Join Us!

 
Like this book? Digg it!


Book Data

ISBN: 9781603580892
Year Added to Catalog: 2008
Book Format: Paperback
Book Art: Color illustrations and graphs
Dimensions: 5 x 8
Number of Pages: 144
Book Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing
Release Date: March 4, 2009
Web Product ID: 438

Also By This Author

Future Scenarios

How Communities Can Adapt to Peak Oil and Climate Change

by David Holmgren

Reviews

The Localizer Blog

Monday, June 29, 2009
Book Review
By Mark Archambault, Special Guest Contributor to The Localizer

David Holmgren, one of the originators of the permaculture concept, has recently written what I believe is one of the best books on the societal implications of peak oil and climate change to be published over the last several years. His book “Future Scenarios, How Communities Can Adapt to Peak Oil and Climate Change” (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2008), is a concise, well-written exploration of a range of possible futures facing humanity given certain assumptions about the interplay between the key variables of peak oil and climate change over the next few decades. One of the most thought provoking and I believe useful observations he makes in the book is the distinction between energy descent and collapse, which I will relate shortly after exploring his main scenarios.

The author considers energy--and more importantly whether future energy supplies will likely increase, remain stable, or decrease--to be the most important variable in assessing potential futures. In the book, he first considers four meta-level energy-driven scenarios for the long-term future, these being ‘techno-explosion’, ‘techno-stability’, ‘energy descent’ and ‘collapse’. ‘Techno-explosion’ can be thought of as the science fiction future of continual growth made possible by energy breakthroughs such as nuclear fusion and free energy from the vacuum of space. Humanity is able to transcend the limits to growth on a finite planet through continual technological innovation and space colonization. The amount of energy available to mankind increases steadily over time, with no end in sight to available energy and the economic and population growth this makes possible. Though this scenario may have looked like the potential future when Arthur C. Clarke wrote the classic “2001, A Space Odyssey”, most policy makers now seem willing to concede that the odds of it coming to pass are vanishing more rapidly than the dwindling oil reserves of Mexico’s Canterell field.

In ‘Techno-stability’ he envisions “a seamless conversion from material growth based on depleting fossil energy to a steady-state in consumption of resources and population, if not economic activity.” This seems to be the scenario envisioned by politicians and corporations promoting the conversion to a ‘green economy’, yet who do not realize or acknowledge that no combination of renewable energy resources will enable industrial society to run as it has been running on fossil fuels, as repeatedly emphasized by James H. Kunstler. In Techno-stability the amount of energy available to humanity may fall a bit during the transition, but will stabilize thereafter allowing for a newer, greener business as usual economy. Later in the book, however, he acknowledges the “small problem of reforming the monetary system away from dependence on perpetual growth without inducing financial collapse”. Or, as Michael Ruppert puts it, “until you change the way money works, you change nothing”. Holmgren echoes the opinion of such researchers as Robert Hirsh in stating that a smooth transition away from an economy based on fossil fuels to one based on renewable energy is unlikely this late in the game without severe economic and geo-political crises. Hirsh, in a recent study prepared for the US Department of Energy, found that industrial societies will require at least a decade of intensive effort in advance of peak oil to avoid the hard landing of a severe economic downturn that results from the growing gap between supply and demand for liquid fuels. In light of this, it therefore appears increasingly unlikely that even techno-stability can be achieved.

Read the whole article here.

 

Feminist Review

Thursday, June 25, 2009
Future Scenarios: How Communities Can Adapt to Peak Oil and Climate Change
By David Holmgren
Chelsea Green

 

David Holmgren, one of the founders of the permaculture concept, turns his attention to forecasting the results of changes to energy and climate in Future Scenarios: How Communities Can Adapt to Peak Oil and Climate Change. The first half of the book provides an overview of the history of energy, energy futures, and the relationships between climate change and peak oil. It’s likely not surprising that this information is somewhat bleak. While nothing in these sections of the book was completely surprising to me, it was still somewhat bracing to have all of this information presented all at once in such a precise, matter-of-fact way. 
 
After providing historical context, Holmgren moves into the heart of the book: descent scenarios. Holmgren forecasts four scenarios based on different variables of climate change and energy decline (slow energy decline and severe climate change, slow energy decline and moderate climate change, etc.). The scenarios range from dystopian to moderately utopian. I have struggled a lot with my reactions to these scenarios. I cannot argue with the research behind Holmgren’s assertions and his presentation is thorough and clear, but I have a mental disconnect in that I don’t want to believe any of the negative ones. The scenarios that are the most cautiously utopian are comforting, but seem unrealistic (and still hugely life altering).

 

Read the whole article here.

 

In These Times

Culture | May 17, 2009 | Web Only
Rethinking the Future
By Mike Lynn

The human mind almost seems hard-wired to expect the future to resemble the past. While this may be an artifact of our evolutionary history that served our ancestors well, in the complex and rapidly changing world we have created, it could prove a fatal blind spot.

David Holmgren has been considering the possibility of our civilization falling victim to our own growth for the better part of four decades. With fellow Australian Bill Mollison, he originated the permaculture movement in the 1970s, aimed at bringing the design of human societies in line with natural systems. In his new book, Future Scenarios: How Communities Can Adapt to Peak Oil and Climate Change (Chelsea Green Publishing, March), he suggests that the fast converging crises of peak oil and climate change may lead to a future far different from our past—a future of less energy, less complexity and more locally focused lives.

It would be unfair to classify Holmgren as a doomsayer. He surveys current energy and climate science and uses quantitative methods to outline possible scenarios of the future. While totally dismissing none (including total societal collapse and continued growth through technological breakthroughs), he sees our most probable future as one characterized by what he terms “energy descent.”

While he offers a nod to climate change, peak oil—or more precisely, peak energy—is at the heart of his argument. Holmgren summarizes the growing case that the world has reached or will soon reach maximum oil output. More controversially, he argues that production of natural gas will peak within the next couple years, with coal’s peak likely to follow around 2015.

Holmgren rightly views official government and corporate estimates of reserves of these three fossil fuels with skepticism. His sophisticated argument revolves around a clear and concise explication of net energy yield, a concept that escapes many energy experts. The basic idea is a sort of energy accounting, a balance sheet of energy return on energy invested (EROEI).

Holmgren calls this ratio “energy quality.” The EROEI of oil is extraordinarily large, so its energy quality is very high. The EREOI and energy quality of America’s principal biofuel—corn ethanol—is considerably lower, however.

“A society based on an energy source of [corn ethanol’s] quality would be constantly investing 62 percent of its energy back into the energy industry,” Holmgren explains, “leaving only the remaining 38 percent of the total energy in society for everything else—health, education, culture, food production, law, leisure, and so on.” Good news for Exxon Mobil perhaps, but not so good for the rest of us.

But it’s not just corn ethanol that makes it hard to be optimistic about our energy future: All alternative fuels currently under development offer significantly lower energy yields than oil, coal and natural gas. And the remaining reserves of those fossil fuels will yield less energy as time goes on, as the higher-quality reserves discovered decades ago in easily accessible locations are exhausted.

This analysis forms the crux of Holmgren’s contention that we face a future of energy descent. “When we moved from wood to coal and then to oil, the increase in power available to humanity was not just from the increasing quantity of energy, but also from the increasing quality,” he notes. An economist might rightly object that large investments in renewables will boost their quality. Even so, parity with fossil fuels appears a long way off.

If energy descent is our future, how will societies adapt? Holmgren offers four scenarios, which vary depending on the rapidity of energy descent and the severity of climate disruptions.

He writes that the best-case scenario of slow energy descent and mild climate change would allow adaptation through green technology, permaculture design and more localized economies. The apocalyptic worst-case scenario is defined by rapid energy descent and severe climate change. In between are combinations of the two, in which societies adapt to energy decreases and climate changes separately if one occurs more rapidly than the other. (Holmgren also suggests an alternative, nested model in which all four scenarios emerge simultaneously at the national, city/state, community and family levels.)

Holmgren’s scenarios are more like outlines than detailed portraits, and he acknowledges that real world developments would necessarily be more complicated. Still, he speculates that as energy descent and climate change intensify, technologically advanced societies—with populations accustomed to high-energy lifestyles—will tend to cling to aggressive, authoritarian political systems to maintain standards of living. On the other hand, Holmgren argues, less developed societies used to a less technologically intensive life might have an easier time adapting to a more democratic, green path.

Thankfully, this abstract discussion is somewhat fleshed out with a brief look at nations that have undergone marked prosperity declines in recent years, such as Russia, Zimbabwe, Argentina and Cuba, after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Holmgren sees nested elements of all his scenarios in Cuba’s Special Period after 1991, during which the island nation lost its subsidized hydrocarbon supplies from the Soviet Union. While retaining its command economy and highly centralized state at the national level, principles of permaculture, sustainability and reduced reliance on automobiles helped the population cope at local and community levels.

But history, Holmgren writes, shows that nations experiencing rapid decreases in complexity generally become deeply unstable and experience food insecurity, mass migration and a breakdown of law and order.

Despite its title, Future Scenarios is more of a theoretical work than practical guide. Actual adaptation strategies communities might employ are suggested, but not well-fleshed out. Its discussion of permaculture as a form of adaptation was so brief that I found myself consulting Holmgren’s website to learn more.

In the end, the importance of this book is not so much in its descriptions of or prescriptions for energy descent. Rather, its importance lies in the insistence that we set aside our conviction that the future will look like the past. The emerging evidence of climate and energy science suggests that it won’t.

Since Future Scenarios went to press late last year, the global economic crisis has deepened and desperate measures have been implemented to revive an economic regime predicated upon cheap, abundant energy and infinite growth. That we might need to fundamentally change course in an era constrained by the effects of climate change and decreasing energy abundance finds no place in policy discussions.

Yet it’s become increasingly clear that our present course is unsustainable. One needn’t accept the direst of Holmgren’s scenarios to see the wisdom in rethinking our assumptions and planning for a different, and more difficult, future.

 

Celsias

Earth Day Resource Roundup: Good Books + Free Offer

Some great stuff has been flying across the Celsias news desk in recent weeks.  We've been busy checking it all out for you and here's a few winners we'd recommend, just in time for Earth Day!

Future Scenarios -  David Holmgren

The co-originator of permaculture is back with his latest book discussing how communities can adapt to the twin challenges of climate change and peak oil.  He illustrates four main scenarios: brown tech, lifeboats, green tech, and earth stewards. 

Each takes into consideration the choices we make (or don't make) today and their implications for the future. What is especially useful about this book is that Holmgren packs a smart synopsis of the issues along with well-informed projections for the future, does it in plain English, and tops out at 115 pages.  It is a handy, concise little reference.  We're hoping to have an interview with Mr. Holmgren available shortly here on Celsias, so stay tuned.

 

Green LA Girl

Book review: Future Scenarios — green LA girl as homeless ex-urbanite

Posted by Siel in art/lit/music, books, environment (Wednesday March 25, 2009 at 4:19 pm)

Since Obama’s become president, we’ve heard a lot about stimulating our economy with green jobs — with the implication that green tech can save the environment while also promoting economic growth. But not all enviro-minded people see such eco-nomical synergy when looking to the future with green-tinted glasses. In fact, David Holmgren, best known as one of the two co-originators of the permaculture concept, sees economic decline as inevitable — and he’s actually looking forward to that decline.

How’d David come to that conclusion? In his new book, Future Scenarios, How Communities Can Adapt to Peak Oil and Climate Change, David outlines 4 different future scenarios that’ve been proposed by scientists and environmentalists:

>> Techno-explosion (great advances in science that, for example, let humans form space colonies),
>> Techno-stability (a seamless conversion from dirty to clean energy that keeps our economy intact),
>> Energy descent (”a reduction of economic activity, complexity, and population in some way as fossil fuels are depleted”), and
>> Collapse (catastrophic disasters that mean death for most of us).

The energy descent scenario’s our most likely future considering the dual pressures of climate change and peak oil we’re facing now, according to David, who lays out his case in some detail in Future Scenarios. I still think the jury’s out — you can read about some leading scientists’ predictions in the New York Times, and you can read futurist Jamais Cascio’s predictions on what the next 40 years will look like. Jamais’ scenario’s closer to the “techno-stability” scenario and is thus more optimistic — at least after you read past the “dieback of human population, due to starvation, disease, and war” bit….

The energy descent scenario seems a bit convenient in terms of David’s argument, since David also believes an energy descent scenario would inevitably lead to permaculture-inspired ways of life, thereby making David’s permaculture concept the future of human civilization. Still, I found interesting David’s hope-in-doom-and-gloom stance: “There is a desperate need to recast energy descent as a positive process that can free people from the strictures and dysfunctions of growth economics and consumer culture.”

David sees 4 possible scenarios for energy descent — illustrated by the four quadrants on the book cover diagram — depending on how catastrophic climate change ends up being and how quickly fossil fuels run out. If climate change is slow and oil lasts a while, we get a “green tech” world — a lot like the Techno-stability scenario but with economic shrinkage, not growth. If climate change happens fast and oil runs out quickly, we get a “lifeboats” scenario — a lot like the Collapse scenario, except some human knowledge and history gets retained in the much smaller population.

In between those extremes are “Brown tech” (fast climate change, slow oil decline) and “Earth steward” (slow climate change, fast oil decline). David speculates on what the economic, environmental, political, and cultural results of each of these scenarios will be — an exercise that’s sometimes fascinating, other times entertaining. What would happen to someone like me under the Brown tech scenario, for example? Writes David: “Large numbers of homeless ex-urbanites form a new underclass lacking even the skills of poverty.” Apparently I’d end up trudging over to a farm to try and get some work there.

Future Scenarios is a rather dense academic read, packing a lot of heavy text into its 128 pages. The book’s available for $9.41 at Amazon.

 

Seattle Peak Oil Awareness

Book Review

March 28, 2009

Reviewed by Frank Kaminski

In this short, crisp, well-reasoned book, writer and activist David Holmgren contemplates the possible futures that may lie ahead of us as the threats of climate change and oil depletion grow ever more acute.

The book doesn’t contain much in the way of new information for people who already know about climate change and peak oil. (For those unfamiliar with peak oil, it’s the inevitable, and almost certainly past-tense, point at which world oil production can’t grow any longer and must begin its remorseless, terminal decline.) Serious followers of these issues have long been reading almost daily about so-called oil reserve growth, collapsing exports, the role of energy in shaping human history and accelerated Arctic melting, among other issues on which Future Scenarios’ opening chapters dwell at length. Further, the conclusions that Holmgren draws from this background material in later chapters are mostly obvious ones to those who are informed about the issues.

The book does, however, represent a solid attempt to demystify these concepts for the general reader. It also performs the vital, but seldom undertaken, task of illustrating the synergism that exists between peak oil and climate change, and thus the importance of addressing both of them together.

The method of Future Scenarios is to build on this initial setup in delineating some possible “energy futures” that could potentially await us. These hypothetical futures range from the utopian “techno-explosion,” in which technology miraculously saves the day; to the slightly more credible “techno-stability” scenario, in which renewable energy sources seamlessly carry us from our current continual-growth economy to one built around “steady state” ideals; to the utterly terrifying collapse scenario, which is the least rosy of all.

Holmgren rejects all three of the above in favor of a fourth scenario, which he calls “energy descent.” In this scenario, renewable energy sources prove incapable of sustaining our growth economy in the absence of abundant fossil fuels. Over a period of generations, our civilization undergoes progressive declines in complexity, population and economic activity. Localized rural communities, rather than metroplexes, once again become the focal point of our society. In short, we return to a simpler way of life that honors the ways of our sage preindustrial ancestors.

Since Holmgren believes energy descent to be the most likely scenario, he spends the rest of the book elaborating on it. And he further divides it into four sub-scenarios. This focus on multiple scenarios, as opposed to an explicit espousal of any particular one, is appropriate, since at this point we can’t know exactly how peak oil and climate change will unfold—or how they will play against each other.

In the first of these energy descent sub-scenarios, energy decline is gentle but climate change is severe, leading to vicious climate feedbacks and a host of political ills including fascism and corporatism. In the second sub-scenario (the happiest of the four), both energy depletion and climate change unfold mildly, allowing us to make a graceful transition to sustainable, relocalized communities. The third sub-scenario assumes a drastic drop-off in fossil fuel availability but mild climate change symptoms. It requires us to rebuild our civilization from the bottom up, but without the added horrors of runaway climate change. All that need be said about the final scenario is that it marries the peak oiler’s worst nightmares with those of the climate change prophet—a truly terrifying prospect indeed.

Holmgren, who has a sharp analytical mind and a knack for using charts and statistical analysis, thoroughly probes every dimension of these scenarios. He delves deeply into the social, ecological, agricultural and economic implications of each one, and then draws everything together nicely with a concluding chapter of synthesis and discussion.

It is also to Holmgren’s credit that he makes a compelling case for permaculture—the environmental design concept that he and colleague Bill Mollison pioneered in the midst of the 1970s oil crises—as an effective response to our ecological crisis. Permaculture emphasizes economic relocalization, community building and low-energy design, all of which constitute commonsense mitigation strategies for ever-dwindling energy availability and worsening climate change.

In sum, Future Scenarios serves as a good introduction to the concept of future energy descent/climate change scenarios. Again, it offers nothing too earth-shatteringly novel for the sincere peak oil or climate change follower (who could easily finish it in a couple of hours, with distractions in the background), but it has much to offer someone who’s still working through the learning curve on these issues (who would undoubtedly find it supremely enlightening).

 

Mother Nature Network

Book review: Future Scenarios

by Siel Ju
Permaculture co-founder David Holmgren says we should prepare for an "energy descent" future.
Wed, Mar 25 2009 at 7:12 PM EST

Since Obama became president, we’ve heard a lot about stimulating our economy with green jobs — with the implication that green tech can save the environment while also promoting economic growth. But not all enviro-minded people see such economical synergy when looking to the future with green-tinted glasses. In fact, David Holmgren, best known as one of the two co-originators of the permaculture concept, sees economic decline as inevitable — and he’s actually looking forward to that decline.

 
How did David come to that conclusion? In his new book, Future Scenarios, How Communities Can Adapt to Peak Oil and Climate Change, David outlines four different future scenarios that’ve been proposed by scientists and environmentalists:
  • Techno-explosion, great advances in science that, for example, let humans form space colonies.
  • Techno-stability, a seamless conversion from dirty to clean energy that keeps our economy intact.
  • Energy descent, ”a reduction of economic activity, complexity, and population in some way as fossil fuels are depleted”.
  • Collapse, catastrophic disasters that mean death for most of us.
The “energy descent” scenario is our most likely future, considering the dual pressures of climate change and peak oil we are facing now, according to David, who lays out his case in some detail in Future Scenarios. I still think the jury’s out — you can read about some leading scientists’ predictions in the New York Times, and you can read futurist Jamais Cascio’s predictions on what the next 40 years will look like. Jamais’ scenario’s closer to the “techno-stability” scenario and is thus more optimistic — at least after you read past the “dieback of human population, due to starvation, disease, and war” bit ….
 
The energy descent scenario seems a bit convenient in terms of David’s argument, since David also believes an energy descent scenario would inevitably lead to permaculture-inspired ways of life, thereby making David’s permaculture concept the future of human civilization. Still, I found interesting David’s hope-in-doom-and-gloom stance: “There is a desperate need to recast energy descent as a positive process that can free people from the strictures and dysfunctions of growth economics and consumer culture.”
 
David sees four possible scenarios for energy descent — illustrated by the four quadrants on the book cover diagram — depending on how catastrophic climate change ends up being and how quickly fossil fuels run out. If climate change is slow and fossil fuels last a while, we get a “green tech” world — a lot like the Techno-stability scenario but with economic shrinkage, not growth. If climate change happens fast and fossil fuels run out quickly, we get a “lifeboats” scenario — a lot like the Collapse scenario, except some human knowledge and history gets retained in the much smaller population.
 
In between those extremes are “Brown tech” (fast climate change, slow oil decline) and “Earth steward” (slow climate change, fast oil decline). David speculates on what the economic, environmental, political and cultural results of each of these scenarios will be — an exercise that’s sometimes fascinating, other times entertaining. What would happen to someone like me under the Brown tech scenario, for example? Writes David: “Large numbers of homeless ex-urbanites form a new underclass lacking even the skills of poverty.” Apparently I’d end up trudging over to a farm to try and get some work there.
 
Future Scenarios is a rather dense academic read, packing a lot of heavy text into its 128 pages. The book’s available for $9.41 at Amazon.

 

Speaking Truth to Power

FUTURE SCENARIOS, By David Holmgren--A Review By Carolyn Baker
Wednesday, 18 March 2009

...without radical behavioral and organizational change that would threaten the foundations of our growth economy, greenhouse gas emissions along with other environmental impacts will not decline. Economic recession is the only proven mechanism for a rapid reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and may now be the only real hope for maintaining the earth in a habitable state.

Taken together with the words of NASA climate scientist, Jim Hansen, who tells us that "the onset of severe impacts from climate change is now inevitable, even if there is a huge worldwide effort at mitigation", David Holmgren's words above cause me to pause and on some level stand in awe of the current global economic meltdown. I notice, first of all, that climate change now probably has a life of its own and has permanently escaped the influence of the human species. I also notice that economic collapse, while having unfolded rapidly within the past two years, has not done so in a falling-off-the-cliff scenario and may be slowing down the collapse of the ecosystem.

In Future Scenarios, (Chelsea Green, 2009) David Holmgren, the author of Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability offers four possible sketches of transition from industrial civilization to a post-petroleum world. The characteristics and likely outcomes of them compel us to view them more closely.

Physically, this paperback book is quite reader-friendly, embellished with colorful illustrations and beautiful photos and fits snugly into pocket or purse for effortless transport.

The first scenario Holmgren names the Brown Tech, Top-Down Construction in which energy descent is slow, and climate change is fast. Brown Tech is essentially the corporatist system that has dominated the United States for the past sixty years, reaching its zenith during the George W. Bush administration. It is "top-down" in the sense that "national power constricts consumption and focuses resources to maintain the nation-state in the face of deteriorating climate and reduced energy and food supply." (68) Brown Tech is characterized by centralized systems, high-density systems, national banks and currencies, a nationalist/fascist bias, male domination, and culturally speaking, a super-rationalist/fundamentalist dichotomy.

Conversely, the Green-Tech scenario is characterized by slow energy-decline rates and mild climate change symptoms. The sense of chaos and crisis "is more muted without major economic collapse or conflict." (68) This scenario is the one embraced by those well-meaning progressives who may believe that we have enough time for strategically transitioning to a post-petroleum, downscaled world. In Green Tech there is good conservation, a great deal of renewable energy use, compact towns and small cities, regional currencies, the gender status is balanced and blended, and the philosophical orientation is essentially humanist and eco-rationalist. What makes Green Tech unrealistic and somewhat utopian, in my opinion, is the speed with which climate change is actually occurring. For Green Tech to be fully implemented, climate change must be slow. "The relatively benign climate allows a resurgence of rural and regional economies on the back of sustained and growing prices for all natural commodities including feedstock for biofuels." (69)

The third scenario, and the one which Holmgren clearly prefers, is the Earth-Steward: Bottom-Up Rebuild in which energy use declines rapidly, and climate change symptoms remain mild. Shocks to the world's financial system in this scenario result in severe depressions and intense resource wars. Electronic grids become nonfunctional, and mass mobility of people and goods is curtailed. Cities become hollowed out as larger businesses collapse, and large numbers of former city-dwellers form a new underclass and provide basic labor in exchange for food and living space.

The biggest difference, according to Holmgren, between the green-and brown-tech scenarios is that "the rebuilding and stabilization is no longer based on dreams of sustainability or restoring the old system. Instead, people accept that each generation will have to face the challenges of further ongoing simplification and localization of society as the fossil-resource base continues to decline. This simplification in the material domain is seen as the opportunity for growth in the spiritual domain. (81) In other words, "while the impacts on people and local environments...are severe, there is also a cultural and spiritual revolution as people are released from the rat race of addictive behaviors." In the Earth-Steward model, local currency and barter are the principal forms of exchange, gender-wise, females dominate, and earth spirituality prevails as the dominant cultural and spiritual force.

The last scenario is the Lifeboat Civilization Triage of rapid energy decline rates and severe climate change symptoms-in other words, a fast crash. Most forms of economic and social organization collapse, and local wars, including the use of nuclear weapons, exacerbate the collapse in some areas. Waves of famine and disease decimate social and economic capacity "on a scale larger than the Black Death in medieval Europe, leading to a halving of the global population in a few decades." (82)

In a Lifeboat Civilization, collapse has occurred so quickly that little planning can be done for a smoother transition, and the survivalist mentality generally prevails. Hence, one finds hamlets and gated communities and a quasi-feudal system which is predominantly patriarchal. The cultural and spiritual orientation is warrior-like in response to the trauma of a rapid collapse, thus the word "triage" to describe its fundamental modus operandi.

What Holmgren wants the reader to understand, however, is that the four scenarios are not linear; he imagines them as "one nested within the other." This suggests, he says, "that the four organizational levels represented by the scenarios from the household to the national level will all be transformed as global systems weaken and contract, but none will fail completely." (101) Not unlike the scenarios of collapse Dmitry Orlov relates regarding the former Soviet Union, Holmgren's four-nested schema suggests that in the Earth-Steward and Lifeboat scenarios, there could still be a government issuing edicts, but no one, outside that nation's capital, would take notice.

One unmistakable conclusion Future Scenarios draws is that the more slowly the decline unfolds, the more opportunity for planning and mobilizing for the demise; the more rapidly events occur, the more traumatic the unraveling will be because of the inability to put new systems in place which may allow it to be more navigable.

As noted above, economic collapse is impeding rampant growth and in that sense, despite the pain it is creating for millions of humans, may be allowing the earth community to breathe a bit easier for a bit longer. Or as Holmgren says, "The economic hard-liners could be right: There is no way to stop the train of global industrial capitalism (other than by crashing)."

Future Scenarios offers fascinating and fertile challenges for engaging Peak Oil and climate change and confronts us with the question that will not die: Will our journey to a post-petroleum world be a transition or a trauma? The longer we wait to make the profoundly radical choices necessary at this juncture of history, the greater the certainty that choices we would not prefer will be made for us.


GET YOUR NEWS FROM CHELSEA GREEN

Sign up for our e-newsletter today and get 25% off your next purchase in our bookstore. Please note that discount codes do not combine with other offers or books already on sale.