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The Energy of Slaves

Oil and the New Servitude

Regular price $29.95 CAD
  • ISBN: 9781553659785
  • Tags: Andrew Nikiforuk, Current Affairs & Politics, Nature & Environment, Science,
  • Dimensions: 6 x 9
  • Published On: 8/17/2012
  • 296 Pages
  • ISBN: 9781771640107
  • Tags: Andrew Nikiforuk, Current Affairs & Politics, Nature & Environment, Science,
  • Dimensions: 6 x 9
  • Published On: 04/04/2014
  • 296 Pages
  • ISBN: 9781553659792
  • Tags: Andrew Nikiforuk, Current Affairs & Politics, Nature & Environment, Science,
  • Published On: 17/08/2012
  • 272 Pages

A radical analysis of our master-and-slave relationship to energy and a call for change.

Ancient civilizations routinely relied on shackled human muscle. It took the energy of slaves to plant crops, clothe emperors, and build cities. In the early nineteenth century, the slave trade became one of the most profitable enterprises on the planet, and slaveholders viewed religious critics as hostilely as oil companies now regard environmentalists. Yet when the abolition movement finally triumphed in the 1850s, it had an invisible ally: coal and oil. As the world's most portable and versatile workers, fossil fuels dramatically replenished slavery's ranks with combustion engines and other labour-saving tools. Since then, oil has transformed politics, economics, science, agriculture, gender, and even our concept of happiness. But as Andrew Nikiforuk argues in this provocative new book, we still behave like slaveholders in the way we use energy, and that urgently needs to change.

Many North Americans and Europeans today enjoy lifestyles as extravagant as those of Caribbean plantation owners. Like slaveholders, we feel entitled to surplus energy and rationalize inequality, even barbarity, to get it. But endless growth is an illusion, and now that half of the world's oil has been burned, our energy slaves are becoming more expensive by the day. What we need, Nikiforuk argues, is a radical new emancipation movement. Also available in hardcover.

Published in Partnership with the David Suzuki Institute.

Andrew Nikiforuk is an award-winning Canadian journalist who has been writing about the oil and gas industry for more than two decades. He is the author of multiple non-fiction books, including Tar Sands, winner of the prestigious Rachel Carson Environment Book Award, Saboteurs, winner of Canada’s Governor General’s Literary Award for Nonfiction. He was one of the first journalists in North America to document the devastating effects of hydraulic fracturing on rural communities.


" . . . Nikiforuk marshals such an impressive array of data and argument that it becomes increasingly apparent that we are party to a noxious system—one that has made us both slaves and enslavers." -Georgia Straight

" . . . a discomforting critique of the fossil fuel-based economy." -Hill Times

" . . . His award-winning Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent packed a similar punch, and this provocative, if ominous-sounding book is never less than engaging . . . Hope lies in powering down and throwing off the chains binding us to inanimate slaves in our households and places of work. The 'new abolitionists,' in fact, are already among us; they 'eat slowly, travel locally, plant gardens, work ethically . . . eschew bigness in economic and political life.' As visions go, it's the best available." -Nancy Wigston, Toronto Star

"The Energy of Slaves offers a profoundly moral case against the diminishing returns now offered by oil dependency." -Maclean's

"A startling critique that should rouse us from our pipe dream of endless plenty." -Ronald Wright

"Andrew Nikiforuk, Canada’s greatest journalist, has written a stunning book that approaches the coming disaster [of the end of cheap energy] in a startling way. . . . I have never read a better book on the way we live now, on the plain fact that the Industrial Revolution did us in." -Heather Mallick, Toronto Star

"In his new book, The Energy of Slaves, [Nikiforuk] revives some old ideas that remain fresh and takes them to an exhaustively researched new starting point . . . according to Nikiforuk: we have to use less energy and give up some of our slaves." -FastForward Weekly

"In this cogently argued book, Andrew Nikiforuk deploys a powerful metaphor. Oil dependency, he writes, is a modern form of slavery-and it's time for a global abolition movement." -Tara Grescoe

"Nikiforuk makes a compelling case that the cost of our energy slaves is far higher than we imagine." -Winnipeg Free Press

"Nikiforuk makes the case that the cheap and plentiful energy provided by oil, and the luxuries it affords, have deeply altered our society." -Steve Andersen, Vue Weekly

"Our overwhelming societal dependence on oil is usually discussed in economic terms. This book looks at our Promethean petro-prowess through an ethical lens, and the result is both shocking and deeply enlightening. This is required reading for everyone who uses oil (do you know anyone who doesn't?)." -Richard Heinberg

"The legacy of slavery has been carried over into the modern fossil fuel-based economy, contends author Andrew Nikiforuk in his disturbing but always fascinating new book . . . [his] argument is convincing." -The StarPhoenix

"With his new book, Nikiforuk adds a robustly researched and smoothly written overview of the many challenges confronting our devotion to fossil fuels." -Quill & Quire