Monday, September 04, 2006

The Long Emergency

This book is a hard one to grind through. It's not a happy book. The good news is that it probably errs on the darker side of the outcome of Peak Oil.

Sure, the West in general, but Americans in particular, are in for one hell of a shock. However, I doubt it will be as sudden as the author describes. At least, I sure hope not. Some Americans are already waking up from their decades-long slumber and are maybe thinking SUVs aren't the brightest idea on the planet. I also didn't like the fact that there was no index and no bibliography. Reviewers on Amazon also seemed to have a problem with the fact that the author wears his hatred of suburbia on his sleeve. Well, that may be a problem if harped on too much, I suppose, but I think the author is right in saying that the suburbs are the largest misallocation of energy resources.

That's one thing people looking into the future rarely seem to adapt for: changing human behavior in response to changing conditions. Sure, most Americans are still "sleepwalking into the future" as he puts it, but I think as the price of oil keeps ratcheting up and never really coming back down, they will certainly get it and respond accordingly. Some groups are already trying to grow stuff locally, and many farmer's markets have popped up all over the country. What we need is some real leadership on the issue ala Carter. Of course, no politician has touched on that issue in any serious way since then because the coddled and childish Americans still don't want to hear it. They just want someone to tell them that commuting many miles to work in an SUV is normal. That fake "countryside" living (suburbs) is "our way of life". Hell, Reagan wanted to make sure that no one would think he might provide any leadership at all on energy, and tore out the solar panels and woodstove that Carter had put in. Now that's decisive and forward-looking.

Anyway, I'd still read the book, or if you are not much of a reader, see End of Suburbia: Oil Depletion and the Collapse of the American Dream, as it has much the same theme. The real question of the book is - what happens when there is no longer any oil? It's a damn good question, and the author draws a dark picture. I have no doubt things will be dark, especially for those Americans who think "our way of life" is some sort of (think Manifest Destiny and American exceptionalism and all that) god-given birthright. They will probably clamor for more wars for "our oil" - I've already heard that expression used in reference to the increase in India and China's oil consumption - instead of any rational look at "our way of life". They will fight against people who violate covenants and zoning laws in order to adapt to a new way of life. I suspect many will have to be dragged kicking and screaming into reality.

Maybe I should move back to PA and start learning from the Amish.

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