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The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity and the Renewal of Civilization

Thomas Homer-Dixon, new book
The Upside of Down sets out a theory of the growth, crisis, and renewal of societies. Today’s converging energy, environmental, and political-economic stresses could cause a breakdown of national and global order. Yet there are things we can do now to keep such a breakdown from being catastrophic. And some kinds of breakdown could even open up extraordinary opportunities for creative, bold reform of our societies, if we’re prepared to exploit these opportunities when they arise.

Thomas Homer-Dixon is Director of the Trudeau Centre for the Study of Peace and Conflict at the University of Toronto. His last book, the national bestselling The Ingenuity Gap, won the Governor General’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction.
(no date)
Much more material on the book (excerpts, short film, study guides, etc.) is available at the website.

EB contributor Bill Henderson is very enthusiastic, writing a positive review and saying:

Thomas Homer-Dixon has a great new book out: The Upside of Down which is totally about energy and running out of cheap energy. It’s a very readable experts book, as important as Diamond’s Collapse. You ran a link to his latest NY Times op-ed – the book is 300 pages as good as the op-ed. …what I’m really recommending is that you or one of your regular contributors get the book and do a substantive review. This is an important EB book and your readers need to know about it.

James Howard Kunstler has written:

Anyone who wants to get serious about the defense of civilization had better read The Upside of Down.

Some links we’ve run to Thomas Homer-Dixon:
Thomas Homer-Dixon: Resiliency & Collapse (Video)
The End of Ingenuity
Coal in a Nice Shade of Green (NYT op-ed)

Future Energy: How the New Oil Industry Will Change People, Politics and Portfolios

Bill Paul, Wiley press release
A new book due out at the end of January describes how an energy technology revolution the equal of the information revolution of the 1990s is about to transform the global energy industry and can free the United States from its deadly dependence on foreign oil within 5 to 10 years.

Future Energy: How the New Oil Industry Will Change People, Politics, and Portfolios (John Wiley & Sons) describes how a combination of high prices, national insecurity and environmental anxiety is causing the world to move away from a politically and economically vulnerable single-source (crude oil) transportation system to a multi-source system which, in addition to providing energy security for every nation, should benefit the global economy and environment – a win-win-win.

Written by Bill Paul, who was a Wall Street Journal staff reporter for 20 years and who has been covering energy and the environment for more than 30 years, Future Energy explains how technology will create a “new” oil industry that runs on four cylinders instead of one, on a combination of:

  • Advanced Biofuels (better than today’s corn-based ethanol; featuring a biofuel that promises to be a never-ending “oil field” that can never be nationalized).
  • Electricity (green power as well as grid; “homemade fuel” for the plug-ins that are rapidly coming into view).
  • Synthetic Gasoline (derived from tar sands and coal, the former a political necessity despite its serious drawbacks, the latter poised to become the most ubiquitous energy source this side of the sun).
  • Conventional Gasoline (from crude oil; the bridge to the future).

Future Energy features a detailed list of “100 companies to watch,” including many that make this not your father’s oil industry.

The book stresses the need for Washington (hopefully in partnership with Beijing) to accelerate the first major technological restructuring of the oil industry in over 100 years through a Manhattan Project-style program. The book argues that such a program should more than pay for itself by saving the U.S. billions of dollars currently spent on insuring that America’s imported oil reaches its destination. (Translation: there’s no need to raise gasoline taxes.)

Paul emphasizes that the longer it takes for this new technologically-driven oil industry to develop, the more politically and economically vulnerable the U.S. and the world will become. Of the five biggest sources of America’s foreign oil addiction (Canada, Mexico, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, and Nigeria), all except Canada are in serious danger from terrorists, anti-American nationalists, and/or mature oil fields starting to show worrisome signs of long-term neglect. In addition, Russia is developing an “energy weapon” and the U.S. is locating more of its critical energy infrastructure in the hurricane-exposed Gulf of Mexico.

Among the book’s predictions: garbage will be turned into liquid transportation fuel (think Back to the Future); wireless providers will provide the communications backbone of a new method of wealth creation that utilizes energy efficiency to put money in the average Joe’s pocket. Big Oil will still rule the energy world (but in a brand new way).
(Jan 2007)
The link to the Wiley website seems temporarily broken. UPDATE (Feb 1). The link to the Wiley website works now.

About a Book

Amanda Kovattana, Blogspot
It’s time to tell the story of the upcoming publication of my book (sometime in this new year), so that I may rise to the occasion. This was the book that was supposed to make me somebody. It was my American Dream book. The one that would catapult me from obscurity to fame like Amy Tan, who’s first published story was discovered by an agent. Said agent then called her up and urged her to create four more characters in the same vein. The resulting book was The Joy Luck Club.

When I decided to write Diamonds In My Pocket nearly twenty years ago, I did not have such lofty visions. I simply wanted to lay down the stories of my childhood for those who might be interested in visiting Thailand.

…The never quite objective, third person narrative of straight journalism amused me. The absence of emotion could render my life in quite horrific terms. “Gato Killed In Hit and Run”, I wrote reporting the death of my cat. “Whitney Ex-lover Goes to Group Home” was the headline when my lover tossed me out of her life. And my favorite, “Woman Grows Bigger Brain”, to describe my continuing education. If I couldn’t manage a defining writer’s voice, I had found a fitting irony in not having one. This detached perspective gave me the lens to see my life for the drama that it was.

…From all appearances, my Asian peers had forgotten what they had left behind and were now feeling the isolating affects of living in nuclear family formation complete with pedigreed dog, high above the ground in those “sky” condos. They had filled their lives with high tech gadgets and in their air conditioned cars driving from underground parking lot to multi-story parking garage, they need never set foot on their own soil. And while safely inside the air-conditioned shopping malls and office buildings, they need never breath the heavily polluted air. These city dwellers and the corporate ex-pats working with them were my audience. How I longed to tell them the West did not have all the answers. In its own offshore way, this whole book thing could be really big.
(4 Jan 2007)
Amanda writes environmental-related pieces for Energy Bulletin.