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The Crash Course: The Unsustainable Future of Our Economy, Energy, and Environment

ISBN: 978-0-470-92764-9
336 pages
March 2011
The Crash Course: The Unsustainable Future of Our Economy, Energy, and Environment (047092764X) cover image


The next twenty years will be completely unlike the last twenty years.

The world is in economic crisis, and there are no easy fixes to our predicament. Unsustainable trends in the economy, energy, and the environment have finally caught up with us and are converging on a very narrow window of time—the "Twenty-Teens." The Crash Course presents our predicament and illuminates the path ahead, so you can face the coming disruptions and thrive--without fearing the future or retreating into denial. In this book you will find solid facts and grounded reasoning presented in a calm, positive, non-partisan manner.

Our money system places impossible demands upon a finite world.  Exponentially rising levels of debt, based on assumptions of future economic growth to fund repayment, will shudder to a halt and then reverse. Unfortunately, our financial system does not operate in reverse. The consequences of massive deleveraging will be severe.

Oil is essential for economic growth. The reality of dwindling oil supplies is now internationally recognized, yet virtually no developed nations have a Plan B.  The economic risks to individuals, companies, and countries are varied and enormous. Best-case, living standards will drop steadily worldwide. Worst-case, systemic financial crises will toss the world into jarring chaos.

This book is written for those who are motivated to learn about the root causes of our predicaments, protect themselves and their families, mitigate risks as much as possible, and control what effects they can. With challenge comes opportunity, and The Crash Course offers a positive vision for how to reshape our lives to be more balanced, resilient, and sustainable.

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Table of Contents




Part I: How to Approach the Next Twenty Years.

Chapter 1 The Coming Storm.

Chapter 2 The Lens: How to See the Future.

Chapter 3 A World Worth Inheriting.

Chapter 4 Trust Yourself.

Part II: Foundation.

Chapter 5 Dangerous Exponentials.

Chapter 6 An Inconvenient Lie: The Truth about Growth.

Chapter 7 Our Money System.

Chapter 8 Problems and Predicaments.

Chapter 9 What Is Wealth? (Hint: It’s Not Money).

Part III: Economy.

Chapter 10 Debt.

Chapter 11 The Great Credit Bubble.

Chapter 12 Like a Moth to Flame: Our Destructive Tendency to Print.

Chapter 13 Fuzzy Numbers.

Chapter 14 Starting the Race with Our Shoes Tied Together.

Part IV: Energy.

Chapter 15 Energy and the Economy.

Chapter 16 Peak Oil.

Chapter 17 Necessary but Insufficient: Coal, Nuclear, and Alternatives.

Chapter 18 Why Technology Can’t Fix This.

Part V: Environment.

Chapter 19 Minerals: Gone with the Wind.

Chapter 20 Soil: Thin, Thinner, Gone.

Chapter 21 Parched: The Coming Water Wars.

Chapter 22 All Fished Out.

Part VI: Convergence.

Chapter 23 Convergence: Why the Twenty–Teens Will Be Difficult.

Chapter 24 Closing the Book on Growth.

Chapter 25 Future Scenarios.

Part VII: What Should I Do?

Chapter 26 The Good News: We Already Have Everything We Need.

Chapter 27 What Should I Do?

Chapter 28 The Opportunities.




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Author Information

CHRIS MARTENSON, PhD, MBA, is an economic researcher and futurist who speaks to audiences around the world on The Crash Course. He runs PeakProsperity.com, a popular website on the global economy.

Chris began his career as a scientist, earning a PhD in pathology from Duke University and an MBA from Cornell. He became vice president of a large international company and believed he had achieved the American Dream, living with his family in a large waterfront home in Connecticut. He was jolted out of complacency by the bear market of 2001 and used his background in finance to investigate the workings of our monetary system. What he discovered changed his life.

Today Chris lives with his wife, Becca, and their three kids in rural Massachusetts, where they enjoy a more resilient and independent lifestyle, with fewer things, better relationships with their neighbors, and a higher quality of life.

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Press Release

March 07, 2011
THE CRASH COURSE: The Unsustainable Future of Our Economy, Energy, and Environment

For anyone who wants to understand the interconnectedness of our worrisome national debt, rising food & oil prices, Middle East unrest, pension standoffs and environmental tragedies like the Deepwater rig disaster, THE CRASH COURSE is essential reading. The future, as foreseen in this book, is now unfolding in real-time; having the proper ‘lens’ through which to interpret developing events in their proper context offers the reader an invaluable advantage.

Despite the disquieting financial events in 2008 and 2009 the “twenty teens” will be even more challenging, according to economic researcher and futurist, Chris Martenson, PhD.

In THE CRASH COURSE: The Unsustainable Future of Our Economy, Energy, and Environment (Wiley; April 2011) Martenson identifies a fast-approaching crisis defined by accelerating declines in global supplies of energy and key natural resources – the essential inputs for economic growth. Fewer inputs mean a future of “less” in everything: fewer goods and services produced, fewer jobs, lower portfolio values, less government support. Because of how our economy operates, any sustained contraction is enormously disruptive – yet most are unaware of the magnitude and nearness of the risks we are facing. 

This is not a “gloom & doom” story, rather, THE CRASH COURSE presents an honest assessment of our predicament and illuminates the path ahead. Its goal is to help individuals, communities, and companies understand the coming disruption and position themselves for it – so that they can thrive in this future. In this book you will find solid facts and grounded reasoning presented in a calm, positive, non-partisan manner.

Through THE CRASH COURSE, Martenson imparts:

  • More accurate insights than traditional economists and financial pundits on the true factors at play that impact our wealth and standard of living;
  • An easy-to-understand, intuitive explanation of what the future holds and what it all means for us as individuals and a society;
  • Actionable guidance – smart steps individuals can take today with their wealth and their lifestyles in order to be well-positioned for the upcoming “future of less.”

Moreover, Martenson’s analysis is backed by the following assets:

  • Track record: THE CRASH COURSE tenets were first publicly published in 2004. Martenson predicted major developments (e.g., economic contraction/financial markets correction, housing market collapse, energy supply breakdowns) well before they occurred along with recommended strategies (e.g. investing in gold & silver and home energy efficiency) that have since proven wise.
  • Counsel sought by decision makers: Martenson is regularly invited to speak at organizations like the United Nations, UK Houses of Parliament, US state legislatures, large multinational corporations and capital management firms.
  • Alignment with his core message: Martenson and his family have completely remodeled their lives in accordance with his views.
  • Agnostic, data driven approach: Martenson does not have any dogmatic or belief-oriented associations; his focus is on distilling factual truth from data.
  • Positive focus: His core message is that by taking appropriate action today, we can use the coming change to create a world worth inheriting.

THE CRASH COURSE is written for individuals and societies who are motivated to reshape their lives to be more balanced, resilient, and sustainable in light of the increasing challenges our economy, energy systems, and environment face. A positive vision for anyone with family, wealth, or business interests to protect and nurture, this book is an essential guide to understanding the new decade we’ve just entered.

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