Wednesday, February 11, 2009

James Howard Kunstler, Redux -- an interview with Robert Birnbaum (via EB).

RB: Yeah, I gather. So, three years ago you published The Long Emergency. I was surprised it didn’t get much attention at the time; I don’t know what’s happened subsequently.

JHK: Man, it wasn’t reviewed anywhere! I got about two columns at the end of another review in the Washington Post. None of the other major newspapers paid attention to it at all. The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, the San Francisco papers—they all totally ignored it. I don’t know why.

RB: Did they think you were a crackpot?

JHK: Well, I think that because the subject matter is so terrifying there’s a tendency to put me and what I’m saying in a crackpot folder. But, look, since I published that, the price of oil has tripled, the economy is tanking, the housing bubble imploded exactly the way I described it imploding three years ago. The truth of the matter is: We’re not going to run Walt Disney World, Wal-Mart, and the interstate highway system on any combination of wind, solar, nuclear, bio-diesel, ethanol, or used French-fried potato oil. Or dark matter.

RB: [Laughs]

JHK: Or any other combination of anything you can imagine. But the wish to continue doing that is tremendous. The main symptom of where our heads are at collectively and the failure of collective imagination in this country can be seen in the fact that the only conversation that’s going on about this all over the country is: how are we going to run the cars on some other kind of fuel. That’s all anyone wants to talk about. And it’s not just the stupid people and its not just the NASCAR people, it’s the policy wonks and the environmentalists. The conversation is the same, and it is a huge fantasy, because that’s not going to happen. We have to really, comprehensively make other arrangements for daily life in this country—and [yet] we can’t think about it. And there’s a reason we can’t think about it: It’s called “the psychology of previous investment.” And what it means is that we put so much of our national treasure and invested so much of our identity in all the infrastructure of daily living and happy motoring that we can’t imagine letting go of it. We can’t even imagine reforming it.

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