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James Howard Kunstler’s Suburban Fantasy and the Devastating Effects of Peak Oil

Say what you will about James Howard Kunstler, but I think we need people like him. People that say what needs to be said, and sometimes abrasively. As we have seen throughout history, the educated people that say blunt and controversial statements often get the most media attention. Mr. Kunstler can certainly fit into this category. He is an “expert” on the devastating effects that peak oil and rising oil prices will have on the U.S. and its economy. He basically predicts that this outcome is inevitable if we do not change our oil consumption habits immediately. He is the author of several books, including The Geography of Nowhere and his latest book, The Long Emergency. If you have not read anything by him or heard him speak before, you should start with his bio and website. Be forewarned, he often uses explicit language to make his points.

Mr. Kunstler recently wrote an article on the Suburban Fantasy at TomPaine.com, and I wanted to share a few important excerpts from that article:

It's actually kind of funny to hear Americans complain these days about the cost of gasoline and how it is affecting their lives. What did they expect after setting up an easy-motoring utopia of suburban metroplexes that make incessant driving inevitable? And how did they fail to register the basic facts of the world oil situation, which have been available to us for decades?

Trouble with oil will spell huge problems with how we grow our food, how we conduct trade, how we move around and how we inhabit the terrain of North America. These systems are going to wobble and eventually fail unless some effort is made to reform their scale and their procedures. For example, Wal-Mart's profit margins will disappear as higher diesel fuel prices hit its “warehouse-on-wheels.”

Now, in the face of this, you”d think that the national leadership in politics, business and science would prepare the public for substantial necessary changes in the way we do things. What we are seeing across the board, though, is merely a desperate wish to keep the cars running by any conceivable means, at all costs. That is the sole target of our focus. Our leaders don”t get it. We citizens have to make other arrangements.

We simply cannot face the fact that time has run out—that our lease is expiring—for the easy-motoring utopia. But we must. We have to live differently. We”re going to have to re-inhabit and reconstruct our civic places—especially our small towns—and we”re going to have to use the remaining rural places for growing food locally, wherever possible. Our big cities will probably contract, while they densify at their centers and along their waterfronts. Our suburbs will enter a shocking state of economic and practical failure.

We cannot imagine this scenario because we have invested so much of our collective wealth the past 50 years in the infrastructure for a way of life that simply has no future.

Very interesting thoughts to ponder. For the longest time, I did not believe that gas prices would reach even $3.00 per gallon in the U.S. as quickly as it did. I started doing more research on peak oil and the effects high oil costs can have on our society, and my mind quickly changed. I have heard numerous oil executives and scientists say that peak oil is already here. That poses some grave consequences for North American society. Nearly everything we own or use involves oil or transportation that uses oil in some fashion. Therefore, when oil prices go up, so do prices for all other goods. If you are not yet convinced that gas prices will reach $6 per gallon, just think back to last year. Gas prices were roughly a dollar per gallon less in many parts of the U.S. With the wars in the Middle East only seemingly getting worse, and a hurricane season many have predicted will be the worst ever, we might not be far away. If you have not moved to your walkable community and neighborhood yet, I would do so very soon.

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