"We have spent the last two centuries building a civilization on coal and the last century building it bigger still on oil. Fossil fuels have been the wellspring of our complex, glorious modern world, but they are about to run out. By the end of the 21st century, our oil and natural gas supplies will be virtually nonexistent, and limited coal supplies will be restricted to only a handful of countries. Environmental scientist Steve Hallett and veteran journalist John Wright make abundantly clear that we are at the crest of a remarkable two-hundred-year glitch in the history of civilization and are about to embark on the decline. Experts may argue about whether peak oil production has already arrived or will come in a decade or two, but in any case, as Hallett and Wright show, we must plan for a future without reliance on oil. But successful planning depends on a realistic assessment of the facts about our current situation. To that end, they describe how the petroleum interval of the last century, on which our civilization is based, fits in to the larger history of civilization. They describe the fate of civilizations and empires of the past that have come and gone based on their vital connection with the environment. Turning to an even longer timeframe, the authors make a compelling case that the key determinant of our global economy is not so much the invisible hand of the marketplace but the inexorable laws of ecology. When it comes to the long term, nature will impose limits beyond which our economy cannot go. Despite increased emphasis on renewable and environmentally friendly energy sources, our current obsession with growth is ultimately unsustainable. The authors foresee the coming decades as a time of much disruption and change of lifestyle, but in the end we may learn a wiser, more sustainable stewardship of our natural resources. This timely, sobering, yet constructive discussion of energy and ecology offers a realistic vision of the near future and many important lessons about the limits of our resources."--Publisher's description Prologue: The invisible hand -- A brief history of progress. Seeds of civilization ; The ghosts of empires passed ; The fossil fuels savings bank ; Divorced from nature -- The petroleum interval. The great energy transition ; The ecological debt ; The view from Mauna Loa -- The wealth of nations. Collision course ; Around the world in eighty depressions ; End of empire -- A general theory. Ecology is the foundation of economics ; A new foundation ; Reconnecting.