As businesses and governments struggle to find ways to revive the economy, Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator James Howard Kunstler says that it’s time to re-scale the marketplace. And, ultimately, to re-think how we live and work:
As businesses and governments struggle to find ways to revive the economy, Great Lakes
Radio Consortium commentator James Howard Kunstler says that it’s time to re-scale the
marketplace. And, ultimately, to re-think how we live and work:
Not long ago, The New York Times reported that car sales had fallen off 30 percent. The
paper commented that quote “strong auto sales this year have been a key contributor in
propping up consumer spending, which in turn has been the main impetus of economic
Is that all our economy is about? Buying and selling cars? In a way, the answer is yes.
The U.S. economy is now based on the creation and maintenance of suburban sprawl and
all its furnishings and accessories.
What keeps the cycle going? The easiest credit the world has ever seen. Often to people
with poor records of repaying loans. What happens when the music stops, and the zero
percent “miracle loans” stop with it? What other economic activity is there in the United
States? We don’t make anything here anymore except movies, TV shows, and pop music,
and only a tiny percent of Americans can be in show biz.
We’ve outsourced the actual making of most mundane products to distant nations where
people work for peanuts. Everyday retail trade is conducted through so-called “efficient”
national chain stores. Behind this mask of efficiency, though, lies the wreckage of
America’s communities, and the complex, fine-grained networks of economic relations
that once supported them. In rural America, ruin and depression are rampant among
small farmers. Today, we subsist on Caesar salads which travel an average of 2,500
miles from field to table.
This a system primed for unwinding. We are fast becoming a nation reliant on everyone
but ourselves. More tragically, as it unwinds, we will be stuck with all the unsustainable
furnishings: the far-flung subdivisions of commodity housing; the redundant chain stores;
the countless miles of blacktop in need of continual repair; the gazillion cars that we can
no longer afford to replace. We’ll be stuck living in places that are not worth living in,
and not worth caring about, far from any food supplies, and with no networks of local
These are our prospects, and they can only be worsened by looming international military
mischief, Jihad, de-stabilized oil markets, and terrorism.
There’s really only one reasonable way out of this predicament: the re-scaling of
America. We face the enormous task of reconstructing local economic networks that add
up to real communities, which in turn add up to places worth caring about. It’s time to
re-size and downscale everything we do from farming to schooling to shopping. The
future is telling us very clearly that we have to start living locally, but we are not
listening, and we are not prepared.
James Howard Kunstler is the author of The Geography of Nowhere and other books. He
comes to us by way of the Great Lakes Radio Consortium.