Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Reinventing Collapse

I am currently working on a book, titled "Reinventing Collapse," which expands on a lot of my writings to date. I am working on the manuscript with my editor, via the net, while sailing/motoring down the Eastern Seaboard, with my wife and our cat, in our trusty old sailboat, Hogfish. We are currently in Charleston, SC, getting ready leave for St. Augustine, FL.

The book is due out in May of 2008 from New Society Publishers. In the coming months, as the final manuscript comes together, I will post some excerpts, so stay tuned.

If you want to get a copy as soon as soon as it comes out, you can pre-order it from Amazon.


Remoran said...

Your book sounds very interesting. I wrote a fairly blurb about Kunstler's Long Emergency in my blog where I compared his dystopian view of reality with Ray Kurzweil's optimistic take The Singularity is Now. Being a techie on the creative side of things, I came out fairly neutral but leaning toward Kunstler as his understanding of energy and technology is quite good. Please keep me posted as to when the book comes out. If you want to see the article, click here:

Dmitry Orlov said...

The Singulitarians may be right or wrong - it doesn't matter:

- Tech doesn't create energy, it consumes it, and possibly redirects it, usually to those with the most money.

- Tech exists within an existing ecological niche on a finite planet, and the possibility for its continued existence is determined by available flows of fossil fuel energy and ecological services such as food production. It soaks up whatever resources are available, and what it ultimately delivers can be broken down into efficiencies (doing the same thing better/faster/cheaper, like paperless communication or fancy logistical planning) or comforts and luxuries (like delivering mp3s to your eardrum in sexy new ways). The efficiencies run into Jevons' Paradox: all the winnings are soaked up in increased consumption. The luxuries are just that.

What on earth any of that has to do with mitigating the effects of fossil fuel depletion and ecological collapse - I can't really see. I think the fancy new tech will either not amount to much, or it will create some additional disasters (leaked nano-goo killing fish even faster, or some escaped artificial life form eating all the vinyl siding in Cleveland). But it will all start to seem like a silly side-show once there is not enough gas to drive to the store to buy wieners, or enough propane to grill them on the back lawn. I also have a feeling that all significant departures from ecology - be they fossil fuel burning or industrial agriculture - are ultimately catastrophic, and that, in the limit, tech has no ability to mitigate the technogenic catastrophies it is constantly creating, no matter how fast the techies pedal their magic singularity exercise bikes.

Remoran said...

In response to K's comment. If tech is so devastating then maybe we should abandon it all together and return to a world of unremitting savagery where the notion of living centers on finding a cave that predators don't know about and gathering enough food to keep us alive for the next day or so. Not a good idea IMHO but, in one way, K's argument certainly applies as most tech consumes energy big time, something never discussed by most techies when talking about the cars of tomorrow but the argument falls short regarding emerging tech that can produce sustainable energy in environmentally friendly ways. There are solutions in the lab that can replace oil and partially mitigate the impact of global warming by cleaning up the environment but rolling it out and scaling this tech to a level where it can make a difference is a truly arduous task, something that may not be possible in the end but we must try. Moving from oil to renewables will be the most difficult thing mankind has ever done but if we want to survive, we will do it or die.

Sitting back and just bitching out how horrible tech is so easy, coming up with viable solutions to really big problems is not. The singularity definitely applies in terms of technological advancement but so does the long emergency when contemplating the devastating impact the lack of oil will have on our civilization. I have no doubt other civilizations have dealt with this problem, the question to ask now is, how many survive the transition?

Dmitry Orlov said...


I would never advocate abandoning technology altogether. I am a big fan of sailing, and a rig that will pull you to windward at a couple of knots in 30+ kt winds and 12ft seas is one nice piece of technology!

Nor would I ever advocate abandoning civilization. I love old towns and cities - places that have been civilized for hundreds, sometimes thousands of years. They are rich in art, culture, tradition - all the things that make humanity worth the trouble. Rattling around some dreary suburb that's been recently bulldozed out of the wilderness or farmland is not an example of civilized behavior. It is also a transient one. So be it.

The challenge is to keep civilization alive while letting go of the fossil fuel-addicted economy. It won't be easy, but we must try, because otherwise we will be left with nothing at all.

Remoran said...

I completely agree!!

Anonymous said...

Technology is simply the extension of our brains into the environment through the use of tools. It isn't inherently bad. What humanity needs is a better system of feedback for when something ends up consuming more resources than it provides in Future Usefulness (Net Creativity for our species). The Amish use religion and community council to evaluate new ideas and either accept or reject them. Science is supposed to follow the Cautionary Principle, but sold the rights for it to corporate shareholders (their own 401K plans). Civilization is just another technology itself, and requires constant maintenance not because it is broken, but because the parts (us)need to remain aware of its requirements over the long term. Civilization, like Life, isn't built in a day; it is lived on a continuous basis and must be fed and enjoyed and corrected if something is wrong.

Sarah Anne Edwards said...

I am pre-ordering your book today and eager to read it. Recently I received an e-mail linking to your article, The five stages of collapse. It is one of the most cogent and helpful analyses I've seen on the process we are undergoing at this very time. My colleage Linda Saltzman-Buzzell and I have written an article on the psychological stages we have found people are going through now as they begin to face the gravity of the changes underway in the US. From your detailed descriptions of the stages that occur on the macro level, one can clearly see the evidence of where we are today.
Thank you for sharing your experiences. They are and will hopefully be invaluable to those wishing to prevent a Stage 5 collapse.
Sarah Edwards,
Director, Pine Mountain Institute

Anonymous said...

Pre-ordered. Matt Savinar (LATOC), a bright young man, is also offering it.

Phoebe Bright said...

Enjoy your book and wrote a favourable review on my blog.

Max said...

Mr. Orlov,
I am reading Reinventing Collapse and admire the clarity of the parallels your draw between USA and USSR. I am eager to finish it, though, I must say as a stay at home dad, I worry about my daughter's future--I'll have to prepare her. Nice to know you have a club--FYI the New Yorker article piqued my interest in your work.