Wednesday, February 23, 2005


Raise The Hammer attempts to get Crazy Jim Kunstler's opinion on Hamilton, Ontario's new "green belt" urban growth boundary. You'll have to look elsewhere for actual discussion of the boundary; what we get here is Kunstler's vision of the future, and you'll want to make sure your overalls and garden implements are in good condition.
The salient fact about the decades ahead is that we are entering a permanent global energy crisis and it will change everything about how we live. The suburban cycle which began a hundred years ago is nearly over. We are in for a period of contraction and economic hardship.

There is not going to be a "hydrogen economy," and no combination of alternative energy systems or fuels will allow us to continue the suburban pattern. It's finished. We will, however, desperately need to grow more of our food closer to home, and so the preservation of agricultural hinterlands is of great importance.

Maybe he's been reading Dies the Fire? He's surely looking forward to a time when our technological society returns to the soil:
The skyscraper - any building over seven stories really - will come to be seen as an experimental building type that doesn't work well in an energy-starved economy. Once these energy problems gain traction, there will be a large new class of economic losers, and consequently a lot of social turbulence.

I think we'll see a leveling off and then a contraction of population, not a continued upward trend.
Under the current high energy / high entropy regime, sustainable development is a joke. In the decades to come, the successful places will tend to be the smaller traditional towns and cities with viable farming hinterlands. The economy of the 21st century will come to center on agriculture. Life will be intensely and profoundly local in ways that we can't conceive of today. Economic growth, as we have known it in a cheap energy industrial paradigm, will cease.

OK, seriously now. Clearly the oil will run out someday, but we do have essentially limitless supplies of nuclear, wind, hydro, geothermal and various other sources of energy that will become economical as oil becomes scarcer.

And it will be a trend, not an overnight change. As oil supplies get low, they'll become harder to extract and refine. These higher costs, plus increased competition for the remaining supply will gradually bid oil up to the point where investment in alternative energy becomes not just feasible but smart business. Among other things, the grossly inefficient and energy-losing proposition of extracting hydrogen to burn in engines or fuel cells will likely become a best-available solution, and there will be a 'hydrogen economy'. It will undoubtedly change the economics of daily life and thus the decisions we make about where and how to live and work, but this will be a gradual transition with plenty of time and information available to everyone for planning ahead.

But hey, why bother with such boring details when you can get copy like this:
[Le Corbusier] was a shit-head. Just about everything he thought about cities was wrong. And the ideas of his that actually found their way into practice were deeply destructive - for instance, the tower-in-a-park, which mutated into the vertical slums of the late 20th century.

Forget Corbu. Forget Modernism. Forget yesterdays' tomorrow. The cities of the future will be much smaller than they are today.


The medieval town may be a more appropriate model for where we're going.

Bring me a shrubbery!!!