Kunstler Opinion Piece in Washington Post

Posted: May 24th, 2008 by: h2

Well, I’d say the mainstream media’s main sources are all stumbling towards a part of the first step of realization. Seeing Kunstler featured in the Washington Post editorial pages is a pretty good sign in my opinion, although it’s a bit late, since from what I can see, we are now starting to bump our way down the back end of the global oil production peak.

The public, and especially the mainstream media, misunderstands the “peak oil” story. It’s not about running out of oil. It’s about the instabilities that will shake the complex systems of daily life as soon as the global demand for oil exceeds the global supply.

As the world passes the all-time oil production high and watches as the price of a barrel of oil busts another record, as it did last week, these systems will run into trouble. Instability in one sector will bleed into another. Shocks to the oil markets will hurt trucking, which will slow commerce and food distribution, manufacturing and the tourist industry in a chain of cascading effects. Problems in finance will squeeze any enterprise that requires capital, including oil exploration and production, as well as government spending. These systems are all interrelated. They all face a crisis. What’s more, the stress induced by the failure of these systems will only increase the wishful thinking across our nation.

And that’s the worst part of our quandary: the American public’s narrow focus on keeping all our cars running at any cost. Even the environmental community is hung up on this. The Rocky Mountain Institute has been pushing for the development of a “Hypercar” for years — inadvertently promoting the idea that we really don’t need to change.
Wake Up, America. We’re Driving Toward Disaster, May 25, 2008

Kunstler took good advantage of this opportunity, and I’m glad that the Washington Post is printing this story.

So what are intelligent responses to our predicament? First, we’ll have to dramatically reorganize the everyday activities of American life. We’ll have to grow our food closer to home, in a manner that will require more human attention. In fact, agriculture needs to return to the center of economic life. We’ll have to restore local economic networks — the very networks that the big-box stores systematically destroyed — made of fine-grained layers of wholesalers, middlemen and retailers.

We’ll also have to occupy the landscape differently, in traditional towns, villages and small cities. Our giant metroplexes are not going to make it, and the successful places will be ones that encourage local farming.

Fixing the U.S. passenger railroad system is probably the one project we could undertake right away that would have the greatest impact on the country’s oil consumption. The fact that we’re not talking about it — especially in the presidential campaign — shows how confused we are. The airline industry is disintegrating under the enormous pressure of fuel costs. Airlines cannot fire any more employees and have already offloaded their pension obligations and outsourced their repairs. At least five small airlines have filed for bankruptcy protection in the past two months. If we don’t get the passenger trains running again, Americans will be going nowhere five years from now.
Wake Up, America. We’re Driving Toward Disaster, May 25, 2008

There are also two recent interviews with Kunstler and Nikos Salingaros, re urbanism and the coming resource crisis, cities, skyscrapers, etc. Read part 1 here, and part 2 here.

The Three Big Elephants in the Room

This stuff isn’t complicated, but for Americans, who seem to have decided that stupid, excessive consumption and empty materialism are a reasonable substitute for quality of life, it’s going to be a major challenge to come to grips with the 3 prong attack on our much vaunted ‘way of life’ which Cheney, in his infinite idiocy, called ‘non-negotiable’.

  1. The planet is getting too hot, and latest best guesses call not for CO2 cuts, but zero CO2 production
  2. We are running out of resources, and fast. That’s largely because we doubled our planet’s population over the last 30 or so years, and unfortunately, we didn’t bother doubling the capacity of the planet at the same time. Whoops.
  3. By electing greed based, authoritarian type politicians who have formed far too tight, and totally lethal, connections with the corporate and business/finance sectors, we slipped into a form of authoritarian government which is freaking out people from the left to the right, at least the ones who actually care about the principles of democracy and rule of the people for the people.

The Authoritarian Politician/Voter

Item 3 is the most dangerous by far in my opinion, and is why people like John Dean, from the right, wrote Conservatives without Conscience (review). He was going to do the book with the father of the modern American conservative movement, Barry Goldwater, but Goldwater unfortunately died before the book got under way. On the left, Al Gore says basically exactly the same thing in his recent The Assault on Reason (review).

Why does this happen? It’s very simple to understand. All corporations are essentially authoritarian in essence, they are feudal systems, with shareholders. The leaders decide, and the employees follow. So when they begin to promote their specific agendas, the model that is most comfortable for them to work with is one like their own. Think about it. Like prefers to hang out with like, and this is no different. Thus, corporate money begins to attract people who are comfortable within this authoritarian model. And the ball spins round and round.

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