the poetry of miscalculation

I’ve been meaning to add a permanent link to James Howard Kunstler’s Clusterfuck Nation site for a while now, but I just never can seem to get around to it. Tonight, after reading his post about traveling along the New York / Vermont border and surveying the significant long-term damage done to America’s infrastructure by our addiction to cheap oil, I decided to make the time. (I put his link in the “watchdog” section.) Kunstler’s a guy that we should all be paying more attention to. If I had the power, I’d name him America’s Poet Laureate of Peak Oil. Seriously, he’s got a truly poetic way of talking about the “tumors of suburbia” and the fact that we’re finally getting ready to pay the price for the most massive miscalculation in American history… But you be the judge. Here’s a clip:

…Dairying was the big thing through the first three-quarters of the 20th century. But regional milk production became irrelevant during the decades of cheap oil, when New Yorkers could just as easily get milk and cheese from Wisconsin or California. So now only a few relic farms still operate. Every building in the landscape related to farming is now decrepit. Siding and shingles have peeled off the barns. The sills are rotting and the ridgeboards sag. The tractor sheds are too far gone to keep tractors in, so the machines sit out in the rain now. The older houses — many of them dating from the Greek Revival of the 1850s — are subject to indignities beyond simple neglect. Many are partially cocooned in plastic, because fixing the wooden parts was too expensive, or just too difficult for people whose skills are now limited to operating cars, televisions, and forklifts. The yards are littered with plastic debris: tricycles, hoses, and patio chairs disintegrating under the daily ultraviolet — and you could see it all because a week of January temperatures into the 50s melted all the snow cover off.

You can track the decades of overgrowth in the pastures: sumac and poplar in the early going, then regular trees. In many places, stone walls from the 19th century run along the roads in woods that were sheep meadows a hundred and fifty years ago. You have to wonder how long all that wood will be there now, with heating bills up 50 percent this year and no relief in sight. Indeed, I wonder if the remnant of people living here will have any idea what to do with their land, when the forklift jobs in the Target Store regional warehouse thirty-eight miles away are no longer there. I’d like to suppose that even people unaccustomed to challenges can be resilient and resourceful when they simply have to be. But if the televisions stay on, they may just choose to die in front of them…

Whenever I start to feel too complacent, I remind myself to check Kunstler’s site. Right now, it’s got me thinking again about where I want to be when the shit really starts to hit the fan. I was talking with a friend a few days ago who has citizenship in two countries, and he’s thinking about adding a third. He says he wants to do it for his daughter… Apparently, given the fact that his grandfather was English, he can get citizenship for his family, but it requires that they live there for six years… Anyway, it’s got me thinking about Clementine, and that if I really were a good dad, I’d be busting my ass to ensure that she has options later on too… just in case.

Maybe I should setup a few begger robots and channel the money into some kind of Clementine Escape Pod fund.

(This post was brought to you by the Hummer H8 “Earth Fucker”.)

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  1. Jack
    Posted January 18, 2006 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

    My grandmother was born in Ireland which means I suppose I could get citizenship there (or Great Britian since it was pre-Irish republic). I’ve though about it more often in the past 5 years for some reason. And if “someone” is tracking this conversation…ppppppppffffffftttttttbbbt!

  2. mark
    Posted January 19, 2006 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    My best bet is probably Sweden. It’s on my list of things to look into, but I just never get around to it.

  3. Tony Buttons Esq.
    Posted January 19, 2006 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    If things get really bad in the United States, the union will splinter. So, you might not have to leave Michigan to be in a different country.

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