running machines takes energy, I wondered if, in fact, he is anticipating some variation on the Matrix theme... a very select elite takes advantage of the Singularity while the mass of humanity acts as slave labor and digestible biomass to provide the energy required... hmmm, someone want to do the math on that.) Kunstler also spends a lot of words deconstructing the financial market meltdown and bank bail-outs as an example of the vulnerabilities inherent in hyper-complex systems. Depressing but compelling.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Canadian Reader

    Kunstler picks up where he left off in his 2005 book The Long Emergency, examining the events--with the greatest focus on the financial crisis of 2008--which have transpired since then. There's nothing particularly new here. Kunstler sticks to his guns about the end of oil and the beginning of "the long emergency", a time of crisis and societal re-organization, as we withdraw from our addiction to all that access to cheap fossil fuels has allowed. I found the book interesting and in a few places Kunstler picks up where he left off in his 2005 book The Long Emergency, examining the events--with the greatest focus on the financial crisis of 2008--which have transpired since then. There's nothing particularly new here. Kunstler sticks to his guns about the end of oil and the beginning of "the long emergency", a time of crisis and societal re-organization, as we withdraw from our addiction to all that access to cheap fossil fuels has allowed. I found the book interesting and in a few places thought-provoking. However, the financial instruments dreamed up by banks and stock brokers playing with other people's money, which (Kunstler points out) even legislators have had a hard time getting their minds around, were still not clear to me though Kunstler does take some pains to clarify them. What sickens, of course, is that nothing much has changed on Wall Street. No one has been charged, and the deregulation continues. Now look at Jamie Dimon at JP Morgan (May, 2012). It's hard not to agree that our society is a house of cards. Kunstler's point remains a good one: everyone believes that technology will save us...but technology is not energy--it runs on it. After the problems of Fukushima, nuclear energy is hard to embrace, and it's a lot harder extracting natural gas from shale than anyone thought.

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