Friday, April 10, 2009

Kunstler's Odds

J. H. Kunstler gave an energetic, fun, keynote lecture full of predictions at the Gas Light restaurant in Portsmouth April 2nd as part of CNU NE Sustainable Urbanism Summit.

Mr. Kunstler began by pointing our that peak oil has occurred and we will have to make due with fewer barrels while demand grows. Because of this, there will be no more boom and bust cycles of 3-7% growth and we can no longer service our debt. Oil producing countries- most of which have nationalized oil- will keep more to themselves. Places like Mexico will lose the money generated by it's 2nd largest oil field which could potentially lead to revolution.

He sees 2 trends of thought emerging among those concerned: One group envisions technical solutions to everything (the internet geeks). Another group sees organizing as a means of solving the problems (the volunteers). Kunstler says neither group understands the complexity of the problem.

With industrial food production dependent on oil for machines and transport, the key to survival will be growing our own food locally.

Walmart is currently the largest grocery store chain and as all the big box stores go under, their strategy is to close all huge stores and keep only the megastores open. They want to be the last big box standing. But the model they use to operate is NOT sustainable and they will go down soon as well.

99% of all development is suburban sprawl and builders are just waiting for the cycle to come back so they can continue to sprawl but it's not coming back- it's OVER. Kunstler convincingly shows us how the suburban commercial strip was the biggest WASTE of human potential. All that effort could have gone into creating wonderful urban environments.

Kunstler's big point is that: WISHING WILL NOT WORK! We are now a society of gamblers and all want something for nothing. We will now have to make due with less. We will be in a contracting society as the economy contracts and our urban areas contract. We will have to spend less and live in urban walking environments. We will have to do business differently, build smaller schools, rebuild the railroad system and boat transport system (use trucks only for last leg of journey).

The middle class will be pissed off about losing the easy way of life.

Car centered cities like Phoenix will disappear and older pedestrian founded cities like those in northeast will grow. More rental units and more 6 story walk ups. No more new urbanist mega developments on green field sites, it's all in-fill from now on.

Finally, he quotes the, "Law of perverse outcomes: people get what they deserve, not what they expect.", and urges us face reality- NO WISHING.

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