Guest Post - Duncan Crary - James Howard Kunstler and Richard Heinberg Talk Peak Oil, Suburbia and The End of Growth
Duncan Crary is the author of the upcoming KunstlerCast:Conversations with James Howard Kunstler which will be released by New Society Publishers in October.
On the latest KunstlerCast podcast, authors Richard Heinberg and James Howard Kunstler engaged in a compelling conversation that moved from America's disastrous reliance on limitless economic growth to the failures of globalism and the fate of suburban sprawl.
"Anything that would question growth is like questioning gasoline at a NASCAR rally," Heinberg said on the podcast of the flailing American economy. "So that leaves us with only one option. That is denial. That's where our system is stuck."
Heinberg is senior fellow-in-residence at the Post Carbon Institute, a think tank "dedicated to getting society off fossil fuel fast." He is the author of 10 books, including The Party's Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies and Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Declines. In his most recent book, The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality, he argues that the trajectory of industrial civilization is colliding with non-negotiable natural limits.
Kunstler is the author of The Long Emergency, a stark warning about the converging catastrophes of the twentieth century, and The Geography of Nowhere, a landmark book about suburban sprawl. His World Made By Hand novels imagine a post-petroleum America in the not-distant future.
"It's one thing to envision a future in which we are using alternative energy systems," said Kunstler. "It's another thing to envision a future where we are running Wal-Mart and Walt Disney World and suburbia on alternative energy systems. People, who ought to know better, don't seem to be able to overcome that."
"If we had factories out there making solar panels and wind turbines that were powered by solar panels and wind turbines, that might be cause for more optimism," Heinberg added, noting that most efforts to create "green" energy alternatives still require large amounts of fossil fuel.
"Is President Obama lying when he says that we can become energy independent, or that we have 100 years of natural gas that will get us through this bottleneck?" Kunstler asked.
"He's telling people what they want to hear, and that includes environmentalists," Heinberg responded. "Many of the big environmental organizations have bought into natural gas, for example, as a replacement for coal. He's trying to satisfy everyone. Does that constitute lying? Well, yeah, I think so, frankly."
Both authors concur that global warming, fossil fuel depletion and financial collapse present some of the greatest challenges that humanity has ever faced. And in spite of American's tendency to believe that technology will be our savior (an attitude which Kunstler has dubbed "techno-grandiosity"), both authors also agree that reality will compel us to re-localize our economy, living arrangements and systems for agriculture. In order to approach that task successfully, we must engage in what they call "managed contraction."
"Rather than aiming for GDP growth, we need new measures and indicators of social welfare and environmental welfare that don't require increase in consumption," said Heinberg. "That would involve reconfiguring our infrastructure for agriculture, transportation -- our built environment.
That's a huge job. It would put a lot of people to work. But it would require some real strength of leadership and effort on the scale of the New Deal in the 1930s."
Listen to the podcast or purchase a transcript at kunstlercast.com.