I just finished Orlov’s book “Reinventing Collapse” (2011). I read it because I saw it mentioned here, and I know it’s a sequel, but I thought I might as well start with the most recent volume.
I’m sure you polymaths who’ve read it were more focused on the inventive post-oil technologies the author mentions. The details of those didn’t mean much to me, but the way he talks about them reminded me of the bomb-shelter mania of my childhood. Even my father, a doctor who surely must have known the futility of the scheme, brought us all together one day and explained how we could take shelter in the fruit cellar, or our basement storeroom. Where would we excrete? And our kind daddy’s sober acknowledgement that our animals would be left outside to be incinerated was the stuff of nightmares: my sister and I burst into tears.
Why did he put us through that?
I think because, when everybody falls under the spell of a mass delusion, it begins to seem…imprudent to simply ignore what so many people are apparently taking seriously, even if you know it doesn’t make sense.
I know Orlov first wrote about what happened in the USSR, and I think I will read that one now; that must be more journalistic, whereas this one is, necessarily, a fantasia.
I’m struck by a certain gloating tone, though. He’s like a survivalist Solzhenitsyn, fleeing to our country but still extolling the superiority of the Russian spirituality: A couple years before 1989 I had a similar rebuke from a cab driver in Moscow, who informed me that America had no soul (душ).
That was an example of a “holier than thou” attitude—and Orlov, with his repeated insistence on how much tougher and less spoiled the Russian people were and are, seems to me to be striking a “hardier than thou” attitude. (At one point he refers to our country as “a big, rowdy party”.) That became a tad irritating.
Also, didn’t “peak oil” theory peak in like 2007–with production then reaching new highs a decade later?
One refreshing aspect is that Orlov doesn’t bother pretending we can do without oil, coal, etc. —we can’t! As he points out, even if these much-touted new technologies could ever work on a large scale, it would take…let’s just say OODLES of fossil fuels to get them to that point and to manufacture enough of them. No, he’s right: if we do run out—or if the Left succeeds in its insane, short-sighted goal of destroying the vast industrial complex devoted to extracting and refining fossil fuels—it’s Ridldley Walker, c’est nous!
I’m glad I read the book: it can be regarded on one level as modern Russian literature filtered through American English, a specie of the same phenomenon as Nabokov’s oeuvre.