Friday, September 23, 2005

Doom, doom, and more doom

One of the numerous(*) readers of this blog has posted a review of James Kunstler's The Long Emergency. Summary: we're fucked, and the solution is to hunker down, start a commune that grows its own vegetables off the grid.

A blog called Rhinocrisy comments on a lecture by Richard Heinberg, who also seems to be a long-term commentator in this space. This one is particularly sad because it lists all the lost opportunities, over the last 25 years, where we could have done some realistic preparation for the current situation. Oh well.

How to not get completely depressed: I've been hearing predictions of dooms since the 70s (back then it was overpopulation) through the 80s (Reagan: the bombs fall in five minutes) and beyond. Nothing lasts forever, so someday a doomsayer will be right, but the odds of any one particular one being on the money are small.

Also, a lot depends on the ability of the economic system to adapt, vs. the speed of any troubles. Kunstler seems to take the view that we've infrastrured ourselves into a corner -- the suburban lifestyle can't work at all without cheap gas, and as soon as we peak everything collapses in a hurry. Thus his title. Contrast that with the cheery optimism of proclaimed genius freakonmicist Steven Leavitt, that everything is peachy because the market will simply adapt to higher oil prices. This seemed to be a really perfect example of blinkered thinking -- yes the market will adapt, but how fast, and with what cost (human and otherwise)? The comments on that post contain some good discussion.

(*) numerous == it is a set and it has a cardinality

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have long held that the disaster scenarios of the past never came true because enough voices in the wilderness shouted out "WARNING!" loudly enough, to allow human consciousness and ingenuity to drag us back from the precipice.

Kunstler makes a persuasive case that the force that brought us back from the precipice wasn't just ingenuity or consciousness, but ingenuity and consciousness in the use of cheap oil.

Without the cheap oil, will ingenuity be enough? He argues, depressingly, and relentlessly, that it will not. I'm convinced he's right.

So another way of phrasing that might be: were the doomsayers wrong, or merely too early?