Monday, May 25, 2009

Creative or Destructive Unwinding?

Whether he is right or wrong, Kunstler is a visionary, futurist genius. Here's the final few paragraphs of his Monday essay, of special relevance to those (like my son Nathan, the city planner) whose work involves rethinking our patterns of living:

All this leads to two conclusions.

One is to accept the fact that the Happy Motoring era is over and to devote
our remaining resources to re-localization, walkable communities, and public
transit. It obviously requires a very drastic revision of our current collective
self-image, of what we aspire to and who we are. If the car companies have any
future at all, it should be based on making the rolling stock for public transit
-- and for now the most intelligent choice for us is to fix the existing
passenger railroad lines instead of venturing into grandiose new transit systems
requiring stupendous capital outlays. Let the car era wind down gracefully.
Triage and prioritize the highway maintenance agenda -- we won't be affluent
enough to keep repaving the whole existing system -- and let other nations meet
the diminishing demand for cars in the USA. This would be a "best case"
scenario. (Other nations may decide to go further up the Happy Motoring road at
their own eventual peril.)

My second conclusion is not so appetizing, namely that the bankruptcy of
General Motors may set in motion a chain of events that will accelerate the
destructive unwind of the bad credit economy, the damage to our bond values, the
loss of faith in our currency, and the authority and legitimacy of our leaders.
This last dire outcome might be allayed if, say, President Obama directed his
policy efforts to the items in the paragraph above, that is, a reality-based
agenda for true change in how we live -- but who can feel confident about that
happening these days? Maybe it will take a horrifying chain of events to get Mr.
Obama there. And then, tragically, he may be overwhelmed by the chain of events
itself. I hope not.

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