Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The rough road to paradise

"Ruins at the Sea" - Jan Both (1618 - 1652)
James Howard Kunstler - NYT
I think we’ll eventually see a reversal of the 200-year-long cycle of people moving from farms and small towns to big cities. Food production is going to be a big problem when oil-and-gas-based agriculture is no longer possible, and we will have to reestablish a more meaningful relationship between urban places and a more productive agricultural hinterland. (We will have to get much more of our food locally in the decades ahead.)

Our mega-cities will contract substantially. The fortunate ones will densify around their old cores and waterfronts — though sea level rise may affect many harbor cities. This process of contraction is likely to be problematic and disorderly. In America, there is certainly the potential for ethnic conflict.

Categorically, our colossal metroplexes will not be sustainable in a post-oil future — and despite the wishes and yearnings of many people, the truth is that no combination of alternative fuels will permit us to continue living at this scale. Some of our cities will not make it. Phoenix, Tucson, and other Sunbelt cities will dry up and blow away. In Las Vegas, the excitement will be over. Other mega-cities will have to downscale or face extreme dysfunction.
David Seaton's News Links
James Howard Kunstler is often denounced as a fear monger and ridiculed as a prophet of doom. I think he is merely making a logical extrapolation from what would appear to be incontrovertible facts: in a foreseeable future, non-renewable energy sources will become scarce and we will not be able to waste them as we do today and this in turn will inevitably change the way we live. 2 + 2 = 4

But why be pessimistic? This new way of living might be much preferable to the way we live today.

Perhaps we will see small, vibrant, very personal cities surrounded by enough agriculture to support them. This is how humanity lived for centuries before fossil fuels became our principal source of energy.

Alternative energy sources cannot maintain our present lifestyle, but I’m sure they’ll be able to maintain a very satisfying and human, future lifestyle. There is no reason to see this as some sort of "Dark Age".

If we have just enough electricity to maintain the Internet, that will mean that contact between all the earth's peoples will continue and all the knowledge of our civilization will be available to all its members instantly...

But fruits and vegetables will have to eaten in season, n
o more grapes in May or strawberries in January and travel will again be the adventure it always was for centuries, before plane loads of bored, ignorant, overweight tourists were flown at supersonic speeds around the globe to overeat and overdrink surrounded by desperately poor "natives".

I think Kustler is being attacked for the same reason Al Gore is: if they are right in their predictions it means the end of the laissez-faire version of capitalism based on endless growth and consumption. And for sure, that system will not go down without a fight to the death.

Ay, there is the rub! The world of the future may not turn out to be a bad place at all, quite the contrary. But, if history is any guide, and there is no other, then getting there is going to be hell. DS


Justin said...

Thank you for this.

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

You are welcome.