What Energy / Sustainability books would you recommend? (Open thread)

It has been a while since we have talked about good energy-related and sustainability-related books. What books would folks recommend to others?

After reading many (too many) I am very high on John Michael Greer's new book "The Ecotechnic Future". Already read it twice. Close behind is his previous "The Long Descent".

Greer has a unique blend of historical knowledge, energy knowledge, and thermodynamics knowledge. And he blends the three very well.

There were 36 posts when I put this up (though jumped in line by replying to the first response...)

For a great overview of the relation of Capitalism to the Environment, I highly recommend John Bellamy Foster's (2009) The Ecological Revolution: Making Peace with the Planet . I also recommend his other books - especially Marx's Ecology . You'd be surprised how well the classical political economists got it. Marx specifically writes about a 'metabolic rift' that every TODer should know. And many of you would be surprised to know that one of his greatest influences was Liebig (of Liebig's law of the minimum fame).

For that matter, I have in my possession a copy of Jevons The Coal Question . You could read this book, substitute 'oil' for coal, and 'the planet' for England, and he would be spot on. Among his great influences... Liebig.

I recommend some chapters from John Stuart Mill as well. From Principles of Political Economy I recommend Chapter XII: Of the Law of the Increase of Production from Land, the following chapter titled Consequences of the Foregoing Laws, and the beginning of Book II on Distribution... from which I quote:

“The laws and conditions of the production of wealth, partake of the character of physical truths. There is nothing optional or arbitrary in them. Whatever mankind produce, must be produced in the modes, and under the conditions, imposed by the conditions of external things, and by the inherent properties of their own bodily and mental structure. whether they like it or not, their productions will be limited by the amount of their previous accumulation, and, that being given, it will be proportional to their energy, their skill, the perfection of their machinery and the judicious use of the advantages of combined labor... But howsoever we may succeed in making for ourselves more space within the limits set by the constitution of things, we know that there must be limits. We cannot alter the ultimate properties either of matter or mind, but can only employ those properties more or less successfully, to bring about the events in which we are interested.” (p. 196)

As for Jevons...

p. 145 On the importance of coal “We must not dwell in such a fool’s paradise as to imagine we can do without coal what we do with it.”

p. 128 “The first essential of a motive force is constancy... the characteristics of uncertainty and extreme irregularity... are most opposed to utility.” paraphrase ‘It is always preferred to carry the power to the work, not the work to the power’

p. 110 Diminishing returns “It is true that, as we go on improving, the margin of improvement becomes narrower, and its attainment more difficult and costly.”

p. 103 Jevons Paradox “It is wholly a confusion of ideas to suppose that the economical use of fuel is equivalent to a diminished consumption. The very contrary is the truth... As a rule, new modes of economy will lead to an increase of consumption, according to a principle recognized in many parallel instances. The economy of labour effected by the introduction of new machinery, for the moment, throws labourers out of employment. But such is the increased demand for the cheapened products, that eventually the sphere of employment is greatly widened”

p. 99 On coal’s role in substitution “With fuel and fire, almost anything is easy. By its aid, in the smelting furnace or the engine, we have effected, for a century past, those successive substitutions of a better for a worse, of a cheaper for a dearer, a new for an old process, which constitute our material civilization. But when this fuel, our material energy, fails us, whence will come the power to do equal or greater things in the future? A man cannot expect that because he has done much when in stout health and bodily vigour, he will do still more when his strength has departed. Yet such is the position of our national body, unless either the source of our strength be carefully spared, or something can be found, better than coal, to replace it, and carry on the substitution of the better for the worse. Whether the consumption of coal can be kept down in our free system of industry, or whether in the process of discovery, we can expect to find some substitute for coal, must next be considered. The dispassionate conclusion will be far from satisfactory”

p. 69 role of coal in establishing hegemony “If we at present possess a certain leading and world-wide influence, it is not due to any general intellectual superiority, but to the union of certain happy qualities with our, as yet, unrivaled material resources.”

p. 34 On future Discovery “In short, all that is shown is a bare possibility of finding coal. On the principle that ‘a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,’ we should avoid putting too much reliance on possible coal fields. Their existence is doubtful - they cannot well contain better coal than that we now enjoy, and my contain much worse, and they are very probably at depths, and in conditions, where they are commercially out of the question, as regards competition with foreign coals.”

p. 19 Diminishing returns “The best and most accessible coal will always be worked in preference to any other... I fear the same rapid exhaustion of our most valuable seams is everywhere taking place.” p. 59 “‘He that liveth longest, let him fetch fire furthest’”

p. xv Population “Though emigration temporarily checks our growth in mere numbers, it greatly promotes our welfare, and tends to induce greater future growths of population.”

p. xiv “It cannot be supposed we shall do without coal more than a fraction of what we do with it.”

p. xi “It is the duty of the careful writer not to reject facts or circumstances because they are not only probable, but to state everything with its due weight of probability”

p. ix “The thoughtless and selfish, indeed, who fear any interference with the enjoyment of the present, will be apt to stigmatise [sic] all reasoning about the future as absurd and chimerical. But the opinions of such are closely guided by their wishes”

p. x “It is true that we see dimly into the future, but those who acknowledge their duty to posterity will feel impelled to use their foresight upon what facts and guiding principles we do possess...”

Frontispiece quote: Steady State “The progressive state is in reality the cheerful and the hearty state to all the different orders of the society; the stationary is dull; the declining melancholy” - Adam Smith

John Bellamy Foster (The Ecological Revolution) on Marx's 'metabolic rift':

p. 49 “Liebig had developed an analysis of the ecological contradictions of industrialized capitalist agriculture. He argued that such industrialized agriculture, as present in its most developed form in England in the nineteenth century, was a robbery system, depleting the soil.... To compensate for the resulting decline in soil fertility the British raided the Napoleonic battlefields and the catacombs of Europe for bones with which to fertilize the soil of he English countryside. They also resorted to the importation of guano on a vast scale from the islands off the coast of Peru, followed by the importation of Chilean nitrates... This reflected a great crisis of capitalist agriculture... that was only solved in part with the development of synthetic fertilizer nitrogen early in the twentieth century - and which led eventually to the overuse of fertilizer nitrogen, itself a major environmental problem.”

p. 50 “Marx adopted the concept of metabolism... and applied it to socio-ecological relations. All life is based on metabolic processes between organisms and their environment... Marx explicitly defined the labor process as the ‘metabolic interaction between man and nature.’ In terms of the ecological problem, he [Marx] spoke of ‘an irreparable rift in the interdependent process of social metabolism,’ whereby the conditions for the necessary reproduction of the soil were continually severed, breaking the metabolic cycle. ‘Capitalist production,’ he [Marx] wrote, ‘therefore only develops the techniques and the degree of combination of the social process of production by simultaneously undermining the original sources of all wealth - the soil and the worker.’... Marx saw this rift not simply in national terms but as related to imperialism as well. ‘England’ he [Marx] wrote, ‘has indirectly exported the soil of Ireland, without even allowing its cultivators the means for replacing the constituents of the exhausted soil.’

Nice quote from Mill. Not too shabby for a utilitarian to actually recognize some kind of limits to human action.

This may be a helpful resource, as it lists several authors and academics throughout history who have contributed to these questions.


Recommend Kenneth Stokes specifically, especially in response to the Marxist conception of the issue.

After reading many (too many) I am very high on John Michael Greer's new book "The Ecotechnic Future".

Affirmative on that. I think you can probably add anthropology to his knowledges.

Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn by Fritz Haeg et al. has a self-explanitory title. A bit of a coffee table format but full of good ideas if your homeowner's association doesn't object. We use edibles (pole beans, etc.) to shade the south and west sides of our house in summer.

I'd love to distribute copies of this in my neighborhood. I'm having to be satisfied with planting my own front yard with edibles, and occupying the parkway in front of my house with useful plants.

It's easy to replace ornamentals with edibles. We put in some blueberries instead of "dumb" shrubs. We love flowers but always have our herbs mixed in. Our summer arbor grows gourds that go away in winter to let the passive solar through. Squash can be attractive as well as tasty, and herbs such as sweet basil are beautiful in the garden. One of my favorite herb books is "What Herb Is That" by John & Rosemary Hemphill (I always thought the Hemphills musta had fun with that title).

Vaclav Smil's "Energy at the Crossroads" .... among many of his other excellent works. http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~vsmil/complete_booklist.html

IEEE Power and Energy magazine http://www.ieee-pes.org/publications/ieee-power-energy-magazine

Though dated, Scientific American's "Energy and Power" is a classic. M King Hubbert wrote a chapter on the Energy Resources of the Earth.

"Wealth, Virtual Wealth and Debt" written in the late 20's by Nobel leaureate Fredrick Soddy. http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Wealth,_Virtual_Wealth_and_Debt

+1 on Vaclav Smil. All of his books are what you'd expect from an academic of his calibre - definitely not "light" reading.

I recommend this one that's a couple years old. He has a strong understanding of thermodynamics and quantum mechanics, with nice historical anecdotes.

"Feeding the Fire: The Lost History and Uncertain Future of Mankind's Energy Addiction (Hardcover)" by Mark Eberhart

That was an excellent one, I read it along with this:

"Sun in a Bottle: The Strange History of Fusion and the Science of Wishful Thinking" by Charles Seife, which covers one more recent element in depth. Most interestingly, it gets into the origins of the psychology of expectations of endless cheap energy and unlimited development, which I grew up with myself.

I think if we had gone straight from the depression to fossil fuel depletion, things would have sorted out just fine; instead we had this nuclear-dreamland interval that decoupled our culture from reality...

The Vegetarian Myth by Keith
Food and energy issues:

First on the list is "Prescription for the Planet" by Tom Blees www.prescriptionfortheplanet.com . Most notable for the first major public exposure of the Integral Fast Reactor, a truly revolutionary 4th Generation nuclear power technology developed by Argonne National Laboratory from 1984-94. Discusses two other key game-changing technologies: use of boron as an alternative transportation fuel (boron as an energy carrier, but without the problems of hydrogen); and plasma converters, a method of waste-disposal, waste-to-energy, and efficient waste stream separation and recycling.

"Sustainable Energy---Without the Hot Air" by David MacKay www.withouthotair.com . Takes a reasoned, by-the-numbers look at a world without fossil fuel--how much energy do we consume, and how much can we really get from renewables. Cuts through the myth and misunderstanding, and delivers plans that "add up". Book is available in its entirety online, free.

"Storms of My Grandchildren" by James Hansen. NASA climatologist Hansen's latest book, an excellent summary of the latest on climate science, with impassioned proposals for policy changes required to meet the challenges of climate change.

Cap and Trade is increasingly seen as an ineffectual means to control global carbon emissions. Carbon Fee and Rebate, or Carbon Tax and 100% Dividend, shows promise as a much more effective, viable alternative. These websites explore that topic very well: www.carbontax.org and www.carbonfees.org

Yes: "Sustainable Energy---Without the Hot Air" by David MacKay www.withouthotair.com is good.

- Winning the Oil Endgame: http://www.oilendgame.com/
- Small is Profitable (distributed electricity generation v centralized): http://www.smallisprofitable.org/

(both above by RMI/Lovins et al)

I have mixed views about some of Lovins' claims (that's being kind), but I actually met coauthor Kyle Datta a couple of months ago. He lives on the Big Island, and dropped by my office for a visit. I thought he had a pretty realistic view on things, and we are looking for ways to work together.

Regarding books, as I noted in yesterday's Drumbeat, here were my my favorite books of 2009:

1. Biofuels, Solar and Wind as Renewable Energy Systems: Benefits and Risks. Edited by David Pimentel, and yes I am probably biased on this one.

2. Crude World: The Violent Twilight of Oil by Peter Maass.

3. Oil 101 by Morgan Downey.

4. Why Your World Is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller: Oil and the End of Globalization by Jeff Rubin.

5. Oil on the Brain by Lisa Margonelli.

You might rank them differently depending on what you are looking for. For instance, if your desire is to learn as much as possible about the oil industry, I would put Morgan's book in the top slot.

I also got Julian Comstock for Christmas based on somebody here who recommended it. It is a novel based on a post-collapse America.

Yes, I'm sure Kyle would have some input on the benefits of local, distributed biofuels/biomass production for instance. Or at least the practicalities of non-centralized electricity generation from them. Hope you get to work with him.

I saw Lovins being interviewed on TV about efficiency. He pretty much dissmised Jevon's paradox in a single sentance. Still he was recieving some hefty government grants for his efficiency research so you would'nt expect anything positive from him about Jevon.

A lot of people like what Lovins says...I think he's almost always completely misguided.

+1 for Jeff Rubin and Peter Maass's books.
I'm going to check out Lisa Margonelli's book once I finish reading Sharon Astyk's latest.

David Holmgren's Future Scenarios is a great "thought experiment" imagining what the world might look like depending on the speed and severity of the two main drivers of change -- climate change and peak oil.

If more formal "thought experiments" (that is, computer simulations) are your cup of tea, then Donella Meadows, et al, The Limits To Growth is a must read, especially the 30 year update from 2002. Lots of food for thought there.

For laughs (Dr. Strangelove style of course) Dimitri Orlov's Reinventing Collapse is great.

I'll second the recommendation of John Michael Greer's The Long Descent. Greer, as many readers of TOD know is razor sharp and a great writer too.

I'd also recommend Richard Heinberg's The Party's Over. It was the first book on peak oil I read and it planted the seeds of doubt that BAU could possibly continue for much longer in my mind. It is based on data but non-technical, the kind of book that is great to pass on to an unsuspecting friend...

P.S. Great idea for this thread. I'm bookmarking it for future reference and further reading.

The Permaculture Designer's Manual - Excellent information on maximizing food production in a small to medium integrated system
Survival Skills of Native California - pretty much all that is known of the material subsistence of Californian natives. For those looking to "power down" completely in California, the west coast in general or the desert southwest, this is an amazing guide.
Tending the Wild - A how to for taking advantage of wild food sources without working your but off (too often).
Native American Ethnobotany - more or less complete and concise reference to medicinal, food, fuel, and tool/construction uses of wild plants in the USofA, by the native inhabitants.

Permaculture found itself among my interests a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, I never did get to Mollison's work on the subject (but hope to in the future). My problem was that I started to get the same queasy feelings that Biodynamics gives me, but not to the same degree. Permaculture doesn't have the obvious quackery of Biodynamics (ie. "preparations"), but it shares Biodynamics' expensive training courses and certifications. That triggered my scamdar and scared me off. But I keep running across Mollison's Permaculture Designer's Manual. I'll cave eventually.

Although "interest" books on resource depletion are something I enjoy, my preference is for books that inspire me to actually do something and provide an outline on how to get started. If my interest in a subject baffles my wife, so much the better. Here's a few books sitting on my shelf:

Tiny Houses, Lester Walker; Examines some small, some simple, and some expensive house plans from the perspective of architecture. The book gets one thinking about how our current homes are composed of largely useless space. In a resource constrained future, accepting much tighter living arrangements may be necessary, and smaller homes is one solution. Walker explores tiny designs that have been tested by being built and put to use. In particular, the "Cube House" is very interesting. The idea of an easily assembled/dismantled shelter really appeals to me. I've built a small livestock shelter from a design loosely based on the "Cube House" concept. It went together (and came apart, then together again) very well. I may build a tightly insulated, more easily assembled/disassembled, and slightly expanded version for use as living-quarters while building a house for ourselves.

The Contrary Farmer, Gene Logsdon; Most farmers I've met have been incredibly conservative people that don't go against the flow in any way. The Contrary Farmer showed me that this needn't be so. Although I'm not sure that Gene's farming practices are applicable everywhere or to everyone, they are quite interesting. Like all of Logsdon's work, the writing is also very good and highly entertaining. I've read this one many times (and that's saying something).

Back to Basics, Reader's Digest; Found this one in a garage sale for $1, a real bargain as I would now gladly pay the cover price if it needed replacing. The format of the book is generally two facing pages to a subject. There's sections on solar hot water heating, biogas production, livestock, gardening, home canning, and so on. Most topics would be of some interest to anyone trying to live by their own hand...or who likes rustic hobbies.

Country Wisdom and Know-How, Storey Books; Similar in format and breadth to Back To Basics. Includes a recipe for porcupine! In particular, the section on home-brewing is very good.

Deerskins into Buckskins, Matt Richards; Perhaps not on the radar of sustainably-minded folk. Deer-hunting is a popular past-time in my neck of the woods. Most of the skins just get left in the bush. This has bothered me since I understood the connection between animal skins and leather as I child. Richards' book details a simple method of turning a deerskin into very soft buckskin using easy to find tools and resources. The process is straight-forward, but involves a lot of elbow grease and a fair bit of time (about twelve hours spread out over the course of a week). Tanning a deerskin makes a good vacation project and develops a real appreciation of fine leather and what it takes to produce it. Caution is advised when entering a home with a fresh deerskin, especially if one's spouse is vegetarian.

For Sustainability:

Ethical writings by Paul Shepard (Nature and Madness) and Daniel Quinn (Beyond Civilization and Story of B.). Gardening/Food writing by John Jeavons (How to grow more food.....)

For Energy: Articles from HomePower Magazine that fit your paradigm. IMHO passive solar concepts are terribly underexplored in discussions on future energy needs.

Side note: I've heard much linking in recent weeks in radio discussions between the need for a "new frugality" and "much sacrifice". Seldom if ever have I heard of the upside of economic downturn which would include a greater appreciation for the cost of things, a potential re-kindling of face-to-face communal interactions, and more hands-on interfacing with the planet that sustains one.

As I've posted before, passive solar was the best decision I made when I designed our house. It provides the lions share of our home's heat in winter. It was 15 deg. F this morning and we are letting the woodstove die down because the solar gain is so good. No other source of heat most of the time. Passive solar and thermal mass are definitly under-utilized.

The Homepower archive on DVD is a great resource. 131 issues/22 years of Homepower. $75 includes a year's subscription, well worth the $. Also a great historical record of the "bottom-up" RE industry.

Thinking of DVDs, there is also the DVD set of all the Mother Earth News magazines. Although MEN went through a dry spell for a few years, there are tons of excellent articles on just about every topic.

I got the MEN DVD last year for my B'day. It stays in the firesafe with other good references. Here's a shot of my passive solar design taken a few years ago. Gloomy fall day:


The Passive Solar House by James Kachadorian is a classic.

Ghung: I forgot to mention The Passive Solar House in my list but I am glad you did. I use his principles in my house building and can't praise him enough. I will be starting another Kachadorian inspired design this June .

Blimey, that's a big house. How many people are living there? Can you explain why this is The Passive Solar House? And what is the difference between this and an Active Solar House? The smoke plume rising from the chimney tells me this isn't a Zero Energy building...

The house looks bigger than it is. Total "under roof" is about 3200 sq ft, which includes a garage/shop, root cellar/saferoom and the equipment room (my wife calls it the inner-sanctum), which houses all of the indoor RE equipment and "utilities". I decided to build all on one floor, using wide doorways, etc to make the house "handicapped friendly". I don't want to have to move because I can't get up the stairs at some future date. The design (one of many I considered) was in part the result of the many materials that I had accumulated from salvage over several years. Ulitimately, the design was born from Frank LLoyd Wright's idea that a house should be "of the hill" rather than on the hill. The sight had much to do with the final product. The entire rear of the house (NW to NE) is earth bermed into the hill. The above view is from the south (several years old, you can still see some constuction going on). The curved overhang was calculated to provide shade in the warmer months. The high ceiling in the greatroom has 16 windows that open in summer to let out warm air. The house is also sighted to catch the wind from any direction (except north) which also cools the house in summer. It's amazing to me how many people never open their windows these days. Lots of insulation everywhere.

The house is active/passive solar. The four solar arrays are out of view, behind the house. Passive solar is just lots of glass and sunshine on the insulated slab floor. The active solar is the PV and hot water collector (soon to be upgraded). I chose to use hydronic floor heating because there are many ways to heat water. All of the living spaces, 3 bedrooms, a small office and the large greatroom (kitchen, dining, living, dog kennel) have good solar exposure. The woodstove heats the greatroom and produces hot water (we have a 400 gal tank in the inner-sanctum) which heats the floors and preheats DHW) Other inputs to the hot water system are solar, propane in emergencies, and soon, recovered heat from our backup generator.

Our water source is a small but very reliable spring below the house, which is filtered and collected in a tank. A solar pump sends the water to a 1200 gal tank on the ridge above the house. Gravity does the rest, providing about 38 psi (so sorry for the U.S. centric scales). We also have an AC pump for backup. We own our entire small watershed, one of the many reasons I selected this sight. The roof is "green ready". I just haven't gotten to that yet, but the system is designed to carry a lot of weight. I hope to use the large, almost flat part of the roof to have raised beds and maybe a green house.

My design goal was to build a home that could adapt easily to a low energy future, reducing external inputs to a minimum. Off-grid, our external energy inputs are currently some propane and diesel/biodiesel and firewood (deadfall from the property). With proper management of local resources this home could be very livable with no external energy inputs except firewood and solar. I don't care if people think it looks funny. In this case, form follows function.

The perceived caption "The Passive Solar House" is the title of a popular book. There is no "zero energy" anything but there are ways to build homes that require a fraction of the energy of the conventional dwelling.

Thanks for the interesting details. Do you live far away from 'civilization' in order to need backup generators and such?

When we started our house the grid was almost a mile from the sight. It would have cost over $15,000 to bring the grid power in so we chose instead to go it alone. The first $15k was spent on the first solar array, inverter, generator and batteries. We have been upgrading ever since. We never granted an easement to the power co, something they really pushed for. I wondered why they seemed so desperate to get access across our land and found out that they can lease that right to anyone for just about anything. Crazy! (Of course, thats what they call me).

I see, apparently utilities are as greedy everywhere. Good job keeping them out. My first humble goal is to get the gas connection out the door.

Having purchased a old farmhouse built in 1915 and living just SE of Fargo, North Dakota, we have only been able to institute moderate passive solar retrofits. A south-facing sunroom placed on a deck is essentially 3-season, but with occasional use of kerosene heat, can be used in mid-winter. My wife and I built clear twin-walled greenhouse panels into the south walls of out buildings for her pet pigs: This morning we started out with an outside temp. at -30 F and inside the sheds were at +20F (pig heat only, lots of straw and insulation). When she lets the sun in during the day it will get up to between +45 and +55F even when the standing air temp outside is still at
-10F to zero F. (On really cloudy days, the insulation panels are not removed from the clear panels.) Again, there is no other source of heat in these buildings except "pig bio-heat". By dropping the insulating panels over the clear panels at the end of the day, much of this heat is retained throughout the night, especially given the fact that pigs normal body temp. is ~101 F.

The river that flows within 100 ft of our house is a treasure for many things including firewood.....but lately a bane due to flooding. The recent midwest storm over Christmas dropped 4" equivalent of water in the form of snow onto ground already saturated from the past fall rains. Still, the free wood has been great for supplementing home heating with a woodstove, which is used every evening. We do have to take care not to run the woodburner (on main floor) too high on really cold nights: This can keep the furnace in the basement from running and the pipes in the basement will freeze for sure.

In the summer, we don't use AC through the sweltering humidity, but with ceiling fans and screen porches, this is a minor consideration. Lots of trees planted near the house help cut down the summer heat in the house as well.

Two on society: The Bridge at the Edge of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability by James Gustave Speth and one I mentioned in yesterday's DB Survival+: Structuring Prosperity for Yourself and the Nation by Charles Hugh Smith. An abridged versions (136 pages) is available at http://www.oftwominds.com/Survival/SP-free.pdf These are both slow reads.

For survival in general: The Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery and How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It: Tactics, Techniques and Technologies for Uncertain Times, by James Wesley Rawles.

There are lots and lots of other ones but I'd take over the thread.


Even though it's dated, I still highly recommend Colin Campbell's OIL CRISIS for the oil part of energy.

Same holds for Clive Ponting's A GREEN HISTORY OF THE WORLD for a big picture.

Dimtri Orlov's REINVENTING COLLAPSE is insightful and entertaining in many ways, as is James Kunstler's the LONG EMERGENCY.

Richard Heinberg has been a steadily level-headed writer on these issues also, although I can't point to any one particular work at the moment.

Ugo Bardi's stuff on metals and minerals which has appeared on TOD has been immensely interesting to me, as have(Michael?) Dittmar's articles on uranium.

There's lots of other very good stuff that won't come to mind until after I hit the send button and leave the house.

EDIT: OOPS! Catton's old work, OVERSHOOT is a must.

"Mycelium Running" by Paul Stamets was one of the most amazing books I have read on permaculture and mycorestoration. I am amazed how little we humans have tried to work with allies in the fungal world. Well worth the read and many practical ideas on how to repair and renew the earth biosystem.

I know I'm in the minority here at TOD, but for a spiritual angle on peak oil and sustainability my favorite is Thom Hartmann's book "Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight" which opened my eyes to PO well over a decade ago. A deep change in our consciousness is needed for us to make a successful post-PO transformation. This change in the mind and soul of humankind will be more important than any technological or political fixes.

You're not alone...although some people would call respecting the earth and its systems spiritual, I think it's just smart.

But a transformation in relating to the planet will be required no matter what. I have no illusions that collapse will mean that we all suddenly "wake up" and realize that we need to work with the planet rather than against it. Without continued education, we're more likely, in my view, to start the whole growth mess all over again.

Is Paul Stamets the bloke who patented a fungus for use in killing ants?

Yes. There's a great chapter on how he serendipitously discovered it. Great photos of tiny mushrooms growing out of ant heads. A truly new way to use natural systems to control pests. A lovely solution. Worth the read if only for this chapter. It looks like this will work for fire ant control too.

I must confess, I haven't really read any books on sustainability, so my response will be somewhat O.T.

But, I am proud to say I have leant my book from Kenneth Deffeyes, "Hubbert's Peak, the Impending World Oil Shortage," to several people. I have read maybe 7 books on Peak Oil but my first book on the subject, "Hubbert's Peak," is still my favorite.
Both readers seemed to get the concept, in fact one, now understands it better than I do.

Introducing people to the subject is tough because most who have heard me mention something about it in passing, don't want to hear anything about it. This site preaches to a slowly growing, small, scientifically minded choir.

I do believe we need to become sustainable, but I do not believe we will get there for quite a long time. I believe nothing much will change until after we hit major crises. I'm a real bundle of joy, I think most people who are aware something's amiss are ostriches willing to take their chances on autopilot.

I like to think I'm a realist. Others call me a doomer, anyway..., II'm still working on getting people to realize we have a problem.

I agree - "Hubbert's Peak" is the best all around basic introduction to peak oil.
I like Ken's other book too: "Beyond Oil: The View from Hubbert's Peak".

And he's just sent off the manuscript for a 3rd, tentatively titled "When Oil Peaked".
see Nov 2009 entry in Deffeyes Current Events page

He's such a great clear writer and teacher, must of been a hoot to have a class with him.

I'll also second:
Oil on the Brain by Lisa Margonelli
Less technical, but very engaging about how entrenched oil is into our lives.

and "Oil 101" by Morgan Downey.
Some errors grated me, but a good read for the investor crowd.

And while I think his views on peak oil are frankly nuts,
Daniel Yergin's "The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power" is still a great read that gives a weighty sense of just how far nations will go to get oil.

Also: Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update by Donella Meadows, et. al.

Some of Robert Malthus' books are online,
including An Essay on the Principle of Population

The only non on-line source I shall site:

The rest - you can DL and read while the systems still work :-)
(free 6 meg DL)
(old and out of print ebooks)
(Plan B vrs. 4.0)
(Current online holdings: Pages: 1,011,930 Books: 2,047 (2,116 Volumes) Journals: 12 (510 Volumes))

Not a book - but a fine online resource:

The last one I have not spent time reading the whole darn thing.

yup, H. T. Odum provides a better understanding of how things really work than any I have studied. "A Prosperous Way Down", is my favorite. Some of us can make it through the bottle neck, and he lays out and explains the policies needed to make it happen. A giant of the 20th century.

Pretty much any work by H T Odum

Absolutely, H. T. Odum is a must read. His books have done more to inform my world view than anything else I've read on energy, economy, and environment. His ability to synthesize all of those into a cohesive whole is unmatched and, IMHO, simply brilliant.

I thought it interesting that the current article up at Automatic Earth by Stoneleigh makes most of the exact same observations as Odum, but without ever mentioning him by name.


"When Technology Fails" - Matthew Stein - "A manual for self-reliance, sustainability and surviving the Long Emergency"

"How to Grow More Vegetables than you ever thought possible on less land than you can imagine" - John Jeavons

"Growing 101 Herbs That Heal" - Tammi Hautung

"Complete Guide to Natural Healing for Dogs & Cats" - Dr Pitcairn

"The Encyclopedia of Natural Pet Care" - CJ Puotinen

"Edible Forest Gardens" by Dave Jacke

1) Green Metropolis by David Owen.
2) Heat by George Monbiot.

Happy New Decade Gail:

I think the best single book is Richard Heinberg's"The Party's Over". Highly readable. He has several others that are good as well. This is his best so far.

John Michael Greer alias the Archdruid is the sharpest chisel in the toolbox with an amazing intellect and the ability to think outside the envelope. He writes like a great historian with a broad understanding of many disciplines as well as possessing a sharp wit. The Long Descent and The Ecotechnic Future are his latest book efforts but spending a weekend reading his archived posts on his website would be highly recommended.

Jim Kunstler was early to the post industrial collapse party. His most famous book is The long Emergency but his other books Home from Nowhere and The Geography of Nowhere are classics in their own way, books giving historical perspective on proper societal and community design as well as proper structural design. He is a fan of the Crafts Movement in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Herman Daly is your man to read for Ecological Economics with many essays and a textbook whose name slips my mind at the moment. EF Schumacher's Small is Beautiful" is great and in the same vein.Warren Johnson "Muddling toward Frugality" is out of print but a classic in its own right, written in the 70's or 80's. Check abebooks.com for an old copy.

Joseph Tainter's"The Collapse of Complex Societies" is an essential historical anthropological text very useful to get a big picture perspective .

These are several excellent Peak Oil books that almost every follower of The Oil Drum would be well acquainted with and I wont list the many great efforts on just the topic of PO.

Some of the staff people at TOD deserve high mention particularly Gail the Actuary and Nate Hagens who have many classic essays and long detailed posts. Both of these folks should think about books of their own. I have folders of their good writing which are starting to overflow my file cabinet!

If intelligent economists are an interest of yours Simon Johnson over at baslinescenario.com is totally sensible. Amazingly so since he is late of the IMF.

Ken Rogoff also an ex IMF economist is equally good and has a new very good book with his writing pal Carmen Reinhart called "This Time it's different:8 centuries of financial folly".

I'll stop now. Good on you Gail for kicking off this thread. Regards from jacksonhole.

[Note from Gail: Thanks for the compliments. I edited the post by breaking it into short paragraphs to make it easier to read.]


The Ken Rogoff book you mention sounds right down my alley.Thanks!

I am especially interested right now in reading about the theory and history of money, banking, credit, etc.

Any further suggestions along these lines from anyone will be greatly appreciated.

Everything I have read recently pertaining to sustainability worthy of reccomendation has already been mentioned somewhere in this thread.

Afternoon Mac,
Money? This covers it for me.

I agree, but would not really call all of them books on sustainability. PO, yes. Dire warnings, yes. But I would look for more in the way of instruction for after TSHTF and suggestions for preparation, and less 'doom on you,' and preventative change. Actually, Kuntsler is better in sustainability, IMO, than Greer, though Greer postulates punctuated change by degree rather than sudden fall off the cliff. Once you get to the bottom, Kuntsler gets it.

I have been reading Al Gore's latest "Our Choice". Overall he did a pretty good job but is weak on the magnitude of the challenge math. It is like those who dismiss peak oil due to a trillion bbl still in the ground. It ain't the size of the resource that matters but how fast we can bring it on-line. He calls for us to do the job within 10 years which is only possible with a WW II scale takeover of the entire world's economy. For instance we multiplied the production rates of propellers over 170 fold in a little over 2 years in the early 1940s. So far he hasn't pointed out the high production rates of things like wind turbines, PVs, insulation, double pane windows, EV batteries, etc in order to replace fossil fuels with renewables and efficiency improvements. There is one illustration where the direction of flow through a steam turbine is backwards.

The book's emphasis is on the climate change problem but his solutions also apply to the peak oil problem also so I would recommend the book as a gift to the peak oil challenged friends we have.

When it comes to books on climate change, one book I really enjoyed was Forecast: The Consequences of Climate Change by Stephen Faris. It's not so much about sustainability, but it does serve up some pretty original examples of what we're in for if we don't get our act together.

I'm an Average Joe, living in Melbourne Australia. Can anyone point me to a local shop, that sells at reasonable prices, to any of the above. Is there a book that TODers believe is the best starting point for my fellow Joes and Janes? (Something I can pass onto them without feeling like a goof - that is, something simple, to the point, not to scary!).

Thanks in advance.

Regards, Matt B

Amazon is an excellent source of second hand books.
I humbly suggest reading about our population worries first.

The Population Bomb (1970)
The Population Explosion (1991)
No Vacancy (2006)
Overshoot (1980) (1982)
Limits to Growth (1972) (2004)

As can be seen, we have been fully aware of our unsustainable situation for a long time. There has been no energy revolution.
Those books are instant reality.
The Cornucopians appear to assume all problems will be solved with more energy. I doubt but a very few of them have read those books, just as would never see a Religious Freak reading Sam Harris or Richard Dawkins.

+1 for Amazon (also a "layman" in Melbourne with an interest in Peal Oil). Best to order in batches to save on shipping.

I've recently bought from Amazon, and read :
Oil 101 by Morgan Downey.
Why Your World Is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller: Oil and the End of Globalization by Jeff Rubin.
Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization
Beyond Oil: The View from Hubbert's Peak , Kenneth S. Deffeyes

The reviews on Amazon can be good - but I think sometimes you need to understand there may be a bias by the people leaving comments. Plan B for example, is simply dreadful (boring, full of one-sided stats to support some fantasy about a world running on windmills in 10 years time .. but it gets 5 stars).

"Beyond Oil" is good for a starter book on Peak Oil, its pretty readable

I know this thread is about books, but I recently downloaded the doco "The End of Suburbia". It's a really good intro to Peak Oil and its consequences - especially relevant to Sydney and Melbourne with our sprawling suburbs (the makers of the doco have made it available on a few sites for free by the way, if you are morally opposed to using Vuse or similar software).

Richard Heinberg's comments where particularly interesting in "The End of Suburbia", so I'd be tempted to buy his "The Party's Over" next...

And to actually find out about Oil and the oil industry, Morgan Downey's "Oil 101" is an absolute standout. No B.S., just facts (lots and lots of facts), really well laid out and generally very understandable.

To understand net energy, try Heinberg's:
Searching for a Miracle
‘Net Energy’ Limits & the Fate of Industrial Society

THIS REPORT IS INTENDED as a non-technical examination of a basic question: Can any combination of known energy sources successfully supply society’s energy needs at least up to the year 2100?

cool, thanks Aangel

Thanks aangel, downloaded and printed a copy of the PDF.

Thanks Bandits and Metal.

I like most of the books already listed by others.

Here's a few that perhaps don't usually show up on these lists that I can recommend as well.

Grow Your Own House: Simon Velez and Bamboo Architecture (English and German Edition)

Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales (this is more about the psychology of the survivor than a how to book)

Manual for N55 http://www.n55.dk/MANUALS/N55_BOOK/BOOK.html This is not really just a book per se but rather a philosophy of paradigm shift.

I'm going to second Deep Survival, and I'm now reading Everyday Survival, by the same author. Both have to do with the wiring of the human brain, the first one being why some people live and some die, and the second on why smart people make stupid choices.

It's about overcoming your behavioral conditioning, mental maps, and emotional thinking, and learning to perceive what's right in front of you. From way back when we first stood up in the savanna, we learn shortcuts to survive, driven by somatic responses, which can kill us if we don't recognize when they're in charge.

How does it relate to energy and peak oil? All our mental maps are based on having good things happen by burning lots of fossil fuels. Food, shelter, comfort, family. The mental maps keep us doing the same things that provided the good things, even as the environment has changed so that they don't work any more. And as we get more stressed, the chances of thinking our way out rationally go to zero.

Deep Survival is one of the most interesting combinations of neuroscience and adventure/disaster stories I've ever come across.

Not a book but I am very impressed with the writings from the folks at Low Tech Magazine;


The latest on canalboats is great.

I live in a converted canalboat on the jaagpad (towpath). The canal I live on is part of a system which stretches across Europe from Rotterdam to the Black Sea. The canal is still in use for freight but I expect, with the fuel efficiency of water transport, canal use for movement of goods will greatly increase in the future.

Besides those mentioned so far:

On PO and CC--Plan C: Community Survival Strategies for Peak Oil and Climate Change by Pat Murphy; takes a pretty grim=accurate look at the depth of our predicament and emphasizes the need for contraction as well as various technical and other strategies (he's a big promoter of Jeepney's which I grew up with in the Philipines.)

On the development of insane economics (among other things)--Environmental Endgame by Robert L. Nadeau

A great historical look at the current and historical inequities that were partly behind the revolt of the developing countries at Copenhagen--Ecological Debt by Andrew Simms.

On various scenarios of doom (of which we are drifting toward the worst)--Six Degrees by Mark Lynas.

Don't forget realclimate. And of course anything by James Lovelock, who is getting grimmer and grimmer--his latest title is "Revenge of Gaia."

For back to essentials reading and a great read in general, you can't beat Tom Brown's "The Tracker."

For a glimpse at saner economics: "How much should a person consume" by Ramachandra Gupta.

For reliably gloomy readings on CC, check out cydyama's postings on the Runaway Global Warming thread in the Environmental forum at PO forums (but scroll past the many trolls that rear their ugly heads regularly).

Also on line, please check out www.myfootprint.org and make a new year's resolution to lower your impact. For more guidance on more radical goals, see Jim Merkel's "Radical Simplicity."

Yes Yes Yes.
The Gaia Hypothesis. James Lovelock.
We exist like fleas on a dogs back. James reveals the dog to us.

We are the brains of a super-organism. Gaia.
We are becoming aware.
We have seen ourselves and we are beautiful.

I found Six Degrees to be very informative.

Since nobody has mentioned it yet, I feel like I should add Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma as a must read book on the way we eat. It has a lot to say about the sustainability or lack thereof of our food system.

And also Paul Roberts has a fantastic book called The End of Food which covers similar territory but with much more on the history and pitfalls of a system that treats food as just another commodity. Haven't read Roberts' The End of Oil but if his food book is any indication, it should also be good.

V Smil also has an interesting book regarding food sustainability called "Feeding the World."

And while we're on food-related issues, let's not forget our own Sharon Astyk's (AKA jewishfarmer)"Nation of Farmers."

And since others have mentioned videos, I highly recommend "Food, inc." and " King Corn" as well as "Big River" the sequel to the latter.


Not as directly related but crucial to understand our predicament, imho: The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein; Confessions of an economic hitman; and The Limits of Power by Andrew Basevich.

Speaking of movies about food I highly recommend "The Real Dirt on Farmer John" which is a documentary about a farmer from Illinois. The movie chronicles the history of his farm from when it was his mom and dad's small farm pre-1960's, then John's commune in the 60's, through the farm crisis of the 80's, a first failed attempt at turning organic in the 90's through its revival as a very prosperous CSA in the 00's. Farmer John is also a compelling and quirky character.

While it was first published in 2008, I have just started reading Sharon Astyk's Depletion and Abundance: Life on the New Home Front - OR, One Woman's Solutions to Finding Abundance for Your Family while Coming to Terms with Peak Oil, Climate Change, and Hard Times. I am finding it to be very good. It's aimed at the majority of us who won't be able to afford any expensive "alternatives" or find refuge in a tropical locale, but instead have to figure out how to sustain ourselves with a quasi "shelter in place" strategy.

-- Philip B. / Washington, DC

Rubin's Why your World is about to get a Whole lot Smaller was indeed the best I've read this year.

Honorable mention goes to Carbon Shift edited by Thomas Homer-Dixon (it has a very good section on peak oil in it by David Hughes, chief geologist with the Geological Survey of Canada).

Andrew Nikiforuk's book on the tar sands was also quite good.

On the climate change issue, I'd have to say the best was What's the Worst that Could Happen? by Greg Craven (he also has some very good videos on youtube), followed by Climate Cover-up by James Hoggan. I'm currently going through Mike Hulme's Why we Disagreee about Climate Change, which is quite worthwhile (Hulme is from the University of East Anglia, where the e-mails were hacked, by the way).

Dry Spring by Chris Wood is all about impending water crises. It's extremely well written. Lots of anecdotal stuff about the people affected.

I would second the vote on Monbiot's Heat.

For a look at one of the most sustainable countries on the planet (Sweden), check The Natural step for Communities by Sarah James and Torbhorn Lahti.

For doomer porn, I really recommend The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

Sorry Quixotic,

But the Road is not doomer porn.

It's not even a "doomer" book at all except in a trivial sense-in the same sense that Huck Finn is about the sport of float fishing and river camping,or perhaps in the sense that the King James Bible might be considered doomer lit-both works have some elements in common with doomer lit.

I must admit that I don't understand modern art or abstract sculpture and that cheap wine tastes better to me than the hundred dollar a glass stuff.

But I do understand serious literature for the most part.

The Road is serious lit.

Good comments. I was just being flippant.

+1 on Andrew Nikoforuk's "The Tar Sands". Nice guy,too.

Better than any energy book is the Hirsch Report:

To understand the importance of energy to our lives and the economy from a technical prospective:

WORK-Ayers & Warr

Ayres, Ayres & Warr

Energy at the Crossroads, V. Smil

A past that probably will not be repeated:
The Escape from Hunger and Premature Death, 1700-2100, Robert William Fogel

Today Then: America's Best Minds Look 100 Years into the Future on the Occasion of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition http://www.amazon.com/Today-Then-Americas-Columbian-Exposition/dp/156037...

One hundred year forecasts are usually wrong, but some of these forecasts overall were correct, not necessarily in detail:

Electrical Power Will Be Universal "Given Electricity at one-tenth the present cost, electrical power will become universal. Steam and other sorts of power will be displaced." The forcaster was thinking about electric railways; the automobile was relatively unknown. Electrical power did fall 90% in cost, but not because it was "pumped out of the earth, or the sea, or the air."

"I cannot rid myself of the belief we are on the eve of an industrial revolution as a result of electrical research and experiment." Amazing, but where are automobiles and a highway system, nuclear energy, tractors, computers, or a lunar landing? Perhaps covered by: It will be the destiny of the American People to lead the nations on to a more perfect, and yet undreamed of, civilization." Undreamed of indeed!

Agriculture Can Meet All Demands: "Suppose this improvement took place (best know methods) and you have a sixfold increase of our present production." Amazingly, this is just about what happened. Can we do that again?

Other chapters:

National Population Under 300 Million

A Train Running 100 Miles Per Hour-This was way too low a projection; the technology already existed for 100 mph.

Revloutionary Improvements in Transporation- "Electric device (train?) to carry mail 200-300 miles per hour." "Newspspers sent out 500 miles to arrive in time for breakfast." What, no e-mail?
"Aerial navigation will come within the next century." It will be realized by the aeroplane. Correct again; ten years later at the beginning of the century, but it was not electric powered as predicted.

More Harmonious Divorce Laws-True

The Era of Woman As A Power Has Commenced-True

"The Era of Woman As A Power Has Commenced-True"

Evidence for the so-called Man-cession (not sure where this all started... but here's a link with a couple interesting graphs): http://mjperry.blogspot.com/2009/01/man-cession-continues-to-worsen.html

Evidence against the Man-cession (originally from a St. Louis Fed research paper): http://stlouis.bizjournals.com/stlouis/stories/2009/09/28/daily73.html

"Sea-steading" by Jerome FitzGerald. Living in coastal waters on a small sailboat in a sustainable manner is a wholly practical way of facing the future. Wind is unquestionably a proven alt-energy, and the only one with a thousand years of history in application to prove it.

Yes, I am indeed unrepentant. LOL

If anyone wants to crank up the doom, I highly suggest World War Z by Max Brooks.

While not necessarily a book about energy scarcity, it just feels very real in terms of what would happen if "TSHTF", if that day ever comes. Things like survivalism, denaial, isolationism and the overall ineptitude of people faced with a real crisis are very key issues that I found relevant. It is highly entertaining and I guarantee you will want to read it more than once.


The Zombie Survival Guide also by Max Brooks, and in some ways the "rule-book" for World War Z, is also very good and highly entertaining. It uses the existence of zombies as a fictional and entertaining motivation for some very factual information. The author did his homework and produced a book with valuable survival information (and not necessarily from zombies).

I know it's already been mentioned by several people, but I got Overshoot for Christmas, and am on chapter 3 now. For anyone that hasn't read this one yet, you absolutely must. It's very well thought out and well presented.

Consumer getting Overshoot for Christmas. What? You must be making that up ;)

They were all out of Jet Skis so I had to take my second choice.

I got Bottleneck for xmas. havn't started on it yet though.

We can't go back to horses unfortunately (humans will have to be the horses), but it's interesting to see how much work they used to do and how ubiquitous they were in cities

Ann Greene Horses at Work: Harnessing Power in Industrial America
Steven Vogel Prime Mover: A Natural History of Muscle

The hardships of the pioneer life endured by people who were used to suffering
Joanna Stratton Pioneer Women: Voices from the Kansas Frontier

Farming today (industrial)
Richard Rhodes Farm: A year i the life of an American Farmer

How are we going to get Heinberg's 50 million farmers back to the land without land reform?

Robert C Fellmeth. Politics of Land. Ralph Nader's study group report on Land use in California

Alice in Oakland

Steve Solomon's "Growing food when it counts" excellent veggie gardening book, better than Jevon's. Tells more warts.

And don't forget Joe Jenkins' Humanure Handbook.

Coal--A Human History by Barbara Freese (a great book, five stars!)
Into the Cool by Eric Schneider and Dorian Sagan (thermodynamics and biology---really great!!!)
The Entropy Law and the Economic Process by Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen (fantastic, a classic, helped me to understand the human dimension much better)

Whoops! I think that we are going mainstream.
Time to find something else to feel superior about.


Tx 4 link

TED Talks gives voice of authority to our crazed amateur ideas --not sure though if grass roots transition groups alone is enough. At some point, big government has to come clean (of coal) and admit to the Hello Houston We've Got a Problem situation.

Food for Free by Richard Mabey. My father bought an original copy of this back in the 70s which I was facinated by. I bought a new copy a few years back and use it as a field guide while foraging. It has excellent pictures for identification.

Its covers the British Isles so is relevant for Northern Europe and after spending some time as a mod for an online foraging group I know much of it is relevant for temperate US regions too.

Energy Autonomy by Hermann Scheer describes the current political, social, environmental and physical energy problems, why we can't leave it to the market to solve these problems and how the only sustainable solution is to go for an decentralised energy future based on renewables alone.

For me, "Crossing the Rubicon" by Michael Ruppert represented a watershed in not only understanding many of the issues surrounding Peak Oil but how governments have responded to the new global energy landscape.

While not a book, this little 2001 article began the awakening process for many: Ghawar Is Dying by Chip Haynes.

I got through about 1/2 of Ruppert's book, but I felt that he could have edited out a heck of lot of it (or used footnotes or something). If he wants to try and convince me that 9/11 was a Washington conspiracy, he's going to have to at least make the thing a lot more readable (and I'm not averse to thick tomes. I've read the unabridged 3 volumes of the Gulag Archepelago, for example).

I enjoyed Robin Mill's The Myth of the Oil Crisis: Overcoming the Challenges of Depletion, Geopolitics, and Global Warming, the conclusions of which run completely counter to those posited as fundamental here. But if you're an energy maven like me and will consider all sides of an argument you'll get a kick out of it.

One of the most interesting researchers using logistics to examine the past and predict the future is Cesare Marchetti, some of whose papers can be found here:


He has written extensively about energy, transportation, technology and economics.

Thanks to all for their input. I have read some of the tomes cited, and have added many to my list of books to read.

Meanwhile, a general comment. Anything by J.S. Mill is going to be top notch. He was probably the brightest man to live in modern times, and one of the most readable.

No one mentioned Isaac Asimov. Isaac frequently commented on the population of Planet Earth, usually ending with, "doesn't anyone care?" These comments appeared in prefaces and in summation articles in any number of his later works. I spoke with him about it in 1979, with a generally spirited discussion in which we both agreed that the planet could not support the numbers back then [(as I recall it was about 5 Billion that year) for very long, and if we did not act to limit population, nature would. Strange conversation in a way, what with Mr. Asimov's background and all, but it was not discussed as support of euthanasia, but of birth control and family planning.

Given the number of works, the length of time they have been in print, the status of so many of the authors, and the importance of the subject, one wonders how we have gotten it so wrong, for so long.

Strange species, homo sapiens. Wonder if they'll be missed.

Energy: A Guidebook (Paperback)

~ Janet Ramage

Not a peak book per say, but an overview of the available options

One more:

Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind America's Energy Future, by Jeff Goodell. From the Washington Post review:

The book's strength lies in Goodell's ability to connect our mundane daily activities, such as flipping on the living room lights and powering up our laptops, with the grimy business that powers these things. "Most of us have no idea how central coal is to our everyday lives or what our relationship with this black rock really costs us," Goodell writes. "We may not like to admit it, but our shiny white iPod economy is propped up by dirty black rocks."

Thanks for the recommendation, I'll add it to my growing list.

On the impact of those dirty black rocks on ordinary people, I'd also recommend a brilliant piece of fiction that recently came out of West Virginia's coal country. It's the first novel, but quite an impressive first novel, by a woman named Ann Pancake (not joking that's her name), and it's called "Strange as This Weather Has Been."

Hi, several nice tips here. I read a lot, and these tips are welcome. So is your idea for us to contribute, Gail.

I miss a book for "how to debate with idiots". Most people know little or nothing about P-O, and they who know a little all seem to have fixed themselves on the assumtion that there is plenty of oil left, enough oil for 40 years, etc.

Usually there is little time for some deep discussion, so I'd like to know how to deal with this "in a flash".

Personally I fount the best explanation to Peak Oil in David Strahans "The Last Oil Shock". Plenty of good journalism behind that one.


Re: "debate with idiots," I pass on a bit of wise advice that has saved my time and sanity:

Never waste time arguing with someone whose opinion you don't respect.


Cattons books Overshoot and Bottleneck.
Farnish: Time's up.
Monbiot: Heat
The Oil Drum and a lot of relevant web-sites.

Anything written by John Seymour is quite informative and useful on small scale

Anthony Sampson's book The Seven Sisters: The Great Oil Companies and the World They Shaped is one of my favourite books. It is basically a more detailed treatment of the material covered in Chapter 1 of Oil 101 (the chapter is called "A Brief History of Oil"). I think it is worth getting a feel for just how rich and powerful the big anglo/american oil companies are, how utterly ruthless they are, and how entwined they are with the governments of the US and the UK.

Thank you for the excellent suggestions. My recommended energy books are collected here on the EnergyCrash blog and EnergyCrash amazon store.

I highly recommend a subscription to The Small Farmer
Journal. It is sent out quarterly and well, well worth
the subscription. They had an extended series on Forty Centuries of Farming, regarding
farming techniques,etc in China...just fascinating.