April 08, 2005
"[We] have no idea what kind of convulsion we are heading into"

James Howard ("Jim") Kunstler makes a great prophet. His first book, The Geography of Nowhere, was formative for me and probably thousands of other urbanists and new urbanists, a jeremiad against the evils of suburban development, the idiocy of policy, and an at times personal and at times smart exploration of what sprawl means. (For a more personal vision, don't miss D.J. Waldie's Holy Land.)

Kunstler has trained his attention on a bigger tragedy, the impending end of civilization as we know it: "The Long Emergency," beginning right now, give or take, as we tumble over the moment of peak oil production and begin to slide. The book's not out yet, but an excerpt is in Rolling Stone.

As a Romantic, the idea of the end of the world, of Big Things Going On, is always seductive. Still, as he did back in the mid-1990s, Kunstler makes a particularly good doomsayer.

"Is America prepared to contest for this oil in an Asian land war with the Chinese army? I doubt it. ... Suburbia will come to be regarded as the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world. It has a tragic destiny. The psychology of previous investment suggests that we will defend our drive-in utopia long after it has become a terrible liability. Before long, the suburbs will fail us in practical terms. We made the ongoing development of housing subdivisions, highway strips, fried-food shacks and shopping malls the basis of our economy, and when we have to stop making more of those things, the bottom will fall out."

(Other data points: Mike Whitney at Counterpunch; Jane Jacobs's Dark Age Ahead. But as a grain of salt remember all that "Coming Ice Age" bullshit of the early 1980s, and the Population Growth crap of the 1970s. The more the merrier! I like it cold!)

Posted by dbrown at April 08, 2005 09:45 PM
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