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Monday, May 17, 2010

REVIEWS: Tipping Point, The Last Oil Shock and The Shock Doctrine

The Tipping Point by David Korowitz
Many peak oil commentators anticipate a gradual decline in our economy, echoing a reduction in oil supply of a few percent each year. The long-term effect might be similar to the end of the Roman Empire and other past civilisations, playing out over decades and centuries.

In this new report, available from
www.feasta.org, David Korowicz argues that we should expect a much more sudden collapse. He suggests that many of the things we take for granted – from running water to computer chips to the rule of law – are hugely interdependent on each other. He explains why the financial system will break down following peak oil, followed closely by manufacturing, services, government and so on.

I find Korowicz’s analysis persuasive, and useful in thinking about what resilience really means. We ought to be planning a water supply that doesn’t depend on mains electricity, and an electricity supply that doesn’t depend on microprocessors. And we ought to be preparing ourselves for difficult times ahead. (Read Tully on the TN Blog
1-3 April)( Tully Wakeman/Core Group)

Abandoned house in Detroit by Kevin Bauman

The Last Oil Shock by David Strahan

"30 billion barrels. This is the number you need to remember from this talk," said David Strahan speaking about Peak Oil in Framlingham in March. These 30 billion barrels of oil are what the world uses each year. That’s about 82 million barrels a day. When the media reports massive new oil finds these are the numbers we need to measure them against. (In 1999, for example, Britain’s North Sea oil output ‘hit its all time high’ at 2.9 million barrels a day.)

The Last Oil Shock is the book to read for everything to do with oil discovery, production and decline, and contains not just the facts and figures (which are excellent) but interviews with those in the field, from geologists to Shell’s senior vice-president for the (Canadian) Oil Sands. Strahan reports his visits to the luminaries of the oil world in an accessible and often humorous way, and he writes as clearly about the link between oil and the present economic system as he does about the problem of biofuels. This book is for anyone who wants to understand more about peak oil and its implications for the (very near) future. Strahan's articles and updates can be seen here (
http://www.davidstrahan.com/blog). (Mark Watson/TN2)

The Last Oil Shock – A Survival Guide to the Imminent Extinction of Petroleum Man by David Strahan (John Murray, 2007)

The Shock Doctrine
by Naomi Klein
There are only a handful of books that I would recommend as ‘must read’, and apart from the Transition Handbook, this is the first non-fiction on my list. Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine is about disaster capitalism. The thesis is in a nutshell, that devastating actions will only be tolerated when people are too disoriented and traumatised to resist.Examples are given of personal breakdown (psychiatry, torture), coups in Chile and Burma, land grabs in Palestine and communities hit by Tsunami and Hurricane Katrina. Not all of these are caused by the military industrial complex, but all are taken advantage of by it.

The outcomes of these disasters are seen from this perspective not as failures, but successes. They have allowed wealth and power to concentrate in ever fewer hands – currently ‘the richest 2% of adults in the world own 50% of global household wealth’. Klein lays the blame squarely on the dominance of Chicago School economics (Milton Friedman) that preached the privatisation, deregulation and government cuts that the IMF and World Bank imposed as a condition for getting credit. Many of the individuals are now in jail or facing criminal charges from which they expected to be immune.

It's the last chapter which makes the book a real must read. 'The shock wears off' describes how communities have come together to share insights, develop independence of thought, social solidarity and economic resilience... Sound familiar? (Lesley Grahame/Communications)

The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein (Penguin 2008)