liveonearth (liveonearth) wrote,

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James Howard Kunstler

neptunia67 tipped me off about the talk tonight at NAU's Cline Library. She heard it mentioned on NPR and knew I'd be interested. I took notes, but here's my initial impression of his talk.

I had previously been turned on to this thinker through a website about Peak Oil. I bought his book The Long Emergency and thought it was so important that I bought several copies and gave them to friends and family. His writing is good, dense, logically organized and full of factoids. I made several Vocabababble entries while reading his book, and if I start reading it again, you'll see more. I don't mind looking up a few words, but the writing is a little more educated than I am, so it's strenuous. You have to want to read it.

But to hear him talk was different. He personable and funny, and doesn't obfuscate. He's a medium sized guy with a cherubish face, grey fringe on the sides of his head and shiny dome. He speaks frankly and articulately. I was a little surprised the first time I heard him say something was "shitty" but quickly adjusted to his casual vocabulary. I like to swear too. Sometimes there is no better word. A lot of his humor seemed nonsensical to me, but the college students laughed at it.

The audience was primarily well dressed middle aged folk, and appeared to be in agreement with Kunstler about the direction of things. There was a sampling of college students present, and all that I spoke to were there for a class assignment. The two Arizona girls sitting next to me were there for extra credit, and left at their earliest opportunity. When I spoke with them before the show I told them what I knew of Kunstler and his point. They said "We're so getting screwed." At least they got part of it.

Kunstler's spoken message was the same as his book. He abridged the whole Peak Oil scenario, assuming that we already knew. He did revisit Hubbert's predictions and showed the bell curve, pointing out that Hubbert was exactly right when he predicted US oil production would peak in 1970. His main point is that we are woefully unprepared for the decline in fossil fuel availability. Since WWII we have invested an incredible supply of cheap energy into an infrastructure and economy that is designed to burn it all up. The combination of oil and natural gas depletion, industrial agriculture, suburbs and climate change is going to cause some hard times.

He spent a lot of time just trying to break down the illusion that we can keep going the way we are going. He said that American psychology is plagued with two major illusions that keep us from doing anything. One is the "wish upon a star" illusion, which he says Oprah promotes. This is the idea that if you wish for something hard enough, it will come to you. The second illusion is that of thinking you can get something for nothing. Americans worship unearned riches, and are constantly trying to scam their way to wealth. I concur that these delusions are definitely part of the problem. I'm thinking about it.

I came away with a long list of what I plan to do while I can in this lifetime. I chose to see his suggestions as causes to agitate for and businesses to create. Everything local, rebuild community. He often mentioned architecture as an art that we have mostly lost......and I have a great love of beautiful urban spaces, of efficiency and inspiration....

Kunstler also had a lot to say about how Americans have lost the confidence that we need to get anything done. He blamed our low morale on our ugly automobile oriented surroundings. He suggests that we get started by getting a passenger rail on the political table, and get people's sexual practices back where they belong, in private. Hell yeah.
Tags: books, heroes, oil, the long emergency

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