World Made by Hand

World Made by Hand

May 12th, 2008 | Posted in Environment & Energy, Innovation

He is, quite simply, one of the most provocative American thinkers and writers alive today. He is James Howard Kunstler, author most recently of the novel, World Made by Hand.

In recent years, Mr. Kunstler has become best known for making the case that “peak oil” is here, now, the moment when we begin the second half of the oil age. The ride down the backside of the curve will, he argues, be steep, bumpy, and full of dislocations far beyond the minor inconveniences we usually imagine may be associated with higher gasoline prices. Mr. Kunstler lays out this argument, along with often biting, and occasionally hilarious commentary on moden American urban and suburban life, in his weekly blog, a must read for me each Monday.

Recently James passed through Seattle on his national book tour promoting the new novel, and he was kind enough to sit down with us for an interview. Below, we present the 22 minute interview in full. (It is also available at many video server sites on the web often in two parts due to length.)

First, a brief review of his novel. I was eager to see how James would turn his world view of the end of oil into fiction, and the novel succeeded for me in character, setting, and story. Set in the relatively near but indeterminate future, in a small town in upstate New York, we find the townspeople living without cars or internal combustion engines of any kind. Fleeting bursts of electricity serve only to recall tantalizing memories of days gone by, and the characters are generally struggling to remember how to grow food, fix things that are broken, and get by in a world made by hand. They are literally trying to recall a way of life only a generation and half lost in time, yet as distant and difficult to access as the most ancient history.

In order to arrange a world without functioning national or regional government James adds in a cataclysmic event or two on top of an energy crisis and a much hotter world. Taking note of contemporary trends to elevate superstition and spiritualism over science, he brings to the town a spiritual leader and his band of people seeking a peaceful place to make a new life. Much of the story revolves around the difficulties of integrating several alternative lifestyles among bands of former townspeople and newcomers attempting, simply, to survive in a new reality.

While Mr. Kuntsler takes the logic of the end of oil to extreme ends in order to create a dramatic story, he never-the-less creates a plausible world. Entering into that world you are forced to take stock of your own knowledge and skills as you imagine how you would fit in, were the world to step back in time. Would you, as many characters do, fail to cope with the loss of much of modernity, or would you, like the heroes of the story, settle into the steady rebuilding of life and community?

Glen Hiemstra Interview with James Howard Kunstler

Glen Hiemstra, in studio with James Howard Kunstler, Author of “The World Made by Hand” from Glen Hiemstra on Vimeo.

Glen Hiemstra is a futurist speaker, consultant, blogger, internet TV show host and founder of To arrange for a speech contact

Glen Hiemstra

About Glen Hiemstra

Glen Hiemstra is the founder of An internationally respected expert on future trends, long-range planning and creating the preferred future, Glen has advised professional, business, and governmental organizations for three decades.


  1. judith   |   Jun 20, 2008

    Jim, you make me laugh, your sense of humor is great. Those little comments you make at the end of the video were hilarious. We’re going to be needing a lot of that in the months and years to come, I’m afraid.

  2. Beerzie   |   Jun 12, 2008

    Stops at :0047. ๐Ÿ™

  3. edward   |   Jun 12, 2008

    I have been reading Kunstler for several years now, and while I appreciate his core thesis, that the decline in petroleum will have a profound impact, I think his backwards looking solutions are not possible. We can’t return to the 19th century. Unfortunately the cowboy/wildcatter mentality will not disappear overnight and much pain will be inflicted in a disorderly readjustment. As a practical first step we need to dismantle the military industrial complex and reroute the wasteful spending to infrastructure though what appearance it should take will require a Manhattan Project- the best brains-free from self serving greed, not easy to find-to brainstorm a rejiggered economy and topology. No easy task.

  4. Nick   |   Jun 11, 2008

    Thanks so much for making this available. Kunstler rocks. World – are you listening?

  5. DrBubb   |   Jun 3, 2008

    A new dose of Kunstler’s message!: Thanks – a great antidote to the mindless optimism that spews out of the mainstream.

    I think of America as a junkie, who helped to sell the “glamour” of a junkie’s life to others, and is now complaining when the pushers sees all the fresh demand, and puts the price of (scarce) heroin upwards.

    My website looks at the coming Long Emergency from many different angles. And I have written an article for Financial Sense, which was strongly influenced by JHK’s thinking – Restructuring America’s Suburban Dream :

  6. Neil Lori   |   May 29, 2008

    Peak oil is here. If you have not read “World Made By Hand” by James Howard Kunstler then I suggest you do. He also has which is his website.

    I have been aware for many years that we must go back to trains, tracks, railroads, trolleys and local farming.

    So wake up Washington State, Wake up New York State and Wake Up America!!!!!!!!!!! Quit watching f*ing television and think out of the box or we are going to be so screwed.

    Neil Lori Common Sense Program

    Neil Lori resides at 1776 Old Mine Road Port Jervis, New York

  7. Drew Keeling   |   May 19, 2008

    Thanks for this thoughtful and comprehensive interview. I am a regular reader of Jim Kunstler’s website, which is how I found my way here, but there were nonetheless a couple of new wrinkles for me in this video. Especially: the bit about a rising percentage of people being unable to afford cars. So far, it seems to me most of those (4% or whatever it is) have been aspiring or expecting-to-eventually-be happy motorists (students, immigrant workers, etc). A new trend, that of a growing number of disgruntled FORMER happy motorists will be something to watch. Post oil peak we will need a new metaphor for “fasten your seat belt, we are expecting turbulence ahead.”

  8. Glen Hiemstra   |   May 14, 2008


    Right, and fixed. The

    minutes in one continuous video, and part 2 was a place holder not needed. Our mistake. Thanks for watching. Buy the book!

  9. Rob Bracken   |   May 14, 2008

    Great interview. However, it seems that Part 2 is a repeat of Part 1.