Letters

Letters 05-02-2016

Facts About Trails I would like to correct some misinformation provided in Kristi Kates’ article about the Shore-to-Shore Trail in your April 18 issue. The Shore-to-Shore Trail is not the longest continuous trail in the Lower Peninsula. That honor belongs to the North Country Trail (NCT), which stretches for over 400 miles in the Lower Peninsula. In fact, 100 miles of the NCT is within a 30-minute drive of Traverse City, and is maintained by the Grand Traverse Hiking Club...

North Korea Is Bluffing I eagerly read Jack Segal’s columns and attend his lectures whenever possible. However, I think his April 24th column falls into an all too common trap. He casually refers to a nuclear-armed North Korea when there is no proof whatever that North Korea has any such weapons. Sure, they have set off some underground explosions but so what? Tonga could do that. Every nuclear-armed country on Earth has carried out at least one aboveground test, just to prove they could do it if for no other reason. All we have is North Korea’s word for their supposed capabilities, which is no proof at all...

Double Dipping? In Greg Shy’s recent letter, he indicated that his Social Security benefit was being unfairly reduced simply due to the fact that he worked for the government. Somehow I think something is missing here. As I read it this law is only for those who worked for the government and are getting a pension from us generous taxpayers. Now Greg wants his pension and he also wants a full measure of Social Security benefits even though he did not pay into Social Security...

Critical Thinking Needed Our media gives ample coverage to some presidential candidates calling each other a liar and a sleaze bag. While entertaining to some, this certainly should lower one’s respect for either candidate. This race to the bottom comes as no surprise given their lack of respect for the rigors of critical thinking. The world’s esteemed scientists take great steps to preserve the integrity of their findings. Not only are their findings peer reviewed by fellow experts in their specialty, whenever possible the findings are cross-checked by independent studies...

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Don‘t Panic... The drama of James Kunstler‘s ‘Long Emergency‘ ignores details

Oran Kelley - May 26th, 2005
The excerpt from novelist James Kunstler’s new book, “The Long Emergency” (Express 4/14), is certainly interesting. But unlike letter writer Ann Rogers, I think we ought to hesitate a moment before we plan our whole lives around Mr. Kunstler’s predictions.
If you missed Kunstler’s piece, he claims that petroleum production has already peaked, that supplies will be well short of demand quite soon, and that the suburban middle class economy that has been built around cheap oil is going to collapse, along with civilization as we know it.
None of these things are too terribly far fetched (though Kunstler’s more particular predictions, like complete social collapse in the South, are more suited to speculative fiction than speculative non-fiction). But most stories of doom have some degree of plausibility to them -- they wouldn’t be very scary otherwise, would they?
The truly disturbing thing about the
Kunstler’s piece though is unintentional: it is the relish with which Kunstler seems to anticipate all the death, destruction, poverty and displacement he predicts.
His “Long Emergency” essay, like his previous “Geography of Nowhere” book, is strongly marked by hate -- a hate that sometimes echoes Hitler writing on the same subjects (architecture, the depravity of modern life, the looked-forward-to day of reckoning, etc.). Everyone in the anti-modernist, anti-technological wing of the environmental movement ought to read the second section of the “Causes of Collapse” chapter in Mein Kampf -- the parallels between Hitler’s thinking and that of left environmentalists today is cause for reflection.
I don’t think Kunstler is a little Hitler, but I do think he needs to give a thought to whom he sounds like and think seriously about whether he really hates white upper middle-class folks enough to cheer while they starve in their remote gated communities. And I think Kunstler and those who agree with him ought to realize that many of their obsessions -- land for farming, the alienation of urban life, the quest for purity, the evils of economic globalization and the money economy -- are not just of our time: they have a long and not always pleasant legacy in Western history.
And Kunstler’s readers ought to wonder whether a lot of his predictions aren’t just wishful thinking. Does he really think oil supplies are going to fall so fast that the rich won’t be able to make adjustments? Does he really think oil supplies will follow a bell curve pattern when the bell curve really applies to populations, not to single measures taken over time (like oil supplies) and when there are very good arguments that oil supplies DO NOT conform to a bell curve? Does he think that it will be impossible to rebuild hub/spoke transportation infrastructure in the next twenty years when it only took 20 years (circa 1950 to circa 1970) to go from hub/spoke to ringroad sprawl?
But one gets the feeling that Kunstler is not a writer terribly interested in details when they get in the way of drama.
Of course oil supplies are running low, and of course as we exhaust the finite reserves of oil, current supplies will begin to fall, but what’s the point of dragging the “bell curve” into it except to impress the unknowing with a sense of inevitability and predictability. In fact, we can’t predict the details of the decline in oil supplies. It’ll happen--maybe quickly, maybe slowly, we don’t know--or at least we don’t know without an awful lot of careful study, which Kunstler’s essay shows little evidence of.
We should remember that the “great changes” in our economy and society that Kunstler now predicts will happen by 2020, he predicted for 2010 just a few years ago in “The Geography of Nowhere.” That date now being uncomfortably close, catastrophe has been deferred for another decade by our author. I’m glad to see Kunstler is capable of some mercy.
Indeed, “sleepwalking is not an option” and neither is sleepreading. There are much better sources for information about scientific crises than novelists. So if we want to get scared or get working, let’s put down our Crichton and our Kunstler and read some current science.

 
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