Some Ways to Plan for the Future

Clusterfuck Nation by Jim Kunstler : The Agenda Restated

Jim Kunstler is a lucid, sarcastic and prophetic writer of the way that the future is going to be in a post-oil age. The entire structure of our daily lives is predicated on cheap, readily available oil, and that reality will not exist for much longer. For those who want more concrete examples, here’s a select list of things that will no longer work the way that they do today:

  • Farming
  • Transportation (most of this today is trucking)
  • Wal-Mart (and other big-box chains)
  • Electricity (of the always on, available and affordable variety)
  • Suburbs

That’s just a smattering. None of these things as performed today have a future. There is no other combination of alternative fuels capable of fueling the life that we’re running today. There isn’t enough farmland on the planet to grow that much ethanol, never mind having some food left to eat. Hydrogen? That doesn’t make energy, it just stores it. Where’s this power gonig to come from?

Nowhere. People who say this kind of thing are inevitably labeled “gloom and doom”, such as Jim Kunstler. The thing is, he is constantly providing ideas and solutions for the future. Trouble is, we don’t want to listen because they’re hard and are going to take a lot of work and a lot of time. Here’s a smattering of his suggestions for moving into a post-oil age:

  • Expand your view beyond the question of how we will run all the cars by means other than gasoline. …cars are not part of the solution (whether they run on fossil fuels, vodka, used frymax oil, or cow shit). They are at the heart of the problem… We have to make other arrangements for virtually all the common activities of daily life.
  • We have to produce food differently. …the knowledge and skill for doing these things has to be painstakingly retrieved from the dumpster of history.
  • We have to inhabit the terrain differently. Virtually every place in our nation organized for car dependency is going to fail to some degree. …The stuff we build in the decades ahead will have to be made of regional materials found in nature — as opposed to modular, snap-together, manufactured components — at a more modest scale.
  • 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. …Get involved in restoring public transit. Let’s start with railroads, and let’s make sure we electrify them… We also have to prepare our society for moving people and things much more by water. This implies the rebuilding of infrastructure for our harbors, and also for our inland river and canal systems — including the towns associated with them.
  • 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. …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. …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.
  • We’ll have to reorganize the education system. …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. …One thing for sure: teaching children is not liable to become an obsolete line-of-work, as compared to public relations and sports marketing.

The link was at the beginning, but here it is again. Go read The Agenda Restated. It’s long and I’ve given a solid preview here, but it’s definitely take the time to read it, think about it, pray about, and act on it.


5 responses to “Some Ways to Plan for the Future”

  1. I’d like to blame it on the medications I am coming off of, but it has taken a bit of time for me to think through this post by reading and re-reading it (over the past few days). I hope that this isn’t the unpardonable sin, but my confession is that I am a Christian who happens to manage a big box retail outlet for a living (although I have been off work for over a year now).

    I must say that I do wonder at the apparent “start-again-from-scratch,” options that Jim Kuntsler offers. His practical answers seem to speak more about what we will inevitably be forced to live with in the future, than what we can tangibly do about it now. Are things really that dire?

    Don’t get me wrong, I concur with a lot of his basic analysis, and I know this will frustrate him, but I would agree with his critics who would find him lacking in providing tangible and practical means of addressing the situation.

    In Canada would this mean that the Kyoto protocol should be underscored and acted upon? Personally it makes me wonder about my vocation. . . . You’ve definitely got me thinking.

  2. Far from an unpardonable sin to process through things carefully and deliberately!

    Kunstler certainly draws some hard lines, but he is right that those lines may be forced upon us whether we like it or not.

    Frankly, I do not think that big box stores have a future. Their existence depends on a complex network of transportation from a myriad of sources that only works as long as we have cheap, readily available oil. That will cease at some point. And of course, this must impact your current vocation. This is going to be tough.

    Basically, what he’s trying to say is that we would be wise to start investing our time, energy and ingenuity into those ways of living that will be forced on us in the future. Smaller scale everything: economy, transportation, agriculture, etc.

    Kyoto tries to address the harm we are doing to our environment, but it does not say anything to unsustainable ways of living.

  3. Yeah Colin, I kind of know what you mean. Kunstler tells us how it’s going to be after the peak, but there’s a gap in this current period just before peak oil where our economy is still relatively stable. (for now).
    So I guess we have to infer some things and take what action we can. I suppose this could mean avoid making bad decisions. Like, if you are planning on buying a house, it would be a bad investment to purchase a single-family suburban mansion far away from the city centre. (very costly to heat, very costly to commute). These people should perhaps look into buying a smaller rowhouse/townhouse in an urban neighborhood. (easier to heat because of two shared walls and often there’s grocery stores/transit stops/etc within a very short walk.)
    I also suspect there are some skills that I should develop. Gardening and canning for one, as food costs will be very high.

  4. Thanks Matt and Jac,

    Although the reality doesn’t appeal to me very much, I appreciate your insights and practical outlook.

  5. Hey Colin

    I can’t imagine that it would be very appealing at all. Bless you in the struggle, this ain’t easy stuff.

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