« Six-Five Redux »

ed's letter to the editor in the san diego union tribuneOn this day in 2005, I had two rather notable things happen to me in my oil-awareness pursuit that defined that period for me. On that day, I was told at church that my letter to the editor was published. I was delighted not just for that, but for the timeliness of it all. Later that same evening, I was about to do my first film showing of The End of Suburbia, and to hold a discussion on that topic. At that can be read about in that day's blog. Around that time, gasoline was maybe in the low $2 range, which had been around for about two years or more. At that time though, it seemed like no one thought that life would change much if gas got more expensive.

Well, that didn't last, did it? Maybe it took another few years but now it seems that you can't avoid the topics of gas and food costs on the rise and the sacrifices that result, going green, lowering emissions, carbon footprints, and all that. As I speak today, that gas price from 2005 has doubled again, and now it seems the panic is setting in, compounded with housing crashes, credit wipeouts and all that. People thought that The End of Suburbia was far fetched but now some of that has begun to happen just as the movie laid out. Talk now is that it is harder to afford to shift over to whatever new "solutions" there might be, because lots of money has evaporated. This too the movie warned of.

People still scoff at the idea of making any real change. But here are some things that I contend should be made. Some are meant to go in an act of voluntary "demand destruction" if we are to make any more measured change in our lifestyles. Others are meant to help fill voids that current methods will leave. Most call upon willful restraint, and not a new technological gizmo. These are also geared to allow individuals and families have a greater share of dignity while eliminating waste within commercial activity.

  • Eliminate such fuel wasting activities such as air shows, boat races, auto racing, military displays, mobile advertising, and other utterly worthless bullshit activities that are nothing but wasteful. One thing that sticks in my craw is seeing trucks driving around with only a billboard upon them. They carry nothing of worth, move no product, and tie up space in traffic, all while getting pathetic gas mileage. This is stupid and must stop. I've seen some now that have diorama type glass walls with elaborate displays within.
  • Turn off 80% or more suburban shopping center lighting meant to advertise places that are themselves closed for business overnight. To extend this, there should be a progressive pressure put on businesses to be open during daylight hours only, or limited night hours. People will no doubt bitch that our economy will be hurt by this. But that is what we face one way or another. The question is whether we will face it willingly or not.
  • Heavy rail should be implemented to remove trucks from the road along major corridors. Certainly more passenger rail should be called upon in like fashion. The airlines are hemorrhaging and it is their time to die, at least with regard to the widespread public consumer use. Not everyone can live like kings.
  • Civic zoning needs to be relaxed intentionally (or people will just ignore the law when desperation sets in), but urban agriculture needs a chance to thrive, even if it means allowing animals which enable people to live (I mean survive in some cases) without being slaves to jobs or even joblessness. Landscapes need to be made more edible—fruit trees, gardens, even herbal ground cover. Enough with the bullshit tropical yards and grass lawns. People talk about getting more local in their food choices, but there needs to be an alternative to the entire supermarket system, at least in part.

Those are but a few things that would transform things for the better, and don't require wishing upon a techno-messiah to save us from our sins and to wipe out our enemies. Yes, some do hearken back to another time, but what I think we need to face is that we have overshot our ability to have high technology work for us. We have also answered to the needs of the economy for long enough, and that will doom us at the rate at which we are going now. If the worst of the predictions of the global warming and peak oil theories were to come true, you can just forget about the economy as we know it. Survival will be the order of the day, and that won't allow most people to even think the way we think now. Forget the sarcasm and irony we know. Forget the abstractions which we distract ourselves with now.

In 2005, I was beginning to find my topic of concern, but really after months of that pursuit with four video showings and discussions, I had to deepen my quest for what the real problem is. I find it isn't the fuel we use. Or which type of engine we have. It isn't even the president we have. The real matter, in this nation in particular, is expectation versus reality. But even that reaches back to a larger human issue of insecurity that there is not enough to go around, and therefore, one must claim all one can before someone else does. Our national mythology is such that we confuse acquisition and consumption with our assured right to pursue happiness. But that is in direct conflict with most of the timeless religious wisdom, which says that the goal is not "out there" but "in here." I think maybe our society is breaking apart because that external thrill seeking activity is proving itself to be unrewarding and the whole thing is collapsing in on itself. It is rather like an addict that needs more and more of his drug of choice to get the same sensation as before. Well, it ultimately won't last that way for ever, and I think this is what peak oil has to show us. I contend that it is a necessary and good thing ultimately—the great disappointment that ultimately can bring us back to our senses somehow. People have been able to enjoy trashing the religious wisdom that encourages rejection of material distractions, as long as ever more material distractions were forthcoming and exciting. I don't think we have that option anymore. I think we need to find our answers deep within our humanity, and not within our economy or any other external structure. I think this is the key to a soft landing, as much as is possible given our lofty position now. Where else can we hear a message of relinquishment and self-moderation? Advertising doesn't offer that. Peer pressure doesn't suggest it much in most circles.

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