Sunday, February 25, 2007

Lawns to Gardens

I'm adding to the list of links, which I found through Kunstler. It's a peak-oil website, but addresses many other topics as well.

Ted Steinberg's book American Green: The Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Lawn (Norton, 2006) is out in paperback next month. I've been meaning to get a copy but kept forgetting about it. The best (i.e., most eco-friendly) way to keep a lawn trim is to let animals (e.g., goats, deer) eat the grass. Close behind are regular mowings with a push-mower. The Brill Luxus is a nice example.

I'll be discussing lawns more soon.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Divided They Fall

"Nader and Libertarians Not Welcome: A Splintered Antiwar Movement"

There was not a single Libertarian speaker even though the Libertarians and Old Right have been far more outspoken in opposing the war than the liberal "Left." Compare the pages of The American Conservative or [not to mention Chronicles--P.Z.] with the editorials of The Nation, which endorsed the pro-war Kerry candidacy in 2004. This writer tried for months to get Ron Paul, the Libertarian/Republican Congressman from Texas, now a Republican presidential candidate, invited to speak at the rally and did so also in 2005. Several of us made an appeal to get Justin Raimondo, the Libertarian editor of invited to speak. We got no response from UFPJ, and still have received none. In contrast, Raimondo advertised the UFPJ demonstration in a prominent place on his web site, and he even offered to pay his own air fare to D.C. to speak. But no response was forthcoming from whatever committee decides on the speakers, a committee which is none too visible. UFPJ was just plain rude to Raimondo. In general it appears that the liberal "Left" has scant knowledge about the Libertarians and less desire to acquire it. Libertarians are just "a bunch of selfish people," according to the PC liberals. But there are more things in heaven and earth than the very PC have dreamed of.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Advice from Kunstler on Surviving the Long Emergency

Out in the public arena, people frequently twang on me for being "Mister Gloom'n'doom," or for "not offering any solutions." I find this bizarre because I never fail to present audiences with a long, explicit task list of projects that American society needs to take up in the face of the combined problems I have labeled The Long Emergency. That the audience never hears this, and then indignantly demands such instruction, only reinforces my sense that the cognitive dissonance in our culture has gone totally off the charts.

Insofar as I just returned from a college lecture road trip, and heard the same carping all over again, I conclude that it's necessary for me to spell it all out a'fresh. I think of this not so much as a roster of "solutions" but as a set of reasonable responses to a new set of circumstances. (Not everything we try to do will succeed, that is, be a "solution.") So, for those of you who are tired of wringing your hands, who would like to do something useful, or focus your attention in a purposeful way, here it is.

...The bottom line of this is: start thinking beyond the car. We have to make other arrangements for virtually all the common activities of daily life.

We have to produce food differently. The ADM / Monsanto / Cargill model of industrial agribusiness is heading toward its Waterloo. As oil and gas deplete, we will be left with sterile soils and farming organized at an unworkable scale. Many lives will depend on our ability to fix this. Farming will soon return much closer to the center of American economic life. It will necessarily have to be done more locally, at a smaller-and-finer scale, and will require more human labor. The value-added activities associated with farming -- e.g. making products like cheese, wine, oils -- will also have to be done much more locally. This situation presents excellent business and vocational opportunities for America's young people (if they can unplug their Ipods long enough to pay attention.) It also presents huge problems in land-use reform. Not to mention the fact that the knowledge and skill for doing these things has to be painstakingly retrieved from the dumpster of history. Get busy.
We have to move things and people differently. This is the sunset of Happy Motoring (including the entire US trucking system). Get used to it. Don't waste your society's remaining resources trying to prop up car-and-truck dependency. Moving things and people by water and rail is vastly more energy-efficient....Right now, programs are underway to restore maritime shipping based on wind -- yes, sailing ships. It's for real. Lots to do here. Put down your Ipod and get busy.

We have to transform retail trade. The national chains that have used the high tide of fossil fuels to contrive predatory economies-of-scale (and kill local economies) -- they are going down. WalMart and the other outfits will not survive the coming era of expensive, scarcer oil. They will not be able to run the "warehouses-on-wheels" of 18-wheel tractor-trailers incessantly circulating along the interstate highways. Their 12,000-mile supply lines to the Asian slave-factories are also endangered as the US and China contest for Middle East and African oil. The local networks of commercial interdependency which these chain stores systematically destroyed (with the public's acquiescence) will have to be rebuilt brick-by-brick and inventory-by-inventory. This will require rich, fine-grained, multi-layered networks of people who make, distribute, and sell stuff (including the much-maligned "middlemen"). Don't be fooled into thinking that the Internet will replace local retail economies. Internet shopping is totally dependent now on cheap delivery, and delivery will no longer be cheap. It also is predicated on electric power systems that are completely reliable. That is something we are unlikely to enjoy in the years ahead. Do you have a penchant for retail trade and don't want to work for a big predatory corporation? There's lots to do here in the realm of small, local business. Quit carping and get busy.

We will have to make things again in America. However, we are going to make less stuff....We're going to have to make things on a smaller scale by other means. Perhaps we will have to use more water power. The truth is, we don't know yet how we're going to make anything. This is something that the younger generations can put their minds and muscles into.

The age of canned entertainment is coming to and [sic] end. It was fun for a while. We liked "Citizen Kane" and the Beatles. But we're going to have to make our own music and our own drama down the road. We're going to need playhouses and live performance halls. We're going to need violin and banjo players and playwrights and scenery-makers, and singers. We'll need theater managers and stage-hands. The Internet is not going to save canned entertainment. The Internet will not work so well if the electricity is on the fritz half the time (or more).

We'll have to reorganize the education system. The centralized secondary school systems based on the yellow school bus fleets will not survive the coming decades. The huge investments we have made in these facilities will impede the transition out of them, but they will fail anyway. Since we will be a less-affluent society, we probably won't be able to replace these centralized facilities with smaller and more equitably distributed schools, at least not right away. Personally, I believe that the next incarnation of education will grow out of the home schooling movement, as home schooling efforts aggregate locally into units of more than one family. God knows what happens beyond secondary ed. The big universities, both public and private, may not be salvageable. And the activity of higher ed itself may engender huge resentment by those foreclosed from it. But anyone who learns to do long division and write a coherent paragraph will be at a great advantage -- and, in any case, will probably out-perform today's average college graduate. One thing for sure: teaching children is not liable to become an obsolete line-of-work, as compared to public relations and sports marketing....

We have to reorganize the medical system. The current skein of intertwined rackets based on endless Ponzi buck passing scams will not survive the discontinuities to come. We will probably have to return to a model of service much closer to what used to be called "doctoring." Medical training may also have to change as the big universities run into trouble functioning. Doctors of the 21st century will certainly drive fewer German cars, and there will be fewer opportunities in the cosmetic surgery field. Let's hope that we don't slide so far back that we forget the germ theory of disease, or the need to wash our hands, or the fundamentals of pharmaceutical science. Lots to do here for the unsqueamish.

Life in the USA will have to become much more local, and virtually all the activities of everyday life will have to be re-scaled. You can state categorically that any enterprise now supersized is likely to fail -- everything from the federal government to big corporations to huge institutions. If you can find a way to do something practical and useful on a smaller scale than it is currently being done, you are likely to have food in your cupboard and people who esteem you. An entire social infrastructure of voluntary associations, co-opted by the narcotic of television, needs to be reconstructed. Local institutions for care of the helpless will have to be organized. Local politics will be much more meaningful as state governments and federal agencies slide into complete impotence. Lots of jobs here for local heroes.

So, that's the task list for now. Forgive me if I left things out. But please don't carp at me, by letter or in person, that I am not providing you with anything to think about or devote your personal energy to. If you're depressed, change your focus. Quit wishing and start doing. The best way to feel hopeful about the future is to ... demonstrate to yourself that you are a capable, competent individual resolutely able to face new circumstances.