Change Alley

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Ten Ways to Prepare for a Post-Oil Society

with 12 comments

My mate Jim Kunstler’s at it again. In a typically forthright article for Envirohealth, he describes, for all those who obviously haven’t been listening, the implications of a post-oil economy, and tells us what we can do about it.

All we have to do is:

  1. Start thinking beyond the car
  2. Produce food differently
  3. Inhabit the terrain differently
  4. Move things and people differently
  5. Transform retail trade
  6. Relocalise industry
  7. Say goodbye to canned entertainment and make our own again
  8. Reorganise the education system
  9. Reorganise the medical system
  10. Downsize virtually all everyday activities

Sounds easy doesn’t it?


Written by Pete Smith

February 18, 2007 at 2:26 pm

12 Responses

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  1. Interesting. So it’s ‘get busy’ & get off our ‘arse’. My thoughts;

    1. Cars; while they’re cheaper than public transport we’re all hooked. Like it or not cars are simply easier to use & one doesn’t need to travel on such a set trajectory.

    2. Food & 3. Habitation; this is always tied into land availability & proximity to population. Public transport & job organisation works better in cities that are densely populated and therefore where there is less open land for growing food. So, can’t see his point about moving to smaller towns working too well really.

    4. Transport; railways good although can’t see mile long container ships on wind!

    5. Retail; EU directives more intelligent than his babbling

    6. Industry; US & EU have pretty much lost the ability to dictate policy here as it happens elsewhere. Protectionism would need to go into overdrive again …. along with WWIII.

    7. Haven’t watched US dominated entertainment for years cause most of it is crap

    8. Education; smaller, localized education sites are a good thing at primary level & this pretty much happens in the UK anyway. Do have some reservations with increasingly large secondary schools of 1500+ pupils. Higher education has to be spread throughout a country when we are dealing with specialist courses.

    9. –

    10. Politics; local politics is already on the rise in Europe & specialist political parties are too, which is giving the large parties a hard time. Proportional representation (which is often called for by small parties) is often difficult because consensus can be lost to self serving factions.


    February 18, 2007 at 3:09 pm

  2. You don’t sound too keen. His main point is that dependence on fossil fuel-powered transport to power economies and sustain lifestyle choices is unsustainable. This issue underpins all ten of his points. I’m surprised Matt, I would have thought that someone who says “trying to salvage the entire Happy Motoring system by shifting it from gasoline to other fuels will only make things much worse” would be a cert for your Christmas card list.

    I accept that his list has an American bias, and some points are currently less relevant in the UK. Kunstler is after all an American writing about, and criticising strongly, the ‘American Way Of Life’. We are unfortunately following a US trajectory in many of these matters.

    Pete Smith

    February 18, 2007 at 5:11 pm

  3. Just not sure about his communication style. Sounds all knowing and quite brash. Not sure that his approach will encourage many admirers & therefore converts. He comes across as ‘notice me first’, the message second. Maybe this works better in the States.


    February 18, 2007 at 5:25 pm

  4. “All knowing”? You betcha. “Brash”? Well, to a shy retiring Kiwi maybe 😎

    He comes over very well ‘live’. I really do recommend trying to watch the documentary “The End of Suburbia”. His books “The Long Emergency” and “The Geography of Nowhere” are excellent too.

    I am, as they say, a fan. But it’s OK to hate him if you must.

    Pete Smith

    February 18, 2007 at 5:52 pm

  5. Hate? Too powerful a word Pete. I’ll look out for the stuff you mention.


    February 18, 2007 at 6:10 pm

  6. Matt, what EU directives are you referring to that could really bring down the supermarkets?

    I could go on all day about how much evil they do to our society, our environment, our economy and our health. Facts being more useful than vitriol, I’ll just direct you to this video.

    But for starters, they ship food from farm to factory to shop via a ridiculously long and tortuous distribution system that can take an average Sunday lunch 20,000 miles, they enforce ridiculous cosmetic quality controls that both promote massive pesticide use and lead to ridiculous wastage (>20% non-organic, >40% organic), and they consume more energy per square meter lighting, cleaning, heating and refrigerating their stores than the average factory. They also divorce us from any understanding of where our food comes from, making us increasingly dependent on them and incapable of eating more sustainably.

    Dave On Fire

    February 18, 2007 at 8:41 pm

  7. I wasn’t. I was referring to directives aimed at energy efficiency and disposal of electrical products, as well as vehicles; the way food is produced (egs. phasing out battery hens & controlling pesticide use) which affects what ends up in our stores.

    Regards supermarkets (or the organisation of retail outlets), the local planning laws deal with their spread or, containment throughout a country. The UK welcomes supermarkets whereas France contains them. Different value system regards food. No use blaming the supermarkets. The British love the convenience of supermarkets whereas Europeans generally put food quality at a higher premium and therefore their greater use of food markets. Go to Barcelona and see the wonderful covered markets there. They’re not there by accident. Local demand and planning laws make it happen.


    February 19, 2007 at 6:12 am

  8. You’re right of course that our social values – placing relatively low importance on food – and laws have made it easy for the supermarkets. Dunno about “local demand and planning laws make it happen”, though. In many towns we no longer have the option to take our custom elsewhere; there are only supermarkets left. The same goes for small farmers, who can sell to supermarkets or to no-one. Perhaps planning laws could address this (if you want to elaborate 🙂 ), but no-one’s even talking about this yet.
    EU directives are well and good, but a need for heavy regulation usually indicates a flawed design to start with. A lively market of small producers and retailers, with a correspondingly lightweight distribution system, would reduce pollution and pesticide use naturally, far more than the supermarkets will under EU coersion.

    Dave On Fire

    February 19, 2007 at 11:15 am

  9. Absolutely all for the ‘lively market of small producers and retailers, with a correspondingly lightweight distribution system, (that) would reduce pollution and pesticide use’.

    Would still need to park nearby & do all my shopping in one hit! I have been to some wonderful market settings, some in the UK, some overseas. Always enjoy the atmosphere but I’m normally visiting, not doing a seroius shop for a family of 4. Farmer’s Markets, as they are now called, tend to be expensive here in London as they cater for middle class trendies. Once again, OK to visit but not practical for family shopping. Fine though for revitilising small farming businesses.

    So, in other words, we are getting a two tier food distribution & shopping experience being established with possibly quite different qualities in the end products. That ain’t right.


    February 19, 2007 at 11:27 am

  10. That farmers’ markets are often so expensive and trendy that they are “OK to visit but not practical for family shopping” means that they are not sufficient “revitilising small farming businesses.”

    As for convenience, what’s wrong with milk and bread delivered to your door? Supermarkets killed of demand for that, without them it could soon come back. And without all the nightmarish rituals of supermarket shopping, going to a greengrocers or (i presume – I’m a vegetarian) butcher’s is far less inconvenient than you think.

    Dave On Fire

    February 19, 2007 at 1:41 pm

  11. Trying to do a food shop at 7 or 8 different shops along a high st in London would be difficult, if not impossible. I wouldn’t be able to carry a trolley equivalent of food anyway, even if I could find the things I wanted, at a reasonable price and I could find a parking spot.

    As to door deliveries. I happen to have a milkman knock on my door last week looking for business. Forty % more expensive than the supermarket!! I ain’t paying for the romance of door to door Dave, sorry.


    February 19, 2007 at 2:39 pm

  12. Fair enough. Few people can afford that romance – which is my point. Under the supermarket-dominated economy, it is impossible for smaller and more sustainable retail to be economically viable. As long as the giants call the shots, the little guy becomes “romantic” and impractical. That economic climate is the problem, as in the long run the supermarkets can never be ecologically viable.

    Dave On Fire

    February 19, 2007 at 3:01 pm

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