Thursday, September 24, 2009

Forest Lawn for the Living

James Howard Kunstler, author of "Long Emergency", takes issue with the omission of suburban development as the vehicle for Wall Street's meltdown in James Stewart's article "Eight Days" in the Sept. 21 New Yorker magazine. His argument is that this fundamental way of life that emerged during the post-war era is unsustainable in all ways, from the sanitized zoning codes encouraging flight from urban centers to the immense spread of energy consumption during the era of cheap oil's marketing expansion. This consumerism is the basis of the unravelling of Wall Street derivates, according to Kunstler, and the systems of capital based upon the resale of consumer debt leads only to ultimate failure of the system.

He has an interesting solution to this global issue, and it's posted on his intriquing website "World Made by Hand".

It concerns visions of a post-oil future that is reminiscent of the 18th century Romantic Era, an age of crisis that gave rise to new thought, the critical idea and the creative effort necessary to cope with the old ways of confronting experience. It was a reaction to cultural and industrial rigidity that was giving way to a new paradigm of the Industrial Revolution.

So he seems to be signaling a real paradigm shift in our global culture, one that is necessary for many reasons and that could hopefully spur a shift in values from accumulating wealth from physical construction to wealth creation through social capital and environmental restoration. The same avenue of thought is followed by Thomas Friedman in his book, "Hot, Flat and Crowded".

And a tip of the hat to Rick Cole for popularizing this infamous quip.