I’ve been reading a lot of James Kunstler recently, as I’ve started on his book “The Geography of Nowhere.” But as regular readers here know, I often link to his withering diatribes about the modern urban (and suburban) space. This morning I read his most recent blog entry and have spent the morning thinking about the future scenarios it brings up, mostly based around Kunstler’s central premise, that we are now at our peak oil output and we better get ready for a world with decreasing amounts of oil.
Both candidates seem to be telling the public that if only we take care of this terror thing, then everybody from sea to shining sea can just kick back and enjoy the scenery on cruise control. The truth, I think, is that within the President’s next term, whoever he is, the American dream of a drive-in utopia complete with Nascar and round-the-clock tabloid entertainment is going to seize up in its own engine block. The American public will explode in violence and grievance when that happens because they will not be properly prepared. They will have had no leadership.
What the public certainly doesn’t understand about the world energy situation is that we don’t have to run out of oil and gas for life to turn upside down in this country. All you have to do is squeeze the supply and tweak the price and all the systems and sub-systems we depend on will de-stabilize — and nature is going to do that, not politics. The world’s demand for oil and gas is exceeding the world’s supply at the critical point when global production passes its all-time peak. All-time as in forever.
The public has been induced to believe that they’ll be rescued by hybrid cars and wind power. But the only thing that will really rescue the nation from a long period of chaos and destitution is a comprehensive re-organization of the way we live. We’re going to have to give up suburbia, WalMart, and industrial agriculture. We will have to live locally in a way that does not require us to drive cars all the time. We have to grow more of our own food closer to home. We have to prepare for useful vocations.
Leadership is showing people where they have to go because circumstances are taking them there, and doing it in a way that inspires the public to make that necessary leap.
Not that I won’t be sad to see WalMart disappear from the face of the earth, but Kunstler’s visions should be heeded, pulled apart, and built on. What’s worrying is that very few people would even want to consider this scenario. For a grand view of Kunstler’s future, check out his Clusterfuck Manifesto:
Our schools are too big. The centralized suburban schools with their fleets of buses will become rapidly obsolete when the first oil market disruptions occur. The inner city schools will be too broken to fix. The suburban schools will be too large to heat economically (especially since the overwhelming majority of them all over the nation, regardless of climate, are sprawling one-story modernist boxes). School will have to be reorganized on a local basis, at a much smaller scale, in smaller buildings that do not look like medium security prisons. School will be required for fewer years, and with more deliberate sorting of children into academic and vocational tracks. Children will have to live closer to the schools they attend – the yellow bus fleets will be history. Children and teachers will benefit from being in physically smaller institutions where all will at least have the chance to know one another. In a post-cheap-oil world, teens might be needed to work part of the day or part of the year.
There’s much more to read here. Please, get shaken up like me this morning.