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The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight

Waking Up to Personal and Global Transformation
by Thom Hartmann, 1998

Only 315 pages, this is a book writ large on a massive canvas. Its main thread is the precariousness of our modern high-energy high-technology high-population civilization. For anyone who doesn't understand the implications of Peak Oil, this is one of the best discussions available, although it isn't as focussed and technically detailed as many others like The Oil Age is Over by Matt Savinar or The Party's Over by Richard Heinberg. It isn't as focussed, becasue this book isn't just about Peak Oil, and it isn't just a book; it's the Big Picture: more of a deep-green manifesto, in the same way as Small is Beautiful by E. F. Schumacher. It's also the main thrust of the author's website at, and is tag-lined 'One of the most important books you will ever read in your life'.

So, an ambitious book! Does it succeed? Undoubtably it succeeds in putting the case across by a variety of scholarly research, anecdotes, stories and logic. It's also a compulsive read, and for anyone who has never come across these ideas before, indeed 'One of the most important books...'. But for such a massively ambitious book to truly succeed would require that it actually contributes to changing the thinking and behaviour of leaders and whole populations. That's a tall order, and although I guess this is a very influential book, as of 2007, the jury is still out on whether we have time to save the world even if we suddenly became a world of enlightened and peaceful beings overnight. In that sense, this book is an important part of the global Green movement.

There are some truly fascinating (and chilling) chapters in the most gripping first part (We're Running Out...) such as Glimpsing a Possible Future in Haiti..., The Death of the Trees, and A Visit to a Country that's Planning to Survive: China; also a section on natural population control in tribes.

The second part (... How did we get Here?) takes a highly critical look at the transformation of tribal culture into civilization, with a great emphasis on native American Indian/Aboriginal tribes, and shines an unsettling light on Western civilization's conquest and enslavement of them. This is also where the author starts to bring in a spiritual dimension.

In Part three, Thom presents a number of suggestions to save the World. Intreagingly, he starts off with changes in consciousness, moving through dominant culture stories, the empowerment of women, non-materialism, pacifism and communal living.

Because the breadth of the book's subject matter roams so freely, it's unlikely that anyone will honestly agree with every point in it, but really that's not a problem. Neither in many senses could you really consider the book objective. Despite the global content, it's still a somewhat North-American perspective on the World. This is a book to stimulate the reader into thinking about what or who they do or should really belive. It's more the literary manifestation of a visionary and idealistic man, and for that, you can't fault it. Highly Recommended