One reason it might be difficult to talk about living more simply without getting wrapped up in the current financial meltdown is that they are not… unconnected. The problems of how we might go about shifting toward greater sustainability is writ small against the massive color backdrop of the shift itself. There is no alternative. The massively wasteful infrastructure that was required to make the whole thing go has overshot its own projections. In that way the correction previously discussed arrives disguised in the collapse of the financial system on which it was constructed, i.e., not disguised at all. Attend:
cheap gas… interstates… suburbs… exurbs… over-development… excess housing capacity… over-priced real estate… not-so-cheap gas… mortgage defaults… bankruptcies… bank failures… market crashes. All of this has a symbiosis with long commutes, abandoning cities, demonizing conservation, castigating high taxes, government generally and its attendant accomplishments and regulations. Results: crumbling infrastructure, no public transit or other public works mechanisms (indeed, an open hatred for them) to combat the elevated levels of fuel prices, carbon dioxide, global warming and national security fears brought about by the long-chain addiction to a product we do not make; no jobs to drive to from houses we cannot afford. Bonuses: Long commutes enabled talk radio to manufacture rage against fictitious villains and domestic enemies, rage which allowed the responsible parties to evade responsibility for longer than should have been possible.
Reality will not be mocked, apparently. A government lies its way into a war at its peril. A society hinges its future on a few very finite resources, beneath the staggeringly presumptuous banner of Pax Americana… and it designs the ultimate payback for its hubris.
Kunstler, who watches these things closely, pens a timely diddy:
Any way you paint this grotesque panorama, it looks like a very new chapter of history for life in the USA. Basically, we are a much poorer nation than we were even a couple of years ago, and we have a much-reduced ability to project our will around the world, or even among our own floundering sectors and regions. Most troubling to me is the question of legitimacy that now hangs over the proscenium like a guillotine blade. Factoring in the old saw that history doesn’t repeat but it rhymes, I think the situation emerging is rather like the crisis of legitimacy that preceded the Civil War. Then, in the 1850s, the nation’s two symbiotic political parties, Whig and Democrat, entered a zone of fatal discredit. The White House had been occupied by a sequence of empty cravats named Fillmore, Pierce, and Buchanan, and so much pent-up mistrust roiled the centers of power that the nation entered a convulsion.
The Republican Party amounts to today’s Whigs. Their candidate for president, John McCain, is trying to run away from his own party — as one might shrink away from a colony of importuning lepers. I am actually not kidding when I label the Republicans “the party that wrecked America,” because I believe that is truly how the popular strain of history will regard them when (maybe if) the wreckage of their ministrations ever clears. But history doesn’t repeat exactly. The current figure from Illinois, Barrack Obama, has yet to offer a truly crisis-clarfying rhetoric, though he labors under the expectation of being able to do so. Like his long-ago predecessor, he is mocked by the coarser elements of what we call “the media” these days — Fox News and the moron-rousers of talk radio.
When we decide to call things what they are and realize how fragile we and this whole living system are, the roads to the future will re-open. Like we say, the reason that green is so compelling is that it links our hope with our evil. We’re going to traverse a few more of these two-way avenues we’ve been loath to roam before we find a lesser way out of this mess. Or, alternately, we’re going to realize there are worse things than being poor.