Richard Heinberg is a senior fellow at the Post Carbon Institute and the author of Power: Limits and Prospects for Human Survival.
Richard is a senior fellow at Post Carbon Institute, and is regarded as one of the world’s foremost advocates for a shift away from our current reliance on fossil fuels. He is the author of fourteen books, including some of the seminal works on society’s current energy and environmental sustainability crisis.
Richard has authored hundreds of essays and articles that have appeared in such journals as Nature, Reuters, Wall Street Journal, The American Prospect, Public Policy Research, Quarterly Review, Literary Review, Yes!, and The Sun; and on web sites such as Resilience.org, CommonDreams.org, Alternet.org, ProjectCensored.com, and Counterpunch.com. His monthly MuseLetter has been in publication since 1992 and has been included in Utne Magazine’s annual list of Best Alternative Newsletters.
Richard has delivered hundreds of lectures on energy and climate issues to audiences on six continents, addressing policy makers at many levels, from local City Councils to members of the European Parliament. He has been quoted and interviewed countless times for print (including for Reuters, the Associated Press, and Time), television (including Good Morning America, National Geographic, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Al-Jazeera, and C-SPAN), and radio (including NPR, WABC, and Air America).
Richard has appeared in many film and television documentaries, including Leonardo DiCaprio’s 11th Hour. He is a recipient of the Atlas Award for climate heroes (2012) and the M. King Hubbert Award for Excellence in Energy Education (2006). In 2012 Richard was appointed to His Majesty the King of Bhutan’s International Expert Working Group for the New Development Paradigm initiative.
Richard wrote and narrated Post Carbon Institute’s animated video 300 Years of Fossil Fuels in 300 Seconds (winner of a YouTubes’s/DoGooder 2011 Video of the Year Award), which has viewed by nearly two million people and translated into multiple languages. He is also the author and narrator of Post Carbon Institute’s 22-video Think Resilience online course.
This essay is dedicated to the memory of Herman Daly, the father of ecological economics, who began writing about the absurdity of perpetual economic growth in the 1970s; Herman died on October 28 at age 84.Politicians and economists talk glowingly about growth. They want our cities and GDP to grow. Jobs, profits, companies, and industries all should grow; if they don’t, there’s something wrong, and we must identify the problem and fix it. Yet few discuss doubling time, even though it’s an essential concept for understanding growth.
Recently my wife Janet and I splurged on tickets to a spellbinding concert by the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. The music was memorable, but a comment by orchestra leader and trumpet virtuoso Wynton Marsalis proved even more so. Marsalis introduced a blues number with the seemingly off-hand suggestion that the blues should be America’s national anthem.[*]
The audience laughed. But I, for one, took this as a serious and brilliant suggestion. It’s worth some discussion.
- Power: Limits and Prospects for Human Survival (New Society, 2021) [power.postcarbon.org https://power.postcarbon.org/]
- Our Renewable Future: Laying the Path for One Hundred Percent Clean Energy, co-authored with David Fridley (Island Press, 2016) [ourrenewablefuture.org https://ourrenewablefuture.org/]
- Afterburn: Society Beyond Fossil Fuels (New Society, 2015)
- Snake Oil: How Fracking’s False Promise of Plenty Imperils Our Future (Post Carbon Institute, 2013; UK, Dutch, Spanish, and Romanian editions 2014)
- The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality (New Society, 2011; UK, Chinese, Korean, Dutch, and French editions 2012)
- Blackout: Coal, Climate and the Last Energy Crisis (New Society, 2009; UK edition 2010)
- Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Declines (New Society, 2007; UK and Korean editions, 2008)
- The Oil Depletion Protocol: A Plan to Avert Oil Wars, Terrorism, and Economic Collapse (New Society, 2006; UK edition, 2006)
- Powerdown: Options and Actions for a Post-Carbon World (New Society, 2004; UK edition 2005)
- The Party’s Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies (New Society, 2003; UK, Italian, German, Spanish, and Arabic editions, 2004-2005; revised North American edition, 2005; French edition 2008)
The world’s shift away from its current reliance on fossil fuels will be the biggest, most expensive, and most complex technical project ever attempted by humans. If it fails, that might mean the end of industrial civilization. For it to succeed, enormous amounts of investment and effort, along with some shared sacrifice, will be required. These are the conclusions of key recent studies attempting to model the global energy transition.