The underlying premise of the classic book The Limits to Growth is irrefutable: At some point in time, humanity's ever-increasing resource consumption will meet the very real limits of a planet with finite natural resources.

We, the authors of The Post Carbon Reader, believe that time has come.


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From the Post Carbon Institute/Watershed Media Book:

Post  Carbon  Reader cover

The Post Carbon Reader

Managing the 21st Century’s Sustainability Crises

Edited by Richard Heinberg and Daniel Lerch

Table of Contents
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about The Post Carbon Reader

How do population, water, energy, food, and climate issues impact one another? What can we do to address one problem without making the others worse? The Post Carbon Reader features essays by some of the world’s most provocative thinkers on the key issues shaping our new century, from renewable energy and urban agriculture to social justice and community resilience. This insightful collection takes a hard-nosed look at the interconnected threats of our global sustainability quandary and presents some of the most promising responses.

Contributors to The Post Carbon Reader are some of the world's leading sustainability thinkers, including Bill McKibben, Richard Heinberg, Stephanie Mills, David Orr, Wes Jackson, Erika Allen, Gloria Flora, and dozens more.

Published by Watershed Media
Forthcoming in October
440 pages, 6 x 9“, 4 b/w photographs, 26 line illustrations
$21.95 paper 978-0-9709500-6-2

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Reader Comments


Ooh! Malthusians!

From: Mmonides, Sep 20, 10 09:52 AM

You may want to check in on the 250 years of economic theory that's come after Malthus; right now you look like Luddites.

From: Terry Backer, Aug 7, 10 05:11 AM

After 20 years in elected government at the state level I have noticed that we continue to plan for nearly the best case scenario rather than the worst case. The only limitation acknowledged is one of revenue, where the belief is it is an issue that can be addressed by some form of tax policy.

Solution is the mantra rather than adaptation. Solution is defined as another way to continue the same path and policies. We can do it a different way but want the same results. It appears to me after 5 years 2 reports to the legislature that legislators no more want to change their vision of the future than does the general populations. I fear that reality may intrude on their fantasy way to late.

John, Agreed.

From: Tod B, Aug 5, 10 01:49 PM

John -

Sustainable is a thorny term and many people and orgs are working on finding terms that have broader impact and are, well, untainted.

RESILIENT is a great option. Think on it. Type it. Say it. You'll find that it encompasses everything that 'sustainable' does, but with the added bonus of broader applicability and increased flexibility. And, best of all, it's made without imported chemicals.

sustainable--which means what?

From: John Carey, Aug 5, 10 01:36 PM

Can't we find another term for this? Obviously our industrial-consumer society has never planned for being in place on a continuing basis. The question has in fact never been addressed. What we have has all been devised ad hoc. Problems have been dealt with one at at time as they came to someone's attention. What we have in infrastructure and personnel skills and financing has never been the solution to: how can we manage our affairs to have them still functioning 1000 or more years in the future. So let's find another term for the thinking about the future that we engage in.

Underlying Premise

From: JGG, Aug 5, 10 01:18 PM

"The underlying premise of the book (The Post Carbon Reader) is irrefutable: At some point in time, humanity's ever-increasing resource consumption will meet the very real limits of a planet with finite natural resources.

We believe that time has come."

The underlying premise may be irrefutable, but the conclusion drawn from that premise may be. Ask Dr. Erlich.

Beyond Limits should be compulsory read

From: Ms R.C. ten Veen, Aug 5, 10 09:07 AM

This article/ chapter should be a compulsory read for any economy student (and everyone else as well). In peace, Rianne (

post carbon farming

From: jimmy, Aug 4, 10 08:22 PM

2000 calories/ day 365 days per year

minimum 2.5 acres/ adult

where will your food come from ?

Climate change

From: Murray Duffin, Aug 4, 10 02:09 PM

Having read the excerpt, I can agree with the central premise re energy. However I wish the argument wasn't flawed by the references to CO2 induced climate change. That canard will soon be discredited, and there is high risk that the rest of the message will be discredited with it. Climate warming and cooling is cyclical, with the 2 most important cycles that are short enough for us to have some view of being about 60 years and about 175 years. We are clearly just past the top of the latest 60 year cycle, and probably passed the top of the latest 175 year cycle about 1940. With the sun in a surprisingly quiescent period, suggestive of a Dalton Minimum the odds asre very high that we are now in a cooling period for at least the next 30 years. Given that we have been cycling around an upward trend since the LIA, and around a cooling trend since the MWP (even Phil Jones has conceded that point), and probably since the Minoan Optimum, it is very unlikely that CO2 had much, if anything, to do with the recent 30 years or so of warming. It is even likely that some elevated CO2 will be a plus in the coming decades.
The AGW reference weakens the valid energy argument.

The physical end of multiplying prosperity was ~50 years ago

From: Phil Henshaw, Aug 4, 10 09:44 AM

It's curious to me that it was the economy running into the erupting consequences of hitting the limits of free growth first noticed *in hind sight* in the 1950's and 60's, that is still discussed as possibly being a mirage of some kind. It's not a mirage. We hit the limits of growth without destabilizing consequences half a century ago.

It's also true that "the end of growth" *could* be used to refer to the end of our cultural belief in ever multiplying money and resource use. The actual absolute end of increasing resource use making increased resource easier and cheaper (the real meaning of growth) was back when we started noticing diverse environmental collapses under way due to the past impacts of our use of the earth.

The limit of economic growth then, if you were to define it as that crossing point when growth began producing irreversibly growing complications, was ~1960. Considering institutional response times, that would place the time we would have needed to respond to its visible approach in the early 1900's.

That's the physical science view, taking a practical "steering policy" perspective. Why the environmental movement has not caught onto that, but maintains a "split personality" in talking about the past as a future possibility... is, well, because our culture doesn't pay attention to that difference.

There are problems with our popular solutions too, like the "compromise" made with big money to get support for environmental causes. No one talks about "peak money", or the one practical way to have physical and financial limits of the economy come at the same time. or /phpub.htm

Cannabis vs. climate change

From: Paul von Hartmann, Aug 4, 10 06:54 AM

Unfortunately this book, and most others that address the post-carbon era, over-looks a huge chunk of the equation. If you'd like to know what that is, you are encouraged to consider what happens when the world's most useful agricultural resource is reintroduced into global farming rotations.

For Maggie Hughes and others who are audio oriented,
please feel welcome to hear about the relevance of hemp "monoterpenes" in radiative forcing of the atmosphere

California Cannabis Ministry BlogTalkRadio Program

Anything you can do to help reverse the perceived value of Cannabis hemp agriculture, which must necessarily shift from illegal to essential, will do more to heal the planet than any other single change in value that needs to be accomplished in the shortest amount of time possible.

bursting your energy bubble.

From: Richard Balfour, Aug 3, 10 04:07 PM

None value added jobs and creation of more them does not help society or the energy gap. The end of cheap energy means you have to have a real job and make a real product; can you eat it? Do you do something valuable that people will still pay for when they lost their job creating nothing of value??
Jobs with no meaning and then looking for leisure time for relief; the new paradigm is small job of value, perhaps growing your own food as nobody will be shipping it to your door. The current lifestyle and pattern of community is not going to last, better learn how to do something useful. And before the welfare safety net collapses from loss of tax base.
See SSP 31 slide sets on Vancouver Degrowth conference to help. ......on See slide on oil price escalation on income, lifestyles and basics of life.
.... and Canada is not for sale. Somebody already gave it away, we are now having to claw it back.
Thanks to Richard for putting the book up on email.

Limitless clean energy

From: Campbell Laughlin, Aug 1, 10 12:39 PM

I wish to explore the relationship between Energy Dimensions and Sub-Atomic Fission, with a practical objective. I need three open minded physicists to assist me for 40 hours. Who might be interested in this technology?


From: John Mack, Jul 30, 10 07:06 PM

I came across a very sobering statistic that the US economy has to grow by 3% just to create enough new jobs to absorb the natural increase in the US population. The US economy has to grow by 5% per year to create enough new jobs to decrease the unemployment rate by 1%. Studies have shown that when expenditures for oil consume 4% or more of the USA's GDP, it causes the economy to stop growing or go into recession. The corresponding oil price is $70 to $80/bbl, where we are now. It is easy to see the vise that we're in.

alternative news

From: Maggie Hughes, Jul 29, 10 02:31 PM

I am always looking for audio on topics like climate Change, water, selling off Canada, alternative lifestyle...

If you want more people to hear your research - I need the audio. All my work is volunteer.