A land full of places that are not worth caring about may soon be a nation and a way of life that is not worth defending.— James Howard Kunstler
The most jittery James Howard Kunstler quotes that are little-known but priceless
The immersive ugliness of our everyday environments in America is entropy made visible.
Americans threw away their communities in order to save a few dollars on hair dryers and plastic food storage tubs, never stopping to reflect on what they were destroying.
Suburbia is the insidious cartoon of the country house in a cartoon of the country.
On top of the insult of destroying the geographic places we call home, the chain stores also destroyed people's place in the order of daily life, including the duties, responsibilities, obligations, and ceremonies that prompt citizens to care for each other.
At the heart of our misunderstanding and infantile behavior is the wish for a miracle cure.
Americans are suffering so much from being in unrewarding environments that it has made us very cynical. I think that American suburbia has become a powerful generator of anxiety and depression.
The salient fact about the decades ahead is that we are entering a permanent global energy crisis and it will change everything about how we live.
Despite the obvious damage now visible in the entropic desolation of every American home town, Wal-Mart managed to install itself in the pantheon of American Dream icons, along with apple pie, motherhood, and Coca Cola.
Most of suburbia will end up in three ways: ruins, slums, salvage yards for materials.
I believe we are deluded about alternative energy.
The key is, whatever we do, we're going to have to do on a very modest scale. It's all about scale. We're not going to build giant wind farms with Godzilla-sized turbines all over the place. That's a fantasy.
I was not a hard-liner against nuclear, because I viewed that as perhaps the only way we might keep the lights on another 25 years. But lately I am on board with Nicole Foss's argument that we will not have the capital or even the social cohesion to build anymore nuke plants.
Ridicule is the unfortunate destiny of the ridiculous.
We could do some household and neighborhood or town wind energy.
But even this will run up eventually against the problem of needing an underlying fossil fuel economy to fabricate the hardware. Same with photovoltaic (solar) energy. We're going to be disappointed by what these things can do for us.
I'm serenely convinced that we are heading into what will amount to a time out from technological progress as we know it.
The economy of the 21st century will come to center on agriculture.
Life will be intensely and profoundly local in ways that we can't conceive of today. Economic growth, as we have known it in a cheap energy industrial paradigm, will cease.
For instance, the most common type of "affordable housing" in the world comes in the form of apartments over stores.
Suburbia is not going to run on biodiesel.
The easy-motoring tourist industry is not going to run on biodiesel, wind power and solar fuel.
In many places, the zoning prohibits the mixing of retail and residential.
This stupidity has been accompanied by stupidities in municipal policy, such as disallowing accessory apartments - under the theory that renters are incapable of behaving decently.
We are in for a fiesta of default, repossession, and distress selling of suburban property, much of which will lose its presumed usefulness and monetary value in an energy-scarce economy.
Government at all levels in the USA right now is engaged in a quixotic campaign to sustain the unsustainable. We're determined to run WalMart, Disney World, the Interstate Highways, suburbia, and an imperial military by other means than oil. We'll squander a lot of dwindling resources in the process.
America does not want change, except from the cash register at Wal-Mart.
Anyone who studies the energy predicament understands its connection with the operations of capital - and by this I do not mean capitalism as an ideology, I mean the behavior of acquired wealth and its deployment for productive purpose. (A lot of educated idiots don't understand this, and we waste a lot of time blathering about capitalism.)
Detroit right now is virtually abandoned at its core to the degree that a lot of what had been slums thirty years ago are now wildflower meadows. The rebuilding of Detroit will occur a much smaller scale. It remains to be seen what will become of Detroit's vast suburbs.
I am far less interested in serving as a change agent than in functioning as a prose artist, whether it's fiction or nonfiction.
Under the current high energy / high entropy regime, sustainable development is a joke.
The Long Emergency will be chiefly characterized as a "time out" from technology. It could plunge us into a dark age of superstition. My guess is that we will lose a lot of knowledge and skill. But I also believe the human race desperately needs this "time out."
When a society is stressed, when it comes up against things that are hard to understand, you get a lot of delusional thinking.
Societies get what they deserve, not what they expect.
Peak oil is already upon us. It is destroying our banking system, that is, our system for marshalling capital, and that is about to put us out of business-as-usual. So, we have to carry on with business-not-so-usual. This could mean anything from your children finding careers in farming (rather than show biz or plastic surgery) to reorganizing households differently to traveling from New York to Boston by boat.
The skyscraper - any building over seven stories really - will come to be seen as an experimental building type that doesn't work well in an energy-starved economy.
Community is not something you have, like pizza.
Now is it something you can buy. It's a living organism based on a web of interdependencies- which is to say, a local economy. It expresses itself physically as connectedness, as buildings actively relating to each other, and to whatever public space exists, be it the street, or the courthouse or the village green.
The increment of new development will be the single building lot, if we are lucky, and most of the codes that are now enforced will be ignored because the redundancies they mandate will not be affordable.
The "Green" community, the enviro people, are preoccupied with running all the cars differently. Our techno-grandiosity has us gibbering about high-speed rail - which we don't have the capital for anymore - but nobody is interested in repairing the existing rail system, which would be far less costly and hugely beneficial for us. In short, we are acting cluelessly. And life is tragic. The clueless usually suffer.
I am a sur le motif painter, always in-the-field, with a French easel that folds up into a box, with backpack straps on it. Many of the sites I haunt are desolately beautiful. Few other people go there. I am gloriously alone, unmolested, and absorbed in attempting to see what I am looking at.
What we face is a comprehensive contraction of our activities, due to declining fossil fuel resources and other growing scarcities. Our failure is the failure to manage contraction. It requires a thoroughgoing reorganization of daily life. No political faction currently operating in the USA gets this. Hence, it is liable to be settled by a contest for dwindling resources and there are many ways in which this won't be pretty.
I'm not against Kyoto. I just think it's a fantasy, especially considering China's energy predicament and their coal supplies.
The task we face is reorganizing the systems we depend on for daily life in a way that is consistent with the realities coming down at us.
We're not going to reform our moronic land-use laws, which mandate suburban sprawl one way or another. They're simply going to be ignored when it becomes self-evident that we cannot build stuff that way anymore.
I believe our techno-zealotry will be moderated by sheer circumstance.
We will do what reality compels us to do, not necessarily what our fantasies propose.
I don't like talking about 'solutions.' I prefer talking about intelligent responses.
Please, please, stop referring to yourselves as "consumers.
" OK? Consumers are different than citizens. Consumers do not have obligations, responsibilities and duties to their fellow human beings. And as long as you're using that word "consumer" in the public discussion, you will be degrading the quality of the discussion we're having. And we're going to continue being clueless going into this very difficult future that we face
The cities of the future will be much smaller than they are today.
My beef with the alt-fuel people is not the renewable or alt-fuel ideas themselves. Sooner or later, there's no question we're going to have to rely on them. For me, it's an issue of scale.
It pays to remember that societies get what they deserve, not what they expect.
Our building practices for the past century have been plain stupid - especially the glorification of the single-family house in a subdivision, at the expense of all other typologies and arrangements.
The public realm in America has two roles: it is the dwelling place of our civilization and our civic life, and it is the physical manifestation of the common good. When you degrade the public realm, you will automatically degrade the quality of your civic life and the character of all the enactments of your public life and communal life that take place there.
We have to grow our food differently because industrial farming will soon end.
That means growing more food locally on smaller farms with more human attention.
I have a new theory of history, which is certain things happen because they seem like a good idea at the time. And suburbia seemed like a good idea at the time, but it was a special time and place in history, with special dynamics. And now, we're going to have to live with the consequences of that. And the consequences will be tragic.
The twentieth century was about getting around.
The twenty-first century will be about staying in a place worth staying in.