In Too Much Magic, Kunstler builds on the core arguments of The Long Emergency and argues there is now compelling evidence that the long emergency - a period of increasing resource shortfalls, gradual economic decline, and a forced change to humanity's lifestyle - has now begun. Forces including the economic depression, decreasing oil production, ...
In Too Much Magic, Kunstler builds on the core arguments of The Long Emergency and argues there is now compelling evidence that the long emergency - a period of increasing resource shortfalls, gradual economic decline, and a forced change to humanity's lifestyle - has now begun. Forces including the economic depression, decreasing oil production, and increasingly dramatic climate change are combining to - as Kunstler puts it - "reset the fundamental terms of everyday life." In Chapter One, "Where We're At," Kunstler lays out the bleak situation that the world currently finds itself in. Not only have we surpassed peak oil (the point at which global oil production peaks and begins to fall), we are living in the wake of recent hurricanes, tsunamis, droughts and other natural disasters, and the havoc they have wreaked (just think of Fukushima). Governments seem powerless to stop the economic rot, and yet there appears to still be a lot of what Kunstler terms 'wishful thinking' going on - the idea that technology will somehow deliver us from our myriad problems. What's more, much of this wishful thinking manifests itself in techno-grandiosity: ideas of flying cars, cheap food for all, and alternative energy sources that will more than cover any shortfall from dried up oil or burned out gas. Kunstler argues compellingly that we need to get real with the situation that we're in, and suggests concrete plans that are focused on getting rid of our dependence on a high-energy lifestyle. He advocates investing in passenger trains for example, which consumers will not use until they are at least as convenient and cost-effective as the car. Kunstler argues that we've had 'too much magic' - who thinks about the technology involved in flight when they're on an airplane, or gets a thrill out of turning on a flat-screen TV? We need to stop taking technology for granted, and get used to living with less. In Chapter Two, "Farewell to the Drive-in Utopia," Kunstler discusses one of the topics in which he is most well-versed: suburbia and how it is destined to erode and decay. Suburbia, Kunstler argues, is by its nature criminally inefficient: impossible to traverse except by car, and filled with houses that are too large and extravagant to make sense in a lower-energy future. The recent falling out of the bottom of the property market, and the spate of foreclosures and deflation of property prices are indicative that American suburbia's days are numbered. Kunstler forecasts the imminent end of what he calls the 'suburban spralwl-building economy' (as opposed to the 'post-industrial', 'information' or 'service' economy - epithets that the government applies to an economy that has in large part been rolling along on inflating property prices) and argues that the demographic shift and mass migration that will ensue from the death of suburbia will be one of the defining features of America's experience of the long emergency. Chapter Three, "Cities of the Future," looks at a different - but equally inefficient - way of housing humans: in skyscrapers. Since the '50s, one of the dominant tropes in visions of the future has been tall, glass-clad buildings that will house humans in clean, beautifully landscaped environments, far above the city streets themselves. These visions are still dominant today, in books like Greg Lindsay's Aerotropolis (which Kunstler singles out with particular ire), and Kunstler also rails against grandiose technological chimerae like vertical farms (humans have farmed horizontally for hundreds of thousands of years, and there's a good reason for this) and Modernist architecture (which often fails to accomplish critical tasks expected of buildings like keeping the rain out). Kunstler also points out that skyscrapers, of all buildings, have the shortest shelf lives - most only last a generation, and require frequent and expensive repair. So he argues that we will have to return to traditional ways of occupying the land
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