Powerdown is one of the more stark and urgent analyses of where our society sits and where it is heading, from the viewpoint of declining fuel availability and increasing fuel costs – we are talking about fuel cost increases so great that many activities we currently take for granted can no longer be exercised for economic reasons.
The book seems to have two primary focuses:
to convey the trauma that will arise when energy and carbon fuels are in shortage, and
to lay out the options for the world in how to respond to this energy shortage and its ensuing emergency.
On the first point, the book points out that even if additional sources of oil – including oil shale or deep-ocean oil – are found, they may require more net energy to extract, process, and deliver than they actually offer, meaning that there is no value in trying to process them. The book also points out that if replacements to carbon fuel are found, there will still be a void when it comes to manufacturing of plastics and fertilizing food. In other words, there is a maze ahead, and no one is quite sure how to get to the other end of the maze and make our escape.
On the second point, the book devotes much of its length to four options on how the world handles the energy crisis:
Last One Standing - The path of competition and war over resources
Powerdown - The path of cooperation, conservation, and sharing
Waiting for a Magic Elixir - Wishful thinking, false hopes, and denial
Building lifeboats - The path of community solidarity and preservation
The final section of the book is dedicated to analysis of various strata of society, how they will likely respond to the pressure on resources, and the likely consequences, and finally, to an exhortation to awareness and action on the part of the reader.
For those asking "What should we do?", this book provides much food for thought – and a dose of adrenalin when contemplating some of the less pleasant possible outcomes of the anticipated energy crisis.
My lifelong pursuit, since age 18, has been to live more fully and find wisdom. This has involved studies with Zen masters, Tai Chi masters, and great psychotherapists while achieving my license as a gestalt therapist and psychoanalyst.
Along the way, I became aware of how the planet is under great stress due to the driven nature of human activity on this planet.
I believe that the advancement of human well-being will reduce societies addictive behaviors, and will thus also help preserve the environment and perhaps slow down the effects of global warming and other major threats to the health of human societies.