Not the Future We Ordered: Peak Oil, Psychology, and the Myth of Progress
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For well over half a century, since the first credible warnings of petroleum depletion were raised in the 1950s, contemporary industrial civilization has been caught in a remarkable paradox: a culture more focused on problem solving than any other has repeatedly failed to deal with, or even consider, the problem most likely to bring its own history to a full stop. The coming of peak oil—the peaking and irreversible decline of world petroleum production—poses an existential threat to societies in which every sector of the economy depends on petroleum-based transport, and no known energy source can scale up extensively or quickly enough to replace dwindling oil supplies. Resolute action on personal, local, national, and global levels over the decades just passed might have staved off a future of economic contraction, political turmoil, and immense human suffering. Instead, governments and populations of all the world’s industrial nations collectively closed their eyes to the impending crisis.
Not The Future We Ordered is the first study of the psychological dimensions of that decision and its consequences, as a case study in the social psychology of collective failure, and as an issue with which psychologists and therapists will be confronted repeatedly in the years ahead. At the core of the modern world’s inability to come to grips with the challenge of peak oil are a set of beliefs that amount to a civil religion of progress, in which the concept of progress is credited with the invincibility and beneficence other religions assign to their gods. This civil religion of progress lends legitimacy to policies that subordinate all other values to economic growth, place blind faith in untested technologies, and rule out serious consideration of the long-term downsides of today’s trends.
The religious faith in progress that makes such policies seem sensible, and provides justification for the marginalization of alternative views, has become one of the core factors driving contemporary societies headlong toward a wrenching confrontation with the hard limits of a finite planet. As the gap widens between today’s expectations of perpetual progress and tomorrow’s experiences, peak oil will become a significant mental health issue across the currently industrialized world. When “the future we ordered” fails to show up on schedule, cognitive dissonance and other psychological impacts common in times of severe cultural dislocation will likely show up as well, driving counterproductive responses on the personal and collective scales. Understanding the psychology that backed industrial civilization into a corner called “peak oil” is a crucial step in dealing with these consequences, and to this, Not The Future We Ordered offers a clear and readable guide
Reviews and Endorsements
'Perhaps the very best of Greer to date, Not The Future We Ordered boldly analyzes the emotional impact of the death of the myth of progress which he cogently demonstrates has become a civil religion in the modern world. Increasingly stripped of that ‘creed’, inhabitants of industrial civilization are currently experiencing an emotional breakdown in tandem with a societal breakdown - "a level of psychological stress capable of forcing a psychotic break on the individual or collective scale". Just as personal loss is wisely navigated through the Five Stages of Grief as articulated by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, so our soul and societal sickness is best addressed by consciously moving through Five Stages of Peak Oil. Greer offers a clarion call to psychotherapists and helping professionals to transcend their own denial of our predicament so that they may effectively and empathically assist their clients in responding to an unprecedented collective unraveling. Abandoning all hubris, this book redefines ‘hope’, moving it from passive expectation to pro-active empowerment. Unarguably a must-read.'
- Carolyn Baker, PhD, author of Navigating The Coming Chaos: A Handbook For Inner Transition, and Sacred Demise: Walking The Spiritual Path Of Industrial Civilization’s Collapse.
About the Author(s)
One of the most widely respected voices in contemporary occult studies, John Michael Greer is the award-winning author of more than fifty books, including The New Encyclopedia of the Occult, The Druidry Handbook, The Celtic Golden Dawn, and Circles of Power: An Introduction to Hermetic Magic. An initiate in Freemasonry, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, Greer served as the Grand Archdruid of the Ancient Order of Druids in America (AODA) for twelve years. He lives in Cumberland, Maryland, an old mill town in the Appalachian mountains of western Maryland, with his wife Sara.
John Michael Greer is also the author of four books on peak oil and the future of industrial society, The Long Descent, The Ecotechnic Future, The Wealth of Nature and Not The Future We Ordered, and also writes the widely cited peak oil blog “The Archdruid Report”.
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