James Howard Kunstler

Last week I had the opportunity to see James Howard Kunstler speak in Dalton, GA. For those not familiar with Kunstler he is best known as author of The Geography of Nowhere, a critique of urban and suburban development in the US. His new book The Long Emergency was published in 2005 and in it he argues that oil production has peaked in almost every country therefore declining supplies will lead to economic, environmental, and social problems. Kunstler is known for his poignant lectures on urbanism and this theme was carried throughout. In his presentation he referred to suburbia as “the national automobile slum” and said that “we have invested our wealth over the last 60 years in a living arrangement (suburbs) that has no future. We have invested our national wealth in an oil dependent, car dependent economy…we have to be careful to describe it for what it is, the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world.” He went on to suggest that our hope for an alternative fuel was false and that no matter how good our technology is it will never give us energy. While his accusations might be true this lecture came across as doomsday and left everyone in the auditorium silent. His point, which was clear, is that we are a wasteful nation and no matter how many alternative fuels we create it will never be enough to compensate for our reckless consumption of oil, so to change our behaviors means we will have to change our cities too.

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