Ending the Fossil Fuel Era: Forthcoming book on MIT Press

We are pleased to announce the forthcoming release of the book “Ending the Fossil Era”, edited by Thomas Princen, Jack P. Manno, and Pamela L. Martin. The edited volume will be published by MIT Press in 2015.


 Not so long ago, people North and South had little reason to believe that wealth from oil, gas and coal would bring anything but great prosperity. But the presumption of net benefits from fossil fuels is eroding as widening circles of people rich and poor experience the downside. Once fossil fuels are extracted, their byproducts—petrochemical endocrine disruptors, sulfur dioxide, atmospheric greenhouse gasses—inevitably and unavoidably move into people’s bloodstream, into ecosystems, and into the atmosphere and oceans.

An ecologically sustainable and socially just world cannot develop and endure when the energetic basis of that world inherently concentrates power and externalizes costs, when the boom of energy ascendancy (ever-increasing availability of dense, low-cost energy sources) inevitably shifts to the bust of energy decline.

A positive transition to a post-fossil fuel era cannot wait for global agreement, a swap-in of renewables, a miracle technology, a carbon market, or lifestyle change.  It is now possible to take the first step toward the post-fossil fuel era by resisting the slow violence of extreme extraction and combustion, exiting the industry before compelled by circumstances, and imagining a good life after fossil fuels. While fossil fuel-dependent societies cannot stop cold, they can start stopping now. An early exit can begin now, and is beginning now, before geologic or social imperative make fossil fuel exit unavoidable.

This book shows how an environmental politics of transition might occur. It argues for going to the source not managing byproducts, for delegitimizing fossil fuels not accommodating them. The transition is about ending the legitimacy of an increasingly illegitimate substance, about weaning human populations off a substance they cannot handle, about undermining the power of an extremely powerful transnational coalition of industrial interests that have, to date, received a pass from would-be global managers. It imagines a politics that challenges concentrated power and disavows excess by confronting extraction, a politics of deliberately choosing a post-fossil fuel world.

Ending the Fossil Fuel Era construes the problem of fossil fuels in biophysical, cultural, and ethical terms. Then, in Ecuador, Appalachia, El Salvador, Norway, Australia and Germany, six case studies reveal how individuals, groups, communities and an entire country are experimenting with an otherwise preposterous idea—not using a valuable substance. Here we see resistance to extraction and the presumption of net benefit to locals and society as a whole, the rejection of conventional development with its limited monetary measures, and collective attempts to co-create a just and sustainable world. Finally, the volume editors devise novel paths to transition, including the potential guidance of indigenous perspectives and the possibility of corporate exit strategies.


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