Letters

Letters 07-25-2016

Remember Bush-Cheney Does anyone remember George W. Bush and Dick Cheney? They were president and vice president a mere eight years ago. Does anyone out there remember the way things were at the end of their duo? It was terrible...

Mass Shootings And Gun Control The largest mass shooting in U.S. history occurred December 29,1890, when 297 Sioux Indians at Wounded Knee in South Dakota were murdered by federal agents and members of the 7th Cavalry who had come to confiscate their firearms “for their own safety and protection.” The slaughter began after the majority of the Sioux had peacefully turned in their firearms...

Families Need Representation When one party dominates the Michigan administration and legislature, half of Michigan families are not represented on the important issues that face our state. When a policy affects the non-voting K-12 students, they too are left out, especially when it comes to graduation requirements...

Raise The Minimum Wage I wanted to offer a different perspective on the issue of raising the minimum wage. The argument that raising the minimum wage will result in job loss is a bogus scare tactic. The need for labor will not change, just the cost of it, which will be passed on to the consumer, as it always has...

Make Cherryland Respect Renewable Cherryland Electric is about to change their net metering policy. In a nutshell, they want to buy the electricity from those of us who produce clean renewable electric at a rate far below the rate they buy electricity from other sources. They believe very few people have an interest in renewable energy...

Settled Science Climate change science is based on the accumulated evidence gained from studying the greenhouse effect for 200 years. The greenhouse effect keeps our planet 50 degrees warmer due to heat-trapping gases in our atmosphere. Basic principles of physics and chemistry dictate that Earth will warm as concentrations of greenhouse gases increase...

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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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