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The Ecotechnic Future, a book by John Michael Greer

Hello to Transitioners. I have just completed a fresh new book called 'The Ecotechnic Future', by John Greer, a former resident of WA & OR. In contrast to many other treatises on 'peak-oil', 'post-carbon' and related topics, he writes quite well. The book frames his view of the future in the language of ecology. And this can be useful in framing our own discussions. I published a review of the book for in but since Peter Smith's review is much better than mine, I'll give you his:

Thomas Beeler

PS> I'm looking for a few Transition folks interested in an equity share in 15 acres on Guemes Island. Contact me via email ( if you'd like to find out more.

Review by Peter Smith (Seattle, WA United States)

Following up on his previous work the Long Decline, Author John Michael Greer, has written a masterful thesis where he lays out a case for his vision for humanity as a set of probable outcomes as we begin a tumultuous transition in the face of physical limits on energy and natural resources. Unlike other visionaries, Greer makes no claim on the exact shape that future holds, he is too well grounded in a broad spectrum of knowledge, from an encylopedic grasp of History, to his keen understanding of disperate fields such as bilogy, and economics, energy and evolution to claim omnisciensce. Instead he offers a theory that integrates his broad spectrum of knowledge with the Ecological concepts of succession. This provide the reader with a context and roadmap for likely scenarios that will unfold and evolve as humanity transitions over a period of time on the order of several centuries to new human ecologies. These new ecologies that will have adapted by neccessity to the energy poor and altered enviornmets of the emergenent future. As JMG is wont to do, he gores a few sacred cows along the way. This is not another uptopic pipe dream vision of the future nor is a complete doom fest. Well written and accessible, this is a fascinating and useful book that provides a context for which to chart ones own path in these tumultuous times. I highly reccomend it.

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Comment by David MacLeod on December 19, 2009 at 1:14pm
Thanks Tom. Here's another review, which I posted to the Sustainable Bellingham announcements a few weeks ago:

Review: The Ecotechnic Future by John Michael Greer, by Frank Kaminsky, Energy Bulletin
...Greer's newest book, The Ecotechnic Future, builds on The Long Descent by sketching out some of the likely dimensions of the future that Greer believes lies on the other side of our descent. It doesn't devote much space to explaining why our civilization is headed for collapse, or describing how people can prepare on the individual and community levels, since these were covered in his earlier book. Instead, in a series of chapters with straightforward titles like "Food," "Home," "Community" and "Culture," it takes an in-depth look at the kinds of changes that we can expect in these and other aspects of our lives as industrial civilization winds down.

What, exactly, is the "ecotechnic future" to which the title refers? Well, to begin with, it's a play on the phrase "technic society," a term coined to describe the modern world that came into being following the Industrial Revolution. Greer's conception of the technic society is that it's the first human society powered primarily by nonfood energy, rather than by the food energy that has sustained, for example, the far-more-stable hunter-gatherer societies that have existed throughout history. The phase of the technic society coming to an end with the advent of peak oil is one that Greer refers to as "abundance industrialism," in which humanity has used the immense energy contained in cheap, abundant fossil fuels to maximize the production of goods and services at the expense of gross inefficiency. In contrast, the ecotechnic society that Greer sees as the inevitable successor to abundance industrialism is one that relies wholly on renewable energy resources, and that places a premium on using them as efficiently as possible at the expense of reduced access to goods and services...

And, btw, his recent blog series (see below) is interesting (and yes, the "Outback Farm" he mentions is the one located at Fairhaven College. Greer is a former WWU student.

The Human Ecology of Collapse, Part 1: Failure is the Only Option by John Michael Greer, the Archdruid Report
...Even if it turns out to be possible to power something like an industrial society on renewable resources, the huge energy, labor, and materials costs needed to develop renewable energy and replace most of the infrastructure of today’s society with new systems geared to new energy sources will have to be paid out of existing supplies; thus everything else would have to be cut to the bone, or beyond. Exactly how big the price tag would be is anybody’s guess just now, but it’s probably not far from the mark to suggest that the population of the industrial world would have to accept a Third World standard of living, and the population of the Third World would have to give up aspirations for a better life for the foreseeable future, for such a gargantuan project to have any chance of working.

I encourage those who think this latter is a politically viable option to try to convince their spouses and friends to take such steps voluntarily. Any politician rash enough to propose such a project would be well advised to kiss his or her next election goodbye. Any president who even took a step in that direction – well, I doubt many people have forgotten what happened to Jimmy Carter. For that matter, I’m sure there must be climate change zealots who have given up their McMansions, sold their cars, and now live in one-room apartments in rat-infested tenements with six other activists so all their spare money can go to building a renewable economy, but I don’t happen to know any who have done so, while I long ago lost track of the number of global warming bumper stickers I’ve seen on the rear ends of SUVs.

Nobody, but nobody, is willing to deal with the harsh reality of what a carbon-neutral society would have to be like. This is what makes the blame game so popular, and it also provides the impetus behind meaningless gestures of the sort that are on the table at Copenhagen. It’s a common piece of rhetoric these days to say that “failure is not an option,” but this sort of feckless thoughtstopper misses the point as totally as any human utterance possibly could. Failure is always an option; when trying to prevent it will lead to highly unpleasant personal consequences, without actually having the least chance of preventing it, a strong case can be made that the most viable option for anyone in a leadership position is to enjoy the party while it lasts, and hope you can duck the blame when it all comes crashing down...

The Political Ecology of Collapse, Part 2: Weishaupt's Fallacy
by John Michael Greer
Nostalgia’s a funny thing; you never know what’s going to fill the place of Proust’s madeleine and catapult you back to memories of some other time. A little over a year ago, I had a reminder of that while visiting the Upland Hills Ecological Awareness Center in Oakland County, Michigan. The path from the parking lot wandered through a lovely autumn woodland, then turned a corner and deposited me back in 1980.

In those days I was passionately interested in the appropriate technology movement, to the extent of spending the better part of three years working part time on an organic farm, learning the uses of cold frames, a solar greenhouse, compost bins, and double-dug garden beds. Every cliché you can imagine about late-70s communes was present and accounted for: wood smoke and mud, naked bodies in a creaky wood-fired sauna, goats and chickens in the pasture, and a handbuilt wind turbine that went whuppeta-whuppeta and churned out a trickle of twelve-volt current whenever the breeze picked up.

The center at Upland Hills was a good deal cleaner, and the goats and the naked bodies were nowhere to be seen, but the esthetic was much the same. Their wind turbine sounded a silky pup-pup-pup atop an honest-to-Fuller octet truss tower, and the center itself was what all of us at the Outback Farm dreamed of inhabiting someday: a big comfortable earth-bermed shelter with passive solar heating and old-fashioned round photovoltaic cells soaking up the sunlight. When we went inside, I half expected to see a circle of scruffy longhairs sitting on pillows around the latest issue of Coevolution Quarterly, excitedly discussing the latest innovations from Zomeworks and the New Alchemy Institute...

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