Not the Future We Ordered
The Psychology of Peak Oil and the Myth of Eternal Progress

Paper: 978 1 78049 088 5 / $21.95
Published: February 2013  

Publisher: Karnac Books
160 pp., 5 " x 7 1/2"
For well over half a century, since the first credible warnings of petroleum depletion were raised in the 1950s, contemporary industrial civilization has been caught in a remarkable paradox: a culture more focused on problem solving than any other has repeatedly failed to deal with, or even consider, the problem most likely to bring its own history to a full stop.

The coming of peak oil—the peaking and irreversible decline of world petroleum production—poses an existential threat to societies in which every sector of the economy depends on petroleum-based transport, and no known energy source can scale up extensively or quickly enough to replace dwindling oil supplies. Resolute action on personal, local, national, and global levels over the decades just passed might have staved off a future of economic contraction, political turmoil, and immense human suffering. Instead, governments and populations of all the world’s industrial nations collectively closed their eyes to the impending crisis.

Not The Future We Ordered is the first study of the psychological dimensions of that decision and its consequences, as a case study in the social psychology of collective failure, and as an issue with which psychologists and therapists will be confronted repeatedly in the years ahead. At the core of the modern world’s inability to come to grips with the challenge of peak oil are a set of beliefs that amount to a civil religion of progress, in which the concept of progress is credited with the invincibility and beneficence other religions assign to their gods. This civil religion of progress lends legitimacy to policies that subordinate all other values to economic growth, place blind faith in untested technologies, and rule out serious consideration of the long-term downsides of today’s trends.

The religious faith in progress that makes such policies seem sensible, and provides justification for the marginalization of alternative views, has become one of the core factors driving contemporary societies headlong toward a wrenching confrontation with the hard limits of a finite planet. As the gap widens between today’s expectations of perpetual progress and tomorrow’s experiences, peak oil will become a significant mental health issue across the currently industrialized world. When “the future we ordered” fails to show up on schedule, cognitive dissonance and other psychological impacts common in times of severe cultural dislocation will likely show up as well, driving counterproductive responses on the personal and collective scales. Understanding the psychology that backed industrial civilization into a corner called “peak oil” is a crucial step in dealing with these consequences, and to this, Not The Future We Ordered offers a clear and readable guide

Table of Contents:
One: The unmentionable crisis
Two: The religion of progress
Three: The psychology of the progress myth
Four: Peak oil as deviance
Five: The five stages of peak oil
Six: Facing an unwelcome future


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Reviews & Endorsements:
"In Not the Future We Ordered, Greer offers two inspirational challenges to the reader. One is a new definition of the word hope. 'Hope is not optimism,' he says. 'It is not the passive expectation that good things will inevitably come one’s way. Rather, it is the recognition that no matter what the circumstances might be, there are positive goals that can be achieved if they are pursued with forethought and a sustained willingness to try.' Additionally, Greer issues a clarion call to psychotherapists and helping professionals to move through their own denial and learn the realities of our predicament because they will 'find themselves called upon to deal with the individual and collective psychological impacts of the arrival of a future unpleasantly different from the one most of us expect.' I wholeheartedly recommend Not the Future We Ordered. Just as we face a future that we did not order, Greer suggests strategies that we may not have 'ordered' for preparing emotionally and spiritually to navigate it. These require commitment and a great deal of personal introspection, alongside dynamic engagement with the community in order to create more resilient lives. Not the Future We Ordered abandons all hubris and radically redefines 'hope,' moving it from passive expectation to pro-active empowerment."
- Carolyn Baker, Speaking Truth to Power