Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Looking toward the future

Every once in a while I run into a decent laundry list of things for our society to do as we enter the post-oil era. Jim Kunstler, for example, in his latest post "Disarray" offers a number of things that we could do that would be far more constructive than to live in denial or avoid the inevitable altogether. Although I won't agree with all his suggestions, most are worthy of consideration - in particular it makes sense to stop building highways and freeways, as they'll probably be useless within about a generation (depending on one's level of optimism, maybe considerably sooner or later than that). Kunstler has commented from time to time that the US rail system is worse than Bulgaria's, which is quite a feat given that Bulgaria is a relatively impoverished former Soviet-bloc nation. So it goes. What he suggests is actually overhauling the railways, as that's going to be the future for most of us when it comes to travel - whether via cross-country or within an urban area. My impression is that the Europeans are generally way ahead of us there, and hence will probably feel the withdrawal pains from oil addiction a bit less than us. There's a great deal of psychological preparedness too - if I had a slogan, it would be one I ran into as a teen in the early 1980s, "small is beautiful." Whether it's gargantuan security states, corporate farms, big box stores, large-scale office parks, etc., we need to live with the realization that such creations are not sustainable. It'll also be crucial to keep in mind that there will be a lot of really pissed off individuals who, having lost everything including the very suburban "civilization" that was the center of all things American (as Kunstler mentions early on, suburbia is essentially our way of life that is now in the beginning stages of collapsing), will be looking for scapegoats and false prophets offering a return to the "glory days."

I'd probably add a few things of my own - most crucially as orderly and as soon as possible vacate the overseas military bases and get our troops home. Like Dmitry Orlov, I am concerned about the prospect of large numbers of these folks getting stranded in the event that the current US system collapses more rapidly than any of us could imagine. Turning off the war machine would also serve to preserve what petroleum is still left (the War on Terra has led to a considerable increase in oil consumption over the course of this decade). I'd probably also suggest that the sort of hyper-individualism that our culture promotes is not sustainable, and that the time has come to redevelop ties to family and community, as we're going to need each other much more as we are increasingly forced to face the collapse of one way of life and the beginnings of whatever is to replace it.

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