Too Much Magic - Book Review

Too Much Magic highlights exactly how pervasive the impacts of peak oil can be expected to be. Kunstler also ventures into other areas of society and how our reliance on complexity and “magic” beyond the comprehension of most citizens has helped to fuel some of the problematic situations our country finds itself in now.

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    Too Much Magic - Jacket

    Too Much Magic - Jacket

    In an age where technology has become a central focus of modern society, it’s difficult to imagine a scenario where our scientific knowledge isn’t a central pillar in our schemes to advance our quality of life. However, author (and previous UrbanTimes interviewee) James Howard Kunstler imagines a future where our current trajectory leads us toward some pretty major societal shifts. In his book, Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology, and the Fate of the Nation, Kunstler raises some serious concerns regarding our country’s (and society’s future).

    The premise of the book is simple, we’ve lived in an age of ridiculous excess and we’ve continued to ever increase our quality of live to absorb that excess. Essentially what we’ve created is a linear path of heightened consumption of all of our resources but particularly of oil. Kunstler deconstructs the idea that our efforts to use technology and human ingenuity will one day pay off in the form of perpetuating the status quo. Kunstler instead presents the idea that with the pending onset of peak oil, we’re on an unavoidable collision course… the choices we are faced with don’t allow us to avoid this collision, but at this point we can only hope to soften the impact.

    Too Much Magic highlights exactly how pervasive the impacts of peak oil can be expected to be.  Kunstler also ventures into other areas of society and how our reliance on complexity and “magic” beyond the comprehension of most citizens has helped to fuel  some of the problematic situations our country finds itself in now. From financial systems to political systems, Kunstler criticizes our standing arrangements of smoke and mirrors which have become the central component in driving our modern crises.

    So… why should you read it?  Personally, I’m optimistic that we’ll find ways to deal with many of the problems that Kunstler identifies. I do tend to agree that perhaps we’ll only be lessening the impacts, but I think we need to identify the areas where were only fooling ourselves with half-concocted notions that hybrid cars or electric cars will be our saving grace. I also have to admit that as a bit of a technophile, reading Kunstler’s perspective made me rethink the misplaced importance that all things technology-related have been awarded in our society. Similar to Kendra Pierre-Louis’s Green Washed, Too Much Magic is an excellent tool to start some dialogs about how we can start working on contracting as a society and working toward more sustainable patterns of functionality (both in terms of land use and sociopolitical functions). Written in Kunstler’s trademark brash style Too Much Magic is a thought provoking glimpse into what our future might look like.  It definitely stands in contrast to what other thinkers are presenting, so if you’re looking to change the world, Kunstler presents an important viewpoint which should be accounted for.

    Check out some of Kunstler’s thoughts in his 2007 TED talk (below).

    [Video source: James Howard Kunstler: The tragedy of suburbia (http://www.youtube.com/user/TEDtalksDirector)]