a short interview about the long emergency

Grist has an interview with James Howard Kunstler, the author of the new book about peak oil and its ramifications, “The Long Emergency.” Here’s a clip from their Q&A:

Q: Describe a day in the life of average citizens living in this post-cheap-oil epoch.

A: They are going to be living in a period of turbulence and political vicissitude. Industrial farming is going to fail by increments and we are going to have to grow more food closer to home. Agriculture is going to become much more central to the American way of life and economy and going to occupy a much larger percentage of jobs. The places that will be successful will be the smaller towns situated near viable agricultural land.

There is going to be this huge new class of people in America who I call the “formerly middle class” and they’re going to be really ticked off and bewildered about why they were deprived of their entitlements to the American Dream. The easy-motoring lifestyle will be unaffordable for the masses, so the 21st century is going to be much more about staying where you are and much less about being in motion all the time.

Q: Are you predicting that there will be an elite class that is still privy to all of the conveniences of the cheap-oil era?

A: There will be activities like flying that only the elite can participate in. You are going to see the aviation industry dramatically contract because it relies so heavily on fuel prices. You are going to start to see real political grievance over motoring becoming an increasingly elite activity. Let’s say a third of the public can’t participate in the motoring system at all. They may resent paying taxes to maintain this tremendous amount of highway infrastructure. The interstate highway system is actually very vulnerable — once cracks and potholes start, the whole thing starts to fall apart very rapidly. So that could inhibit the mobility of the elite as well.

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One Comment

  1. Tony Buttons
    Posted June 3, 2005 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    I happen to have a long emergency at this very moment.

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