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The End of Suburbia: Oil Depletion and the Collapse of the American Dream cover photo

The End of Suburbia: Oil Depletion and the Collapse of the American Dream 2004

Highly Recommended

Distributed by Microcinema International/Microcinema DVD, 1636 Bush St., Suite #2, SF, CA 94109; 415-447-9750
Produced by Barry Silverthorn
Directed by Gregory Greene
DVD, color, 88 min.

Sr. High - Adult
Transportation, Sociology, Environmental Studies, Economics, American Studies

Date Entered: 11/28/2007

Reviewed by Christopher Lewis, American University Library, Washington DC

The premise of this film is easy to understand. Fossils fuels are a nonrenewable resource and civilization is about to reach a moment, if it hasn’t already, when daily consumption will exceed the world’s daily production capacity. According to the Peak Oil theory, the scarcity of oil and escalating costs will begin to create various crises of a magnitude that will permanently alter what’s commonly thought of as the American Dream – that is the dream of owning a home in the suburbs. The suburban lifestyle (and the other ones too) are driven by fossil fuel consumption via cars, trucks, trains, planes, shipping, heating, and manufacturing and with the population growth and rapid development of other countries like India and China, the status quo will not be sustainable. Most people probably accept that sooner or later the oil supply will disappear but there seems to be a willful ignorance of how many facets of our lives are dependent on it and how unlikely the known alternatives are to adequately replace fossil fuels.

Many of the better known authors, scholars, and scientists concerned with the social effects following Peak Oil are interviewed in the program. The video surveys the evolution of oil-dependent American lifestyles and the cultural myths that were borne from them. The Peak Oil theory is explained as is the urgency of the situation. The technologies many people hope will stave off the inevitable, such as wind power, solar, nuclear, and biofuel, are described as wholly inadequate to match the current consumption rate of fossil fuels. A few of the alternatives, notably biofuel and hydrogen would require as much energy to produce as they would generate.

There is no prediction of how and when the crises resulting from Peak Oil will occur but there’s little doubt that serious problems are on the horizon and need to be addressed immediately. The video includes public performance rights and an insert in the box encourages community screenings. The director, Gregory Greene, has also made a sequel to the film titled Escape from Suburbia. For raising awareness of this situation, this video is highly recommended for all libraries.


  • Chris Award, Columbus International Film Festival, 2005
  • Environmental Vision Award, Putnam County Film and Video Festival, 2005