Friday, May 27, 2005

On Kunstler's Long Emergency

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So we’ve got the idea.

1. Our western ‘way of life’, is based on cheap and abundant oil, even if like me, you don’t own a car.
2. Oil is a limited resource that is increasingly in demand, yet quickly diminishing in supply.
3. Current efforts to fill the gap with alternative energy sources are sporadic at best.
4. Putting the above three points together, the world, as we know it, is going to change within our lifetimes.

The underlying question and insecurity of all the Peak Oil books, blogsites, websites and articles is not “if” this will occur, but “how” and “to what degree.”

Salon recently conducted an interview with James Howard Kunstler, author of the book, “The Long Emergency.” If you don’t know about Kunstler, read the Rolling Stone article that synopsizes the book. This is the article that set me off and inspired me to begin this blog. In the interview Kunstler spells out our dour future, but he is more in favor of the idea that this event will unfold gradually.

“What we're talking about is the process of heading down the arch of depletion, not the catastrophic cutoff of oil”

Also, like me, he is an optimist about our survival as a race.

…“Kunstler believes the human race will survive as we slip down the other side of Hubbert's Oil Peak. But the high standard of living we've built by gorging on cheap oil will not. America, as a political entity, will be history too.”

As if it were not already self-evident, my studies in medicine point to the fact that most of what we see in hospitals, doctors offices and clinics are diseases of excess. One of the upsides of a decline in our ‘way of life’ is that the diseases – diabetes, obesity, hypertension, cardiovascular, lung , gastro-intestinal etc - will also decline. If we are indeed literally toiling in the fields for our daily bread, we are not likely to be obese. Lack of access to the candy-iced cream-sweetened cereal-soda isle in the now abandoned grocery store will go a long way toward ‘curing’ diabetes.

Kunstler has additional insight on how our imminent fall, in a backhanded sort of way, will be for our own good.

“American life will be much more about staying where you are than about ceaseless and endless and pointless mobility.
And that will resonate. We're afflicted by so many places that are simply not worth caring about anymore. This is having a tremendous effect on us. It's corroding our spirits. And, if pressed, I would have to say that it's led directly to the idea that it's possible to get something for nothing and if you wish upon a star your dreams come true. “

I will miss a lot of the convenience and abundance our way of life has offered me, such as flicking on a light switch, going out to the movies, restaurants and hot showers. I will miss flying in an airplane. (As I write this, I am on a plane going 650 miles an hour, flying at 33,000 feet - amazing). However, much of what is out there is over-rated and frankly has done, to us and our world, more harm than good. To these things I say, “Good riddance.”

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